Interviews by Bill Guy
"Moving Toward New Horizons" was the theme and the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage was the place when 229 CTA members and staff met Oct. 29-31 to participate in CTA’s second annual Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Conference. The GLBT Issues Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Sue Cirillo, United Teachers Los Angeles, and C. Scott Miller, Santa Ana Educators Association, planned the workshop offerings, which included sessions on exploring the intersections of race, gender and sexual orientation, stress management, creating safe spaces for students and colleagues, anti-bullying strategies, how to facilitate Gay Straight Alliances, and welcoming GLBT parents and their children.
Even though I’m out and I know I have students who are out, sometimes the communication can be difficult, so anything I can learn to help my students and colleagues deal with GLBT issues will be helpful. I’m an adviser for the Gay Straight Alliance on our campus, but because I also teach some adjunct courses at a couple of other area community colleges, I find that I don’t always have the time to participate as much as I would like. This conference — an entire weekend devoted solely to these issues — is a great opportunity for me.
Alan Wade, English composition and literature
Southwestern Community College, San Diego
Middle school students are at such a confusing age in most any circumstance, but when they are also struggling with their sexual identities, it can be agonizingly difficult for them. As a counselor, I have a special affinity for helping all students, but as an out lesbian, I have a special sensitivity to what GLBT students may be experiencing. Far too many have either tried or succeeded in taking their own lives. So I’m participating in this conference to learn more about how to better create the kinds of supportive school environments that students need.
Diane Hartman, middle school counselor
Moreno Valley Educators Association
As a high school government teacher, I find that GLBT issues are often in the forefront of what my students are seeing on television, in the newspapers and online. It’s very relevant to my work, so I’m hoping to learn information at the conference that will help me be more effective in helping my students understand such complex and sensitive issues. But I also have more personal reasons for participating that include coming to a better understanding of my personal rights as a gay educator and someone who assists with our school’s Gay Straight Alliance. I hope to get a clearer picture of the boundary lines involved in promoting a supportive, safe environment for my students, my colleagues and myself, while also being tolerant of the rights of all and not just those who agree with me.
Chris Brunette, high school U.S. history, government, economics
Yucaipa Calimesa Educators Association
It is such a great thing that CTA is sponsoring an entire conference devoted to GLBT issues. Too often professional development and conference workshops may devote one or two sessions sort of hidden in the back corner, but an opportunity to take a series of workshops and network with so many fellow educators about these issues is outstanding. My primary reasons for participating have to do with better understanding what is safe for me as a gay educator in interactions with both my students and my fellow staff members. Also, I want to learn how to be a better advocate for my students who experience discrimination and bullying. I just finished participating in the “Is It a Choice?” workshop, and I now have many great resources, documentaries and film clips to take back with me. I’m really glad CTA is offering this conference and that I came to it.
Salina Joiner, English special education, grades 9-12
Asociación de Maestros Unidos, Green Dot Charter School, Los Angeles
I fully lend my support to the goals of this conference. It’s so important for everyone — and especially educators — to learn how to promote tolerance and acceptance, and especially to prevent bullying at school and online. I have learned that acceptance is often a long process, and it has taken me years to come to terms with my own orientation. So another reason I am participating in this conference is to support all my brothers and sisters who may still be in the closet, and who may be in situations where it may not only be uncomfortable, but in some instances may not even be safe, for them to come out. In the school setting, you have to balance your own individuality with the sensitivities in your community and among your students and their families. But these conferences help by giving us the resources and the information to make those kinds of distinctions while still advocating for safety and tolerance.
Sergio Martinez, fifth grade
Hacienda La Puente Teachers Association
I work with so many students who say they are struggling with internal issues and who are being bullied by their peers, and when I found out about this conference, I really wanted to come so that I could learn more about GLBT issues. I want both to help my students who are being bullied and to positively influence the students doing the bullying.
Millie Crosby, sixth-grade physical education
San Jose Teachers Association
As a totally out teacher at my school, I’m also one of the go-to people on UTLA’s Gay and Lesbian Issues Committee. Previously, I was chair of my school’s Our Adolescents Staying in School (OASIS) organization. I get calls for assistance from my colleagues, and I’m also active in providing assistance to colleagues and their students who are forming and facilitating Gay Straight Alliance organizations. It’s personally important for me to help them create networks of support at their school sites. So, it’s a natural for me to come to a conference like this to stay informed and involved. It’s especially important for me to stay up with the latest legal issues and policies affecting the civil rights of GLBT students and educators.
Edgar Angulo, community day school, grades 9-12
United Teachers Los Angeles
I’m straight, and I’ve always supported my school’s Gay Straight Alliance. Toward the end of last year’s term, I was especially impressed by the efforts of a student in the GSA who promoted a movement at school against using the word “retarded.” I expressed encouragement and support, and on the first day back this year, I had a handwritten note from him saying how much my support had meant to him. That note is a touchstone for me, displayed prominently behind my desk. Then, after we began to hear about the terrible string of suicides by young GLBT students throughout the country earlier this fall, I just knew I had to participate in this conference. I’m supposed to be here — to listen, to learn, and to take back resources and inspiration to help any of my students or colleagues. It is not OK for anyone to be in despair over their sexual orientation.
Kimberly Gilles, high school English
San Ramon Education Association