After meeting with transgender and nonbinary students on campus last year, Vanessa Grisales ’23 (Childhood Education; History) wanted to lead the way in offering resources at SUNY New Paltz to educate future teachers on trans inclusion.
Grisales used the book “The Educator Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion” by Kryss Shane as a model for the kinds of literature she wanted to be made available to future teachers like her. The book helps readers learn about LGBTQ+ people, especially in a classroom context.
“The book makes the individual reading it question whether or not they are doing the right thing in a given situation, which is what makes it so interesting,” said Grisales. “You learn how best to respond to moments where the safety of someone appears to be compromised.”
With support of the School of Education Interim Dean and the Provost’s College’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, Grisales worked with the Department of Teaching & Learning Chair Kiersten Greene (who is non-binary and uses she/they pronouns) to create a collection of curated resources, historical facts, and other transinclusive educational resources for teacher education candidates and faculty.
The final result was “Transinclusive Education in K-12 & Educator Preparation,” which also includes a survey campus personnel 18 and older are encouraged to participate in to enhance Greene and Grisales’ research.
“I wanted to create an anonymous space where people could ask questions they might not otherwise ask about transinclusive education,” she said.
Their goal with the trans education resource material collection is to provide both an online resource and small lending library of books at the School of Education’s Curriculum Materials Center on the New Paltz campus.
“Teachers need to be made aware of how to respond when a student who is transgender or nonbinary is being bullied or harassed in school,” said Grisales. “There are many books available that can help address these issues.”
“We thought it would be a good idea to begin to fill the gap in what is not being talked about enough in teacher education when it comes to trans and nonbinary individuals and the daily work of educating educators,” added Greene.
For this student/faculty collaboration, Greene and Grisales are taking a research-first approach, carefully curating a list of materials they feel best educate peers, colleagues and students on issues that trans and nonbinary students and faculty encounter every day. The publications range from children’s books to educational guides for adults.
They ended up amassing more than 50 books.
“We want a large variety of books in our collection to provide honest information on the transgender experience,” said Greene.
As a transgender woman herself, the project is important for Grisales.
“Representation matters,” she said. “We need for kids to see themselves in children’s books, and for educators to understand that it’s ok to be transgender.”
With this project, she’s using her remaining time on campus to leave behind a legacy that will help those who follow become more inclusive and equitable educators for all students.
She also noted the timeliness of her project as many U.S. states continue enacting policies that have adverse effects on trans and non-binary communities in the classroom:
“We need to be able to let teachers know how to react, and this is the time that we are learning to work with kids who are transgender or non-binary,” she said.