Presenting Her Thesis -- The Laramie Project -- at Lesley May 17
Friday, May 11, 2012
The award annually recognizes teachers for “their outstanding dedication to promoting and protecting human and civil rights.”
Gilles, an English teacher at Monte Vista High School in Danville, California, was recognized, in part, for her strengthening of the acceptance of LGBT students in her school and in her profession. Her thesis at Lesley explores her work in designing and implementing curriculum for The Laramie Project - a play about the reactions to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay university student in Laramie, Wyoming.
Gilles will present her thesis on the Lesley campus on Thursday, May 17, at 10 a.m. in University Hall Room 3-087.
Now in her 26th year of teaching, Gilles taught The Laramie Project to a wide range of students “not just as a school climate issue, but as a matter of curriculum.”
“I designed a curriculum for The Laramie Project so that my seniors could grapple with the horror of this hate crime,” said Gilles. “Kids and communities are no fools. They know better than to just listen when educators say we reject segregation and discrimination. They are watching what we do.”
Beyond The Laramie Project, Gilles is heavily involved in initiatives and activities that promote many forms of inclusion in the school environment.
She has been a full inclusion teacher - integrating students with severe disabilities in mainstream curriculum, classes, and school activities - and has partnered with Adewole, an organization that mentors young black men and hand-selects teachers to work with their students. Her current students are involved in the Salvation Army’s “Adopt a Family,” she is the GSA advisor, a speech and debate coach, and she routinely takes her students and their parents out of the classroom to independent bookstores and other venues for author readings and book discussions.
Gilles uses the worlds of literature to burst boundaries and ignite her students’ imaginations. Literature offers opportunities for students to model and practice empathy.
In her award acceptance speech, Gilles said, “opposing injustice has meant including the excluded in my English curriculum. The walls of my classroom have echoed with the voices of Black Elk, Maxine Hong Kingston, Frederick Douglass, Eduardo Galeano, Alice Walker, and Sandra Cisneros.”
“I’ve thought a great deal about this award,” she said. “I think I am receiving this because I say, ‘Yes.’ Think about it. When we say ‘No!’ nothing more is required of us. ‘No’ never means more work. ‘Yes’ always means more work. Every time a student with a new constellation of needs enters my life, I say, ‘Yes.’ Every time the opportunity to square off against an injustice arises, I say, ‘Yes.’”
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