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    Looking Back on a History-Making School Year, and Looking Forward to the Fall Semester

    combined 5.19_Page_20_Image_0007(Editor’s Note: Teacher Lyndsey Schlax of the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts recently taught the nation’s first on-site high school LGBT course, according to district officials. She will resume teaching that groundbreaking class next fall. She has just finished teaching a new Ethnic Studies course. It was a popular elective among the school’s Social Science offerings. Schlax, as well as one of her students, share their thoughts as the spring school season ends and the summer break begins.)

    Dear San Francisco Bay Times Readers,

    Over the course of this year, you have been witness to one of the most profound experiences of my life, and one of the top 3 accomplishments of my career. This year, I taught LGBTQ Studies and Ethnic Studies to an amazing, inquisitive, artistic group of students at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. I don’t think I realized how powerful this class would be, or how much it would mean to my students, or to this community, but I do now. To those students–you inspire me. You are about to change the world. I am so thankful to have been your teacher this year.

    This would not have been possible without the outpouring of support from outside our school. Professors from City College and San Francisco State provided syllabi and feedback; guest speakers Felicia Elizondo, Tom Ammiano, Kate Kendell, and fellow San Francisco Bay Times columnists John Lewis & Stuart Gaffney (dubbed “the cute married guys” by my class) spoke with us and shared their powerful stories.

    DonorsChoose helped us get MP3 players; The San Francisco Film Society and the Castro Theatre hosted us for films; FOSOTA gave picture frames and prints for our art show; Erik Martinez guided us through the entire semester; Matt Haney, Sandra Fewer, and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club championed our cause and broke down barriers for us. The San Francisco Bay Times gave us a column! I am in awe of what we can do for education when we work together, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish next year when this class is at not one, but four Bay Area schools!

    My students have been given the opportunity to share their learning with you here, in a column, throughout the school year, and wanted to leave a message to those who will follow in their footsteps and take this class next year. The words of one student follow.

    With sincere gratitude, and excitement to see you again in the fall,

    Lyndsey Schlax

    Dear Future Ethnic Studies and LGBTQ Studies Students,

    I want you to know that your life is about to change. You are about to experience the most adventurous class of your high school career. Be prepared to be wrong. However, do not be afraid to be wrong. Part of the learning process is to learn from your mistakes because naturally, we do not know what we don’t know. You’ll wish that this class was more available to high school students everywhere.

    You are about to be in a class that has made history as the first LGBTQ Studies class to be offered by a public high school, in the nation. Trust your teacher as she has dedicated her pioneer heart and passion into creating this wonderful course. How many people can actually say that their history teacher actually made history? I hope that you stay open and eager to learn with a constant lingering curiosity. You should definitely ask questions, but don’t forget to step back, listen and not get in the way.

    Remember that the content of this class will be about untold stories and histories. With this, you will learn how to become a good ally. Please don’t, and I urge you not to, take the time and resources you have in this class for granted. Also do not be late. This class is too valuable to miss out on and I regret not being there for every single second of this class that I missed because I was late. The best part of this class is most definitely the interactiveness, the opportunities, the active activism and flexibility of this course that is so relevant to the current events going on right now.

    It is also amazing to be in a class surrounded by students who actively want and chose to be in the class. It creates a very engaging and progressive environment, making it more fun to learn. When the semester, when the year is over, you will most definitely miss this class. However, it will stick with you forever. You will be enriched with a better, well-rounded knowledge of the history of the world and all of the the people who inhabit it.

    Lyndscombined 5.19_Page_22_Image_0001ey Schlax has been a teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District since 2008. She is uniquely qualified to address multiple areas of LGBT studies, having also specialized in subjects such as Modern World History, Government, Economics and U.S. Politics. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, and earned her M.A. in Teaching at the University of San Francisco.