Lina Lenberg learned early about discrimination. As a child of Russian Jews who immigrated with her parents to the USA in the 1970s, she grew up both idealistic about her new country, but also sensitive to differences among people. Her college major in zoology led her into environmental activism, and during an internship at the Grand Canyon, she recalls, “I first recognized education as a powerful force for change.” Thus began Lina’s twenty-year career as a teacher and school administrator, which included introducing social justice activism and a community service requirement into her school.
Lina’s interest in education and social justice has always included educating herself. For many years she has spent her summers in volunteer activities that have taken her from providing English instruction for refugees in Belgium and for disabled adults in Italy, to working with HIV-infected women and children in Rajasthan, and offering environmental education at a Malaysian zoo. These experiences deepened her understanding of injustice and commitment to activism. For example, she recalls first learning about pervasive prejudice against Roma people while teaching in Bulgaria. “Teachers would say ‘Why bother – they’re not like us,’ attitudes that revived my own childhood experiences of discrimination.” She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of San Francisco with a concentration in human rights education (HRE).
Lina has brought rich experience as both activist and teacher to HRE USA, initially as Regional Representative for northern California and now as a newly elected member of the Steering Committee. One of her principal concerns is helping teachers integrate human rights and HRE across the curriculum and the culture of a school. “I want to find ways to broaden the scope of HRE, not to limit human rights to a topic for social studies but to see it shape every aspect of a school’s life, inside and outside the classroom.”