EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — While Illinois teachers now are required to include contributions of LGBT people in their instruction, Trevor La Page won’t need to alter his classes much.
The history teacher at East Dubuque Junior High School already talks with his students about those individuals in class.
“I teach history,” La Page said. “It’s the study of humanity, so I try to work in all walks of life of all kinds of people all the time. Diverse teaching is the best way to teach history.”
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An Illinois law that went into effect this summer requires public schools to teach students about the contributions and roles of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the U.S. and the state by the time they finish eighth grade.
Local educators say they are working out how the new requirement will look in their classrooms. In at least some cases, they said those topics are already part of the curriculum.
“We should be teaching a diverse history of as many different cultures as you can,” La Page said.
La Page said he brings up LGBT people in his teaching as they come up in history, and he also highlights cruelties and discrimination they have faced historically.
He noted one instance last year in which he discussed with his students a discovery by researchers that Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski may have been intersex.
“I always try to teach my students respect for everyone,” La Page said. “We look at what a person does in their life as opposed to maybe the intimate details of their personal lives.”
Galena Middle School Principal Ben Soat said his seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher is integrating LGBT individuals into her teaching as they come up in different historical moments and in current events, such as Pete Buttigieg’s presidential run.
“It’s another topic to come into history that can certainly be integrated into our current curriculum fairly seamlessly,” Soat said. “It adds to discussion points without getting too analytical on certain individuals … and leads to more teachable moments.”
Bill Caron, superintendent of the Scales Mound School District, said educators still are waiting on guidance from the state about exactly what incorporation of LGBT individuals needs to look like in the classroom.
Teachers already are including LGBT people in their teaching to some extent as they highlight notable historical figures, Caron said.
“Any chance that we get, we want to make sure that we’re recognizing anybody’s contribution to history, science, math, economics, whatever it is,” he said. “I think that it’s important that it’s not just a one-time thing. It’s something that you’re always doing.”
October 5, 2020 at 07:04AM