New “Rainbow Bulldog Award” promotes inclusivity


Photo by Sneha David

Ms. Keival posing with her Rainbow Bulldog Award that she was presented to by the GSA for taking the extra steps in making her classroom a safe and inclusive environment.

By Sneha David, Assistant Online Editor

When coming to school, students should never have to feel like they cannot be themselves. While WCHS prides itself on being a welcoming community, certain teachers go above and beyond in making their classrooms feel like a safe space. The Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) is giving out “Rainbow Bulldog” awards to teachers who do just that. 

“The Rainbow Bulldog Award was created this year to showcase teachers who have excelled at creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students to express themselves,” GSA co-president and WCHS senior Kaylen Chang said. “The award allows LGBTQ+ students to know which teachers are safe to really talk and open up if they ever need it.”

After having members of their club and WCHS students vote, the GSA has presented the Rainbow Bulldog Award to English and Drama teacher, Ms. Naomi Kieval, recognizing her as a teacher that makes her room a safe space. 

“I am naturally always trying to figure out who a person is and what makes them who they are and hopefully that comes across in interactions and in the classroom,” Kieval said. “I am constantly challenging my students to do that and to not make assumptions.”

There are many opportunities for teachers to be able to make their classrooms safe spaces for students. It is important that students always feel heard and appreciated in whatever classroom they are in.

“[Teachers should cultivate] a respectful classroom where all students have a voice and all students listen to one another,” Chang said. “If just one voice goes unheard, the entire class is never accounted for fully.”

One of the ways Kieval makes her students feel heard is by simply taking an interest and asking questions. She makes an effort to learn about who her students are as a person and how she can help and support them in her classroom. 

“What I do is I constantly ask my students questions,” Kieval said. “They are teaching me all the time. I’m always making relationships with my students so that I am comfortable with my students and they are comfortable with me.”  

At school, students should be able to express their true selves. While different anti-hate policies are heavily implemented at WCHS, teachers still play an important role in making sure all students feel accepted in the classrooms as well.

“Safe spaces are needed now for the queer community,” Chang said. “It is important for all students, especially LGBTQ+ students, to feel safe in school and elsewhere as there are higher rates of bullying, harassment and suicide among LGBTQ+ teens.”
One of the main reasons the GSA started presenting the Rainbow Bulldog Award was to acknowledge the teachers that go above and beyond to make sure every student feels safe and heard in school. It is important that these teachers are recognized so that they can continue to create a positive environment in their classroom and at WCHS.

“I didn’t realize I was doing this and it made me really good to know I was creating a safe space,” Kieval said. “It’s my goal, but hearing it from students’ mouths, it gives me feedback that I am on the right path and what I am doing is making a difference. It encourages me to keep going and allows me to understand that I might not know everything and asking questions is ok.”

Not every student feels safe enough to be themselves and figure out who they are outside of school. Creating a positive and safe space in school is necessary in order for everyone, including teachers and students, to learn and grow. 

“Students sometimes spend more time here, at school, with their teachers than they do with their parents. So, I just think that students should feel as comfortable as possible when they are here,” Kieval said. “I am always growing and changing and learning, and I see my students doing that as well and I really hope that I can help in that process, that we can all kind of discover who we are together and we need to feel safe to do that.”

Many students feel like Kieval’s classroom is a safe space because she wants to have a relationship with her students and get to know each and every one of them. She makes an effort to show her students that she cares about who they are, whoever that may be.

“One of the reasons I love being a teacher is because I love making relationships with my students and in order to get to do that I need to get to know who they are as a person and I hope they get to know me as a person as well,” Kieval said. “In order to do that I need to show them that I respect whoever they are and I hope that they respect me as well. So I just try to make it very clear in the beginning, tell me who you are in every way shape or form so I can know who you are.”