Steve Mulligan earned his Bachelor of Education in 2000, and since then has taught a range of grades and subjects for the Vancouver School Board. He is currently seconded part-time to the Faculty of Education at UBC coordinating the Teacher Education for All (TEFA) Project, which aims to build capacity for faculty, staff and students in Teacher Education at UBC to create and provide an inclusive culture, workplace, and learning environment with a particular focus on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
Here Steve shares with us more about himself and the TEFA Project.
What is your background?
After completing my undergraduate degree in Engineering at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, I flew as a C-130 Hercules navigator for five years with the Canadian Air Force. I then went back to school to study theater and worked part-time as an actor until I decided that teaching would be a perfect combination of creativity, rewarding work and stability.
I completed my Middle Years BEd in 2000, and since then have worked for the Vancouver School Board teaching everything from Grade two to secondary Mathematics, including Special Education and as an Inner City Project Teacher. My passion for social emotional learning and diversity, specifically sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) began in 2007 when I began as the VSB’s Anti-homophobia and Diversity Consultant. In this role, I guided the district’s senior management, administrators, counselors and teachers on best practices and policy around SOGI. I’ve also been able to contribute as part of UBC’s Alumni Advisory Council, the UBC Faculty of Education External Advisory Board, and on the Board of Directors for the Out in Schools program, which brings film and facilitated discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity into high schools across BC.
What is your role at UBC?
I am currently seconded part-time to the Faculty of Education at UBC coordinating the Teacher Education for All (TEFA) Project, which aims to build capacity for faculty, staff and students in Teacher Education at UBC to create and provide an inclusive culture, workplace, and learning environment with a particular focus on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). This role stems from Canada-wide research, the 2015 Every Teacher Project, which found that, while 85% of teachers in Canada approve of LGBTQ-inclusive education, only 37% have actively participated, and a majority (59%) of teachers in their first five years of teaching said that their B.Ed. program had not prepared them for the sexual and gender diversity they encountered in schools.
How has your appointment made a difference with teacher education candidates?
In this role, I have been able to connect with and, hopefully, inspire this year’s teacher candidates to consider how they can teach in a more inclusive way. We’ve given candidates basic information about sexual and gender diversity and then arranged multiple opportunities for folks to come and meet youth, parents, other educators and community members who have shared their stories, experiences, and ideas. I’ve also facilitated a SOGI student collective and book club to give space for teacher candidates to learn, discuss inclusive practices and better understand one another. Finally, I’ve been part of creating a new website, SOGIeducation.org that organizes information, resources and lesson plans to make it easy for both teacher candidates and practicing teachers and administrators to find the tools they need.
What is the future of TEFA? Where would you like to see it go?
The future of TEFA is uncertain as the initial grant was only for one year. We do, however, have a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Education and Leadership Summer Institute planned for July 4 and 5, 2017 that I hope will continue in future years. We also have video recordings of our TEFA presentations for future use as well as many other useful resources on the TEFA website. I certainly hope the project will continue for at least another year or two as it feels like we have just begun to expand the hearts and minds of faculty, staff and students. There are many faculty members who have great ideas and are already including and integrating SOGI content into their teaching, so our next step would be to find a way to ensure that this was happening more consistently throughout Teacher Education. Changes to the BC Human Rights Code, as well as a new directive from the Ministry of Education, mean that school districts are striving to be more inclusive, yet many teachers have limited personal experience with sexual and gender diversity. It is my hope that the UBC Faculty of Education can play a critical role in shaping a school system where students really understand and accept these differences, and can feel safe, included and empowered.