Online Friendship Inspires Young Learners at West Morris Central

By: Megan Roche


A chance meeting in a message board group in 2005 for a common illness led to a whole new chapter for Kathy Kulfan, a teacher at West Morris Central. When she first met Ella Burakowski, she learned about a common illness from a Facebook support group. What Kulfan didn’t know was how she would learn much more from Burakowski and her family’s story of the Holocaust.


On Oct. 18, Kulfan took a group of students to the new Auschwitz exhibit in New York City. What made the experience special was who joined the West Morris teacher. After reading Burakowski’s book, Hidden Gold, with her class, Kulfan wanted to give her students the opportunity to meet the author. 


During their field trip, students were able to ask Burakowski questions and get a first hand perspective of what they were seeing. Kulfan noted that Burakowski was treated like a movie star by her students.


“Ella was beside herself when she met my students. Getting to meet Ella was like hanging out with an old friend. You could not have asked for it to go any better. It was like long lost friends that we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” Kulfan said. 


Kulfan and Burakowski, who had never met in person prior to their New York City trip, were thrilled when the opportunity presented itself to get together and learn about the historical event together. 


“It was a very special day for us (Ella and her husband, Marshall). Going through the exhibit with all of the students made it that much more meaningful. The kids were amazing as well as the other faculty who joined them.” Burakowski said.


Burakowski went above and beyond to answer any and all questions that Kulfan’s students had. On Oct. 19, Burakwoski and Kulfan, joined by Marshall and Kulfan’s husband, Bob, went to brunch to recap the day prior and get to know each other better. Ella spoke very highly of Kulfan’s students, as did many of Burakowski’s followers. 


“Kathy Kulfan, what you’ve done for your students will leave an unforgettable impact on them and future generations. As they say in Hebrew, Kol Hakavod (well done or good job).” Burakowski’s sister, Sarah, a retired teacher from Canada, commented on Facebook.


To top things off, Burakowski brought each student a Hidden Gold notepad and bookmark to which they accepted with joy. Kulfan also brought the Burakowski’s a gift too. The Burakowski’s are now officially part of the West Morris Central family with their new sweatshirts that truly puts pride in the pack.  


Thanks to the world of technology, Kulfan’s students were truly given a once in a lifetime experience. While many have complained about the world of technology, Kulfan has embraced it fully and plans to use it for many years to come to educate her students. 


“My students will never forget about this experience or the Holocaust. Our time with Ella and Marshall will live forever in all of our lives.” Kulfan said. 


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