Why I Teach Sex Ed: Family Matters

Alison Bellavance. M.Ed.
Director of Education & Professional Training
Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County & Planned Parenthood of Northeast & Mid-Penn
As the big sister to no less than seven siblings, I fell into the role of teacher at a very young age. I read to them, held their hands when we crossed the street, and helped them learn to tie their shoes.  I liked to look out for them, make sure they had good information and, most importantly, always be someone they could turn to.  I liked how proud I felt when they learned something new. Seeing them take pride in their accomplishments felt even better.

As an undergraduate student, an internship in community health education helped me to realize I could continue my role as the knowledgeable, approachable “big sister” through my work. After graduation I became an educator at a domestic violence agency. There I met people who often found violence and pain in their relationships instead of love and support. It was fulfilling, but difficult work that made me wonder what more I could do to help people have the best chance of being happy, healthy and loved individuals? Then one day it dawned on me- I could teach sex ed.

I teach sex ed because I believe that the information and skills that comprehensive sexuality education provides are crucial to preparing us for life. As a sexuality educator, I teach about healthy relationships, positive body image, safety, boundaries, decision- making, respect, and self worth. Many of the same lessons I taught my brothers and sisters.  I teach female identified students that there is nothing they can’t achieve. I teach male identified students that they don’t always have to be the tough guy. I teach people struggling with their own gender identity or sexual orientation that it gets better.  I teach people that if a relationship or a friendship hurts you most of the time, you don’t have to just “put up with it.” I teach the importance of consent and communication.  I am able to give people of all ages information about their own bodies that empowers them and puts them at ease.  If one person avoids an abusive relationship, feels good about their body or finally asks someone about that question they’ve always had, I feel I’ve succeeded. 

I believe sexuality education helps to build confident, healthy and happy human beings and I am so proud and humbled that this is my life’s work. Both of the Planned Parenthood affiliates I work for offer after-school education programs for youth.  I look at the youth who participate in our programs and I see strong, empowered and educated young people. When I see what they accomplish, I feel that same pride I felt seeing my brothers and sisters grow and succeed. I honestly can’t think of a better reward for all of my hard work than that.