Book review: One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium: LGBT Educators Speak Out About What’s Gotten Better… and What Hasn’t, edited by Kevin Jennings

Jennings One Teacher in TenJennings, Kevin. (ed). One Teacher in Ten in the New Millennium: LGBT Educators Speak Out About What’s Gotten Better… and What Hasn’t. Beacon Press. 2015. $17.00. 176 pages. Paperback. 978-0-8070-5586-1.

Kevin Jennings, the editor of this series, came out to his school in 1988 (which was unheard of at that time) and became a leading voice for change in education and LGBTQ+ activism. But he didn’t know any other LGBT educators. There was no way for educators, gay and straight alike, to come together, exchange ideas, and to make schools better and safer places for their students. A few years later, the One Teacher in Ten series was born.

One Teacher in Ten is organized by Jennings, who is the founder of GLSEN: the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. This organization empowers LGBTQ+ educators and helps them to create safe places for their LGBTQ+ students and colleagues. The series, now in its third edition, compliments GLSEN’s mission by sharing stories of teachers’ decision to come out (or not) and how that decision has impacted their lives and careers.

The current edition of One Teacher in Ten features stories from teachers, retired educators, and those that have risen in the ranks to administrators and headmasters. Almost all of the teachers are out, but there are still a few that use pseudonyms for fear of getting fired. Brett Bigham and Duran Renkema are teachers that have been fighting in the limelight and contributed stories of media exposure, censorship, smear campaigns, and legal battles. Bigham, who was named Oregon’s 2014 Teacher of the Year (and one of the first out teachers to receive the honor), had to have speeches edited and approved by administration. He couldn’t even verbally say he was gay when out in public. Renkema, who hails from Europe, recounts what happened when he brought a lawsuit to his Christian school. Other educators tell their stories of being better role models for their students; many of the educators didn’t feel that they could solicit advice to their students if they weren’t honest about who they really were. Other educators tell of the problems they still face on a day to day basis. This includes still feeling as it isn’t safe to be gay in their school to facing more feelings of “otherness” due to them being a gay teacher of color.

The stories are unique as the writers that wrote them. Each writer brought something different to the proverbial table. While there are tales of heartbreak and disappointment, there are also stories full of hope and promise for the LGBTQ+ educator community. In “Finding a Way and Making One: Coming Out Brown, Feminist, and Queer,” the contributor wanted to instill the ideals of feminism into her students but found out that she could not. However, when she accepted an opening at a more progressive and experimental school, she felt like she was home. In “My Story of Self-Identity,” an educator from China talks about how there was a natural progression to him coming to terms with his sexuality. He explains his upbringing and culture, and at the end expresses that he’s happy (even though the first man he fell in love with rejected him). In all the different narratives, I felt that there was a single, resonating idea: if there’s no self-acceptance of yourself, you will not be truly happy in all aspects of life.

I would recommend this book for larger public library collections and any school environments where professional collections are present. The variety of stories and experiences will be not only helpful to education majors and experienced teachers, but those thinking about making the transition to teaching and would like to know about the current educator environment from primary sources. It’s a relatively quick read, but nonetheless a very important one for educators.

Judi Tichacek, Reference Librarian
Palos Hills, IL

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