Richfield Middle School Teacher Maria Grams Awarded 2022 Leo Weiss Courage to Teach Award

April 19, 2022

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) is proud to announce the 2022 Leo Weiss Courage to Teach Award recipient is Richfield Middle School Language Arts teacher Maria Grams. The Leo Weiss Courage to Teach Award recognizes one educator who goes beyond the requirements of curriculum to teach and inspire young people about the lessons of the Holocaust.

Maria Grams has nine years of experience teaching at Richfield Middle School, most recently as an Advanced Language Arts & Humanities teacher. She is dedicated to cultivating creativity, building empathy, and highlighting the diverse perspectives of her students and voices within the community.

JCRC Speakers Bureau and Generations After MN volunteer, Judi Shink, nominated Grams and wrote:

“I have worked with Maria for the past two years through Generations After MN/Learning Through Legacy. Maria takes it upon herself to make sure her students not only study the Holocaust but have a deep understanding of the ‘how and why’ it happened.

“As I shared my family’s story of survival with Maria’s classes, I was so impressed by how prepared the students were. She made this experience seem incredibly important and let the students know how hearing individual stories can be a big part of how they live their future lives. The students’ questions and comments were incredibly insightful and deep, and I believe that is a direct reflection of Maria’s teaching. She welcomed me into her classroom (virtually), and I felt like I left learning an incredible amount from her about how she relates to her students and knows how to engage them in meaningful and thoughtful conversations.”

The Courage to Teach award was named in memory of Leo Weiss, z’’l. Leo believed unequivocally in the value of human life – that it is a precious gift that must be defended and cherished. Leo’s message to students was that in the face of adversity, they should remain hopeful for the future and see themselves not as victims of their circumstances, but empowered to leave their mark on this earth through hard work and compassion for others. Leo’s commitment to Holocaust education was his contribution to protecting future generations from the horrors he experienced. His legacy lives on in these students. The Leo Weiss Courage to Teach Award is generously supported by Evelyn Weiss and Mark and Heather Stesin to honor Leo’s memory.

“Mrs. Grams is one of the most beloved teachers here at Richfield Middle School,” said Richfield Middle School Principal Erica Barlow. “Students love her and her lessons are incredibly engaging.”

Steve Hunegs, JCRC Executive Director, added: “We deeply appreciate Mrs. Grams’ commitment to Holocaust education and inspiring her students through creativity, empathy, and support. She embodies Leo Weiss’ legacy of compassion and hope.”

Grams will be honored at the 2022 Minnesota and the Dakotas Yom HaShoah Commemoration. This year’s commemoration will be held at Temple Israel in Minneapolis on Thursday, April 28. A Reading of the Names ceremony will begin at 6:00 PM followed by the community commemorative service at 7:00 PM.


As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights antisemitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.


As the consensus public affairs voice of the Jewish community, JCRC builds relationships to fight antisemitism and bigotry; educates about Judaism, Israel, antisemitism, and the Holocaust; advocates for Jewish values and priorities; and safeguards our community.