In 2010 as a doctoral student Julia Heffernan was offered curriculum design and instruction for a new Education Studies senior seminar entitled Equality of Opportunity: Education as Homophobia. In tandem with her own research on schools as spaces of pervasive silence and violence toward gender creative and sexual orientation minority youth, she designed the course with a field component designed to both highlight and then break that silence. Heffernan established a student outreach curriculum as a series of public education projects entitled UOTeachOUT. Students in the course were to invite the larger public community into a conversation about LGBTQ issues in public education.
Relying upon the predictable homophobia in society to offer her students the necessary text on schools in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation, Heffernan required her pre-service education students to engage in multiple field projects OUTside the traditional classroom setting. The students were asked to learn about the gender and sexual orientation OUTsiders in the classroom, LGBTQ youth. Students were then asked to engage in a series of public projects in which they would “OUT” themselves educators who identified as LGBTQ youth advocates. All three layers of OUTing disrupted both the students and the local communities traditional conceptions of teacher education.
The theory in 2010 was that this project would simultaneously teach out into public spaces as the students engaged in conversation and in action in the community. Students in the course were encouraged to move into the public sphere and share all that they were learning in the course about the ramifications of gender and sexual orientation inequality on schooling and on youth.
2010 was the first year UOTeachOUT hosted an annual forum on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues in Education. A small class of students, another University faculty member Tina Gutierez-Schmich and Heffernan all worked together to create a four film public screening series in that first year.
The events were well received by k-12 educators, the UO students gained excellent social justice education field experience, and a teaching partnership was born that has resulted in the ongoing annual UOTeachOUT.
This course and events are now beginning in their seventh year and growing with each new iteration.