Safe Spaces and LGBTQ Activism
I was involved in the founding, design, and implementation of Teach for America's SAFE Classroom Project—an initiative to create safe and inclusive spaces for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender students and teachers. Over 21,000 educators in the US became part of the initiative. This momentum eventually led to the formation of Teach for America's LGBTQ Community Initiative, making issues facing LGBTQ students and teachers part of Teach for America's core diversity mission. This formation of this initiative accomplished my larger goal of involvement: getting Teach for America to explicitly address these topics so that LGBT corps members have some level of protection from workplace harassment, even when state-level civil rights laws fail to protect them.
Diversity Award, Teach for America Miami-Dade
I was chosen to receive TFA Miami-Dade's Diversity Award at my my cohort's closing ceremony, which celebrated and recognized our two years of AmeriCorps service. The award was given based on my activism and leadership in working with LGBTQ issues, both within my region and within the national organization. Being selected for this award was truly an honor for me because of the diversity, multiculturalism, and leadership of my TFA cohort. I was constantly challenged and pushed by my peers to consider issues surrounding privilege, race, and socioeconomic status and to become a more aware and empowered person.
SAFE Classrooms Project: Teach for America, GLSEN, the Trevor Project
I worked with a committee of TFA staff and corps members to envision, design, and implement the SAFE Classroom Project. This was a grassroots initiative that had its founding in TFA Miami-Dade and then became a national initiative adopted by Teach for America. Ultimately, the project brought together TFA and two of the country's leading LGBT-focused nonprofits, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Trevor Project, to provide support and resources. In total over 21,000 educators pledged to make their classrooms safe from homo- and transphobia. This eventually led to the formation of TFA's LGBTQ Community Initiative.
It Gets Better Project: Teach for America
As part of the SAFE Classrooms Project, we wanted Teach for America to make an "It Gets Better Project" video that included staff members and corps members. We put out the call and senior staff members, including TFA's founder and CEO, and corps members from all over the United States submitted videos. This is the result!
My Experience in Making a Safe Space
After working with corps members in TFA Miami-Dade to make Safe Spaces and being part of the committee behind TFA's national effort to promote Safe Spaces, I felt ready to make my own high school reading classroom a Safe Space. It was one of the most important challenges of my teaching career, and I video recorded it. I later put together this video that narrates the experience as a resource for other educators who are considering doing the same.
“Learning to support LGBTQ kids is a necessary part of educational equity,” says Kathryn Ling (Mississippi ’11), director of leadership and diversity, equity, and inclusiveness at Teach For America–Arkansas. In this four-part series from One Day Magazine, leaders from Teach For America in Orlando and New York as well as our LGBTQ Community Initiative consider what it takes to support, affirm, and protect teachers and students who identify as LGBTQ."
A reflection of the work done on SAFE with Teach for America.