NEW YORK - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is proud to announce the selection of Nebraska teacher Ferial Pearson as the 2010 GLSEN Educator of the Year, presented by Sodexo.
Pearson, who was chosen out of nearly 100 nominations, is an English teacher at Omaha South High School in Omaha, Neb., and has served as the school's Gay-Straight Alliance advisor since her first year teaching nine years ago, despite opposition from within the school community that has included several threats of lawsuits.
She served on the GLSEN Omaha Chapter board for three years and also advises her school's Unity Club. Pearson helps coordinate dances for area GSAs, including the "Dance with Whom You Want" Valentine's Day dance, and helped start Omaha's Pride Prom, which has grown from 75 students five years ago to more than 300 this year from all across the state.
GLSEN and Sodexo are honored to recognize Ferial Pearson, a school leader who has dedicated her teaching career to creating environments where all students are valued and respected, as the 2010 GLSEN Educator of the Year," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "A caring educator who has helped grow the Omaha South High School GSA from one student to one of the country's largest with 150 students, Ferial embodies all the characteristics we look for in a visionary leader who has made her school and community safer for all students from her first moments in a classroom."
Pearson speaks six languages fluently and is in the process of learning Spanish from her students. She is a 2001 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and has a Master of Arts Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Nebraska – Omaha.
A native of Kenya, Pearson moved to the United States at 19, at which point she had never read anything written by a person of color. She cried when in college she read a poem by a person of color for the first time. Until that moment she had not realized that she could be important, too.
Pearson has made it a point in her teaching career to instill in all her students that each of them is as valued as the other.
"I do it because growing up in Kenya I saw so many people not standing up for others,” Pearson said. "I saw a lot of atrocities because people were not understood and people would just stand by and let it happen. I have children now and when they need someone to stand up for them I would hope that somebody else would. I feel it's my duty as a human being to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. If a kid asks me for help I can't turn them down; it would be irresponsible."
Pearson was nominated by a former student, who said, "She really does make a difference in people's lives. She's made a difference in mine."
GLSEN is also proud to announce that Dr. David Hall from North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pa., is Runner-Up for the 2010 GLSEN Educator of the Year.
Dr. Hall has been a classroom teacher for 13 years and GSA adviser for 9 years. His students have awarded him with teaching awards such as Most Creative Teacher, Teacher Most Likely to Be Remembered in 10 Years, and Teacher Most Likely to Brighten My Day. As an adjunct college professor, he has taught courses on addressing LGBT issues in school, bullying prevention, sexuality and law, and other topics.
As the co-founder of Out & Equal Philadelphia, Dr. Hall works to create a more inclusive environment for not only students but also adults in the workforce. He is the author of Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment and the editor of Taking Sides: Family and Personal Relationships. Dr. Hall is also the author of two iPhone and Droid apps: BullyShield, a bullying prevention app, and an Allies at Work app. Dr. Hall considers receiving the GLSEN Runner-Up award to be among the most touching and rewarding experiences of his professional career.
Other finalists included: Erica Eaton, East High School, Rochester, N.Y.; Robert Loupo, Cutler Ridge Middle School, Miami; and Richard Matkins, Southridge High School, Beaverton, Ore.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.