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StoriesKimberley Gilles ’12

Opposing Injustice, Celebrating All Voices

Award-winning educator Kimberley Gilles is recognized for outstanding teaching.

Gilles in classroom with students at tables

Kimberley Gilles describes her trademark qualities as "curiousity, fearlessness, and a deep and abiding love for who and what she teaches." She has much to back up that claim.

In 2017, Gilles, a Lesley alumna and California high school educator, was selected by the National Education Association (NEA) to be a Global Learning Fellow for the 2017-18 school year. The fellowship helps educators acquire skills to integrate global competence into their curriculum and thereby contribute "to the closing of the global achievement gap." With 47 other US educators, she will travel to South Africa in the summer of 2018, visiting schools and working on a book together. And this will be after going to Bethel, Alaska, as a guest of the Yupik tribe, to visit their school and learn about their culture.

The Global Learning Fellowship was only the latest in a number of awards. In 2014, she was awarded the National Education Association Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence at a Salute to Excellence in Education awards gala in Washington, D.C. The honor, described by NEA as “the Academy Awards of public education,” came with $25,000. It followed Gilles’s 2012 California Teachers Association (CTA) Members Human Rights Award for “outstanding dedication to promoting and protecting human and civil rights," and the NEA Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence in November 2013.

Gilles teaches at Monte Vista High School in Danville, California, and has taught English and humanities to middle school, high school, and adult education students for 29 years. She is a graduate of Lesley’s M.Ed. in Integrated Teaching through the Arts program, and received her undergraduate degree from UCLA.

She has been recognized for her work in strengthening the acceptance of LGBT students in her school and profession. Her Master’s thesis explored her work in designing and implementing curriculum for The Laramie Project, a play about the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay university student in Wyoming. She now implements the work “not just as a school climate issue, but as a matter of curriculum.”
Apart from her Laramie Project curriculum, Gilles is involved in activities that promote inclusion in the school environment. She has been a full inclusion teacher, integrating students with severe disabilities in mainstream classes and school activities. She has done community outreach with her students, and is a speech and debate coach. She is also a state representative to the California Teachers Association and serves on the Civil Rights in Education Committee.

Recently, Gilles developed a class called "The Hero's Journey," specifically to appeal to boys. It looks at masculinity as a social construct, especially relevant given the #metoo movement. It was approved by the University of California for college prep credit.

Gilles believes literature can ignite students’ imaginations and provide them with opportunities to model and practice empathy, and uses arts in her curriculum as a matter of practice (see photo at top of students reading Jane Eyre).

“I designed a curriculum for The Laramie Project so that my seniors could grapple with the horror of this hate crime,” said Gilles. “Kids and communities are no fools. They know better than to just listen when educators say we reject segregation and discrimination. They are watching what we do.”

“I think I am receiving this (CTA award) because I say, ‘Yes.’ ‘No’ never means more work. ‘Yes’ always means more work. Every time a student with a new constellation of needs enters my life, I say, ‘Yes.’ Every time the opportunity to square off against an injustice arises, I say, ‘Yes.’”
Kimberley Gilles ’12

Photo courtesy of Jim Stevens

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