State group names Champaign educator Ally of the Year
CHAMPAIGN — Laura Taylor, the Champaign school district's assistant superintendent for achievement and student services, is being honored Sunday as the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance's Ally of the Year.
Taylor will be honored at the alliance's launch event, which is set for 3 to 6 p.m. at Emerald City Lounge in Champaign.
The alliance is also celebrating the opening of its new Champaign office, which is located in the district's Family Information Center.
Executive Director Shannon Sullivan said her organization has worked with Taylor for years, both in her former position of Urbana High School principal and in her current role in Champaign schools.
"Her commitment to social justice in both those districts is certainly commendable," Sullivan said, adding that Taylor's social justice groups have dealt with issues of race and gender, and haven't shied away from sexual orientation and gender identity, "within a social justice framework," Sullivan said.
"For us, she really embodies the meaning of the word 'ally,'" she said.
Taylor also helped the alliance secure space in the Family Information Center, and two people have been working there since January.
"It's such a great way to expand our work into central and downstate Illinois more so than we've able to do in the past," Sullivan said.
The alliance works with gay-straight alliance clubs in area high schools, and its space here "has expanded our capacity to provide professional development throughout the area," Sullivan said. "That means that teachers and other school staff are better able to intervene (in situations involving) anti-gay language and anti-gay bullying."
Taylor said her relationship with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance started several years ago when she created a forum that focused on the issue of bullying and the things students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or questioning face in school.
She's also attended some alliance events and said they work with a specific goal in mind: "How do we make our schools good for all children."
Taylor said it's nice to have the alliance working locally, and it's been convenient to have the agency here.
"They're just starting their work, getting more of a foot in the door in East Central Illinois," Taylor said.
State Superintendent Christopher Koch said in a news release that he's glad to see the alliance establish an office outside of Chicago.
"The alliance's work to ensure all students are learning in safe and nurturing schools, where differences are accepted and honored, can only grow stronger as schools and communities come to know this organization," Koch said. "Students who have the freedom to express their sexual orientation and gender identity are more likely to reach their fullest potential both inside and outside the classroom."
If you go
What: Illinois Safe Schools Alliance launch event and Ally of the Year award for Champaign schools administrator Laura Taylor.
When: 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Emerald City Lounge, 118 N. First St., C.
Reservations, tickets: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/1440485.
Other activities: The organization will also celebrate its new Champaign office and recognize the East Central Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, the Central Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and the Heartland Safe Schools Initiative for their leadership and partnership.