Gemma Evans has been named LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year at the Just Like Us Awards 2023.

Hosted by Char Bailey and Megan Crabb, the awards recognised heroes in five categories: LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year, Ambassador of the Year, Corporate Volunteer of the Year, Mentor of the Year and Pride Group of the Year (sponsored by JP Morgan Chase & Co).

Just Like Us is the LGBTQ+ young people’s charity. The organisation is known for School Diversity Week, their annual UK-wide celebration of LGBTQ+ equality in schools and colleges.

The ceremony, which took place on 13 July, featured appearances from stars such as presenter and DJ Harriet Rose, Heartstopper’s Corinna Brown and Tobie Donovan, Everyone’s Talking About Jamie alum Layton Williams, singer-songwriter Låpsley, Paralympian gold-medalist Lauren Rowles, swimmer Michael Gunning, dancer and film director Shiva Raichandani, writer and activist Eva Echo, and the cast of I Kissed a Boy – the UK’s first-ever same-sex dating series.

Rising rapper Keanan also delivered a medley of his most beloved tracks including Obstacle, Exhale, Inhale, Country Boy and Ooh La La, as well as new single Butterscotch, which is due for release on 4 August.

Echo and Raichandani presented Evans with the award. Raichandani, who recently earned a BAFTA nomination for their documentary Always, Asifa, told the audience: “Teachers shape every aspect of our school life, from the curriculum, to preventing anti-LGBT+ bullying and being role models their pupils can look up to.

“It has been 20 years since Section 28 was repealed and yet Just Like Us’ research has found that only 40% of LGBT+ school staff feel safe to be out, and many more are afraid to speak up about their allyship.”

Echo said: “Now is not a time where we can afford to be quiet. Trans young people need you to speak up and show your support.” 

Evans is a teacher at Ysgol Green Greenhill School in Pembrokeshire. She was nominated for the LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year award by a student who described her as “a true role model” and “one of the most active allies I have ever met”. 

Committed to embedding LGBTQ+ inclusion in the school’s culture, Evans created a Social Action Team to celebrate and increase awareness of all forms of diversity among pupils and staff. She also helps the group get involved in county-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Upon accepting her award, she said: “At first, we started working with a small group of students that we’d identified as having difficulties in school due to being LGBT+, but we quickly became aware of the need for more diversity and inclusion in our little town in Wales. Not only in our school, but across our whole county. 

“Together along with our Social Action Team and whole school community, we’ve worked incredibly hard to ensure that not only are all types of diversity supported, but also celebrated through countless lessons, meetings, workshops, assemblies, presentations, staff training. You name it, we’ve done it! And, in partnership with other schools in our county, we’ve led change at a county-wide level.”

“I am extremely proud to say that our school is one of the most active participants in celebrating diversity, and a school where students can be themselves without judgement.”

Laura Mackay, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, said: “Gemma Evans is a shining example of a teacher going the extra mile to instil LGBT+ inclusion across her entire school and wider community, and helping LGBT+ young people to feel celebrated in an increasingly difficult climate. 

“The LGBT+ Inclusive Teacher of the Year nominations were filled with examples of teachers going above and beyond their usual duties to make sure that all of their pupils are safe and supported, and I am proud that Just Like Us is able to support them in those efforts.”

The Just Like Us Awards were sponsored by JP Morgan Chase & Co.

GAY TIMES was the official media partner.