Alexandria Hollett, a 6th-grade literacy teacher at Patrick Henry Elementary School, was chosen from among 20 nominees to received the 2013 Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) LGBT Rights Committee annual Allan Wardell Inspiration Award. The award ceremony took place at CTU's June executive board meeting.
After some introductory remarks from CTU President Karen Lewis, Mel Ferrandchairperson of the LGBT Rights Committeepresented Hollett with her award.
Wardell, whom this award memorializes, was a Chicago teacher, CTU member and LGBT activist.
Throughout this past year, Hollett has engaged in a variety of activities to foster awareness of LGBT issues. Recently, Hollett did a slam poetry unit, during which her classes were exposed to the poetry of Andrea Gibson, a queer spoken-word artist from Colorado. One of the Gibson poems they read was "Letter to a Playground Bully," and in her lesson she spoke about the need for schools to create safe spaces for all students.
Additionally, Hollett has created a specific space for LGBT fiction and non-fiction in her classroom library. Currently, Hollett's students are doing a research project about gender roles in today's society and as a result they decided to stop lining up at school based on gender. Hollett has also taken her activism outside of the classroom by engaging other teachers and staff about LGBT topics and she hopes to create a professional development session about LGBT issues in the near future.
"It's an honor to receive this year's Allan Wardell Award and to be a part of his continuing legacy, but first and foremost I must give props to my incredible students, since they're the ones who have been courageous enough to participate with honesty and integrity in the difficult conversations we've had about privilege, gender, hate language, sexual orientation, and discrimination," said Hollett upon receiving her award.
"[Hollett] has a strong focus on engaging in restorative justice (RJ) practices with her students," said Jen Haggard, senior organizer of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 73. (Haggard nominated Hollett for the award.) "Her drive to create a safe space for all kids that not only allows for but encourages self exploration, positive growth and creativity motivated her to create a unit focused on gender and sexuality. "
Note: Carrie Maxwell is also a member of the CTU LGBT Rights Committee.