The fields of sexual health and sexuality education are constantly changing. Consider how social media and other technologies have changed the way teens form relationships and interact with each other or how emerging methods of contraception have transformed pregnancy prevention. Taking these changes into consideration, how can school-and community-based health educators be prepared to provide up-to-date information and answer student’s questions with confidence and accuracy? We spoke with Jessica Hastings, who has been teaching health and science to grades 6 to 12 at the Sussex County Opportunity Program in Education (SCOPE) in Delaware. She just completed all seven of our online professional development workshops and has a unique perspective on how our online workshops can help increase school-and community-health professionals’ comfort and skill teaching sexuality education.
I asked Jessica to share her thoughts about the workshops and offer some advice for fellow educators who want to be on the forefront of using best practices to teach comprehensive sexuality education. Here’s what Jessica had to say:
Ty Oehrtman: What changes have you made in the way you teach sexuality education as a result of participating in Answer’s online workshops?
Jessica Hastings: The workshops offered games and lesson plans that I use in class, PowerPoint presentations, short videos (with teens sharing their views) and many useful resources for parents, staff and students. I have also new, up-to-date information, language and perspectives for teaching a diverse population of students. For example, the training on LGBTQ Issues in Schools included lessons on understanding male and female gender roles, which was great. There are very few resources for teachers and students on sexual identity, sexual orientation and gender roles. This year we had a transgender student who was born as a female biologically but is male. LGBTQ Issues in Schools helped me create opportunities for an open dialogue about terminology, experiences and opinions.
TO: What advice would you give a fellow educator who is considering using online workshops for their professional development in sexuality education?
JH: I highly recommend these trainings. I completed all seven this year, and each one is great. The workshop instructors provide immediate feedback, and the online format was easy to navigate, well organized, self-paced, fun and interesting.
Each unit within the trainings also offered current information focused on issues and questions that arise in the classroom with my 6th-to 12th-grade students. The courses gave me resources I could use to look up many of the questions students have asked me regarding sexual health. In the course about sexuality and anatomy, the myth buster activity was an awesome resource. The pregnancy course also taught me new information, which surprised me since I have been teaching for 13 years now. Another great feature in a couple of the courses was the state-by-state sexual health data and statistics.
I now feel very prepared to assist other educators and students with questions they may have because of these courses. I also enjoyed using the discussion boards to communicate with educators from around the country; this is a great way to get new ideas and advice. I am looking forward to participating in the new online workshops that will launch next school year.
TO: What are some of the things you enjoyed most about your experience earning professional development credit entirely online?
JH: I enjoyed the fact that while I was taking the course, I could use resources from the online workshop to supplement activities in my classes and have my students learn with me. This provided additional teachable moments by allowing the students to feel empowered to help the teacher with classwork. This also modeled the importance of education and learning, even as an adult.
TO: Based on your experience participating in the online workshops, what do you think is the greatest advantage of online professional development in sexuality education compared to other ways of earning professional development credit?
JH: My experience has been relaxed and stress free. The quick responses to emails, grading and discussion feedback from the instructors made the trainings feel comfortable.
I was able to complete the trainings around my schedule and in a reasonable time frame; I had 30 days to complete each topic. Being a teacher and mother of two, flexibility is very important. Personally, time was never an issue with these workshops. They are so quick, interesting and fun, so the units went by very quickly. One of the instructors offered some advice that I found helpful: complete the pretest, and the first three units as soon as possible then the rest is a piece of cake.
After finishing the trainings, I do feel as if I had professional relationships with the instructors, as if I was a student in a face-to-face professional development program. The online workshops also allow for interaction with professionals from across the country. I have taken online classes before, but these are by far the best in every area.
Take all of Answer’s online workshops and earn up to 42 hours of continuing education credit completely online. Learn more about Answer’s online workshops.