The following contains parts of an interview conducted by Rouge Teacher magazine. The material is used with permission from the editor, Thomas Watts.
The only thing progressive about Martin City, Kansas is the slot machines at the local casino until Sylvia Gomez accepted the job as a seventh-grade teacher at Martin City Middle School.
Martin City, a town with a population that does not reach the elevation of the county courthouse, has, for years, existed in quiet comfort.
Sylvia is not new to teaching, although she is new to Martin City. She has an extensive record of excellent rapport with parents, students, cohorts, administration, and the public.
Relocating to Martin City was not her choice; her partner Margaret’s parents passing, Martin City locals, was the catalyst that found Cynthia in this not-so-familiar location.
“Margaret and I had discussed moving out of the urban sprawl; we just did not realize it would happen so fast or could have ever imagined the events that would bring us here,” Cynthia stated in a recent interview.
“The sudden and tragic passing of my wife’s parents undoubtedly tore at all our being. She (Margaret) felt that it would be a benefit to return to Martin City, to find closure.”
She continued in the interview to discuss how the couple fell in love with the area and community.
“At first, I was leery of being an openly married lesbian couple.” However, she explains that soon that apprehension subsided, and the couple felt right at home.
“It felt like we belonged, and as soon as the teaching position opened up at the middle school school, I truly felt that this was the best decision we had ever made.”
Cynthia proved to be an excellent teacher, and her students and the community’s response to her were highly positive.
“We were ecstatic to have her on board.” exclaimed the principal of Martin City Middle School, Douglas Chase Elms. “We all loved her from the first day. I will confess that I was apprehensive, with regards to Cynthia and Margaret’s inclusion, but will admit that all openly welcomed the couple.”
While the personal choices of the couple might not have created a ripple in the community, Cynthia’s classroom procedures would soon prove to be a bit much.
“Teachers, myself included, create groups in the classroom. These groups could be for an activity, a game, or specialized instruction. Teachers sometimes count off the students or draw straws; there are countless ways to create in class groups.”
“I wanted this group creation to mean something, to teach something. So I began grouping children by LGBT?.” She states with pride.
“It was solely an attempt at classroom organization. My tables were labeled L, G, B, T, and ?.”
Cynthia admits, “I wanted to start a discussion; I wanted to be a conduit of progressive ideas.”
She confesses that this confused the children at first, and her students asked many questions. “Similar to other topics people truly don’t understand, after the knowledge is in place, the silliness and bias fade away.”
The children did have questions.
“I would address each question with honesty and remained non-biased in my answers; soon, the students found this grouping not odd but part of the classroom sphere. In only a couple of days, it was another part of their vast, diverse world.
The students soon understood that members of the L, G, B, Q,? community was no different than them, individuals who loved and learned, achieved and supported each other with dignity and respect.”
“I knew I could use this opportunity to increase the students understanding and knowledge about their peers, themselves, and with the world outside of Martin City.”
Her classroom actions soon found their way to the public forum.
“Synthia, initially, was not transparent,” Elms stated, “but once the stakeholders witnessed the results, we understood her motives, we were sold on her plan.
“She took and opportunity, what could have been an empty moment in her classroom, and turned it into a valuable lesson.” Elms proudly admits.
Elms stated, “We have all grown since Cynthia has arrived and allowed us to find that labels we were ignorant to what these labels represented, that we, as a campus limited ourselves with our ignorance.”
Cynthia admits that her rouge behavior was out of place in such a conservative campus but went on to say, “It is not for every teacher, campus, or district, but I knew, in my heart, that Martin City was ready to grow and understand others.”
“I had no idea how much support I would receive from my peers and parents. An overwhelming feeling of tolerance permeates on the campus; this feeling finding its way into the children’s homes and soon to the town at large.
Currently, her ideas are gaining national attention.
“I am getting email daily from other teachers and administrators who would like to find ways to teach acceptance and tolerance on their campuses; I am humbled to have created a ripple that I hope soon will become a wave.”