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A different kind of support for teachers in Kamloops classrooms

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November 24, 2016 - 8:00 PM

KAMLOOPS – Staff in the Kamloops-Thompson School District now have a resource to turn to when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Nichelle Penney was hired as the sexual orientation and gender identity coordinator last month. Penney says her goal is to continue the conversation around equality in schools.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to continue what has already been happening with our district,” she says. “Teachers are already aware of this topic, teachers are already incorporating these topics into their classrooms and sharing these ideas with their colleagues. It’s not necessarily educating teachers, but continuing to support them in what they’re already doing.”

Penney says she wants to be a person for staff to go to, to share ideas with faculty across the district.

“Sometimes it’s hard to go from a rural school to an urban school,” she says. “Now this position enables those teachers to share (ideas) all across the district.”

Trish Smillie, the school district’s director of student support services, says Penney is working on materials to share with faculty members.

“Right now, she is working on presentations about inclusive awareness training for some of our staff such as our principals and vice principals,” Smillie says.

As well, she says each school now has a "school lead."

“A school lead is… a champion at the school level who’s basically interested in sexual orientation gender identity inclusive education at their school and they connect with Nichelle,” she says. “Nichelle develops resources and awareness inclusive education and shares that with the schools and the schools use that and share… with their staff.”

The sexual orientation and gender identity district coordinator is responsible for introducing new materials and resources to district staff, in hopes of bringing more awareness to the issues students face.

“As a result of being aware and being inclusive of all students, students feel safe and connected to their schools,” Smillie says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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