Sherman Lecture 2024 | Dr. Lee Airton

Sherman Lecture 2024 | Dr. Lee Airton

March 12, 2024 | Join ACDE for the Sherman Lecture 2024, featuring Dr. Lee Airton, Queen’s University, during the annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education.

Practicum is hard enough when you HAVE a place to pee: What school washrooms reveal about teacher education and gender diversity

Picture it: a non-binary teacher candidate arrives at their assigned practicum school, only to find that there is no washroom they can safely use. All staff washrooms are gendered: women’s or men’s. But when they raise the issue with their program, the candidate is told that there are no other placements available and they must remain there. From a human rights perspective, this is likely gender identity discrimination. And yet, this experience is becoming canonical among transgender and/or gender non-conforming teacher candidates in Canada where related human rights protections exist.

In this year’s Sherman Lecture, Dr. Lee Airton addresses a challenge increasingly voiced by teacher educators across Canada who are tasked with preparing incoming generations of teachers for the country’s K-12 schools: that the profession’s entry points and guardrails are still not ready for transgender and/or gender non-conforming people, even as successive teacher candidate cohorts are increasingly gender-diverse. Drawing on findings from their research program on gender identity and gender expression human rights in K-12 schools and teacher education, as well as barriers encountered by transgender and/or gender non-conforming pre-service teachers, the lecture pulls the thread of its titular scenario: arriving on practicum to find no safe and accessible washroom. Taken to its administrative limits, the scenario raises foundational questions about teacher education in Canada in an era of gender identity and gender expression human rights, which is also a time of post-secondary funding cuts, increased competition for both students and placements, and centralized practicum placement regimes in many Canadian school boards. Just as transgender and/or gender non-conforming young people are starting to have a school experience that leaves many whole enough to go back there as teachers, Dr. Airton explores changes to our structures, practices, and customs that will enable teacher education to welcome these candidates, at long last, regardless of how daunting such changes may seem.

Chair Lace Marie Brogden, Dean, Faculty of Education, St. Francis Xavier University
Introduction Jennifer Tupper, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
Date Thursday, June 13, 2024
Time 4:30 to 5:45 pm
Room Room 232 (Senate Room), Leacock Building, McGill University Campus

Session open to all CSSE delegates.


Dr. Lee Airton is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education at Queen’s University. Their research explores how Canadian K-12 education and teacher education are responding to gender identity and gender expression protections in human rights legislation. Dr. Airton has founded campaigns and created resources that have changed the Canadian conversation about transgender people and gender diversity, such as in 2012, the No Big Deal Campaign in 2016, and [gee gee dot ca], the first bilingual self-advocacy resource for K-12 students experiencing gender expression and gender identity discrimination at school. Most recently, Dr. Airton and colleagues released a white paper titled “No for Now: Guidance for School Staff on Supporting Transgender Students and Parent-Child Relationships,” available at Dr. Airton’s first book, GenderYour Guide offers practical steps for welcoming gender diversity and has been adopted as a key professional development text in teacher education programs, school districts, the public sector and private sector organizations. In spring 2024, a fully revised and updated edition will be published by Adams Media (A Division of Simon and Schuster). With Dr. Susan Woolley, Dr. Airton edited Teaching About Gender Diversity: Teacher-Tested Lesson Plans for K-12 Classrooms. Dr. Airton has been interviewed over 70 times nationally and internationally on topics related to gender diversity, and they were the first early career scholar to be invited to deliver the Annual Canadian Association for Teacher Education Keynote in 2021.