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Inside Out event challenges teachers

March 28, 2017 Gaylene Schreiber, ATA News Staff

Speaker Vivek Shraya (left) strikes a pose along with fellow presenter Hilary Mutch (centre) and delegate Marley Turner at the Inside Out event presented in part by the ATA’s English Language Arts Council.

Speaker stresses importance of teacher support for “gender creative” students

With a sizable portion of students identifying themselves as sexual or gender minorities, teachers need to be prepared to consider appropriate representation of these identities in the English language arts classroom.

That was the key message at a sold-out event on Saturday, March 11, co-sponsored by the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s English Language Arts Council (ELAC) and the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education.

“We believe this conference is a much-needed and perhaps also long overdue opportunity to reflect on the role teachers and teacher educators can play in supporting movements for inclusive education, and for the rights of LGBTQ students, families and communities across the province,” said co-organizer Catherine Burwell, a teacher educator at Werklund.

Cited as the first event of its kind in Alberta by Werklund dean Dennis Sumara, the one-day conference featured award-winning author, musician and visual artist Vivek Shraya, who said teachers are important contributors towards the acceptance of what she terms “gender creative” students.

This message was further reinforced in a panel discussion with Werklund professors Derritt Mason, Aubrey Hanson and Tonya Callaghan and throughout assorted breakout sessions offered by teachers and educators speaking about appropriate gender minority representation in inclusive classrooms.

The day’s speakers challenged stereotypical intersections between gender identity and race, celebrated two-spiritedness in indigenous cultures, and provided advice to teachers intent on accommodating diversity in faith-based schools.

“The speed with which the conference sold out is a testament to the timeliness and relevance of work around gender and sexual diversity in English language arts,” said co-organizer Kevin McBean, an Edmonton-based teacher and chair of ELAC’s Subcommittee on Inclusive Literature.

“The overwhelmingly positive response signals the desire of educators, researchers, and preservice teachers to engage with these issues and to be part of the conversation around making Alberta ELA classrooms places that reflect the entire student population.” ❚

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