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LGBTQ+ elementary education major ready to model diversity in the classroom

Student in front of building

Adrianne Summers-Reynolds

Adrianne Summers-Reynolds may have to field some questions from her third-graders this fall that other student teachers do not. The senior elementary education major is gay.

“I present more masculine in how I dress and how I look,” she said. “My mere presence turns heads. Having kids see that and see me as a kind, caring human will have a lot of positive impact on their future when they see people like me.”

She’s the 2020 recipient of The Joseph A. Rives/Scott J. Brouette Endowed Scholarship created in 2016 to provide financial support to a member of the LGBTQ+ community pursuing a degree in the Illinois State University’s College of Education or secondary education. Dr. Joe Rives ’90 M.S., ’94 Ph.D., and Scott Brouette, ’87, ’89, established the scholarship.

With student loans already topping $30,000, the scholarship will allow her to work fewer hours and focus more on her student teaching, she said.

“Getting this money helps me become the teacher I want to be. That’s $1,000 less that I’m going to have to worry about and can put into teaching. Being a queer teacher, there’s going to be a lot of extra questions I’m going to have from students and parents. This allows me to put more energy into that.”

She’s also excited about the change in curriculum signed into law last August by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The Inclusive Curriculum Law bill mandates public schools include contributions lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people made to state and U.S. history by eighth grade.  Illinois is the fifth state to enact the legislation.

Summers-Reynolds will take her experiences with diversity and inclusion into the classroom, role modeling what respect for differences looks like.

“Diversity is more than a word,” she said. “It’s using your privilege as a teacher, being aware of your own biases, and being accepting of all students.”

The graduate of Illinois Central College transferred to ISU her junior year and remembers how difficult it was for her to find her way, even on a college campus where diversity and inclusion is supported. The first year she didn’t know anyone, and would go home to her family in Peoria Heights on weekends. But then she found ISU Pride, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students that just celebrated 50 years at ISU.

“It boosted me emotionally and mentally, and now I have a good group of friends,” she said. She got involved, organizing the Queertober Ball, and brought a queer poet to campus.

When she graduates in December, she hopes to find a teaching position in an urban area for a few years, and then move to a rural community. She’s looking forward to increasing cultural awareness wherever she goes.

For other LGBTQ education students, she advises getting involved on campus, even if they’re introverted, as she describes herself.

“It’s so worth it. Just say hi to queer groups, organizations, or openly LGBTQ+ people on campus. Pop in the conversation. Most of the time queer people or LGBTQ people are very open. They will take time to make sure you are heard.”

Another group she recommends is Queer Ed Birds, a registered student organization that works to help future teachers understand and support the issues students who identify as queer face.

Click here for more scholarship opportunities at Illinois State University.