GLSEN Educator of the Year Remarks

I was recently asked, "How does a person come to be GLSEN's Educator of the Year?" As someone deeply invested in the spiritual and physical well-being of all my students, I put much thought into that question and did some intense reflection.

Let me give you a little history:

The gay community has always been my community. As the niece of a prominent female impersonator, I was doted over, and raised by an array of vibrant LGBTQ folks. The love and respect for our unique community is my core value. I have been cared for so deeply, and, in turn, I care so deeply for this community.

I was fortunate enough to experience this as my norm.

This childhood fostered open-mindedness, compassion, and respect, and became the foundation of who I am as a person and as an educator. Imagine my joy when I discovered GLSEN, an organization that values these principles as strongly as I do.

I first heard about GLSEN in a college health education class. I was immediately smitten! The marriage of the LGBT community and education was inspiring. So, two years ago, when I was asked to take over a floundering GSA with only 2 students, I turned to GLSEN. My school was very aware that our GSA was in need of repair, but GLSEN offered the tools I needed to support our students.

Today, our GSA is 30 strong and growing! Other educators in our school have reached out and asked how they can support our GSA. Our goal for next year is to announce access to all-gender restrooms in our school, as well as participate in "No Name-Calling Week." Castle View's LGBTQ family found a lot of allies, and felt a security within our halls that was previously undiscovered.

Next year, my daughter will enter Castle View as a freshman, with my son only a few years behind her. My wife and I are grateful that our children will be in a school that is inclusive and accepting of all walks of life and that protects its LGBT youth.

I teach because I love it, and I always teach from my heart, with my core values guiding my lessons. Whether it is a health lesson about gender and sexuality, a yoga class set with the intention of loving yourself and others, or an adventure class focusing on team building and trust, I teach with respect in mind.

I was lucky to grow up in an environment that supported me for who I am. As an LGBT adult, an educator, and a mentor, it is my responsibility to make sure every single one of my students feels safe and supported. And as far as I'm concerned, I have the best job in the world.

I am beyond honored to be the educator receiving this award. Thank you, GLSEN, for helping me find a voice and the tools to educate and create an environment that fosters safety and respect.