Educate, Engage, Activate

Women’s History Month Honoree 2020: Erica Rigby

From an early age, Erica Rigby had a passion for human rights and was active in public service in her hometown of Redding, CT. As a student and Civic Scholar at Tufts University, her interest was piqued in understanding how different countries view the US and how the world could benefit from our actions.  

After completing her student teaching at Winchester High School, Rigby accepted a position teaching Spanish at McCall Middle School in 2017. During her first year, she was asked to be the facilitator of the newly-formed Queer-Straight Alliance, a student-led extracurricular club.  Rigby accepted the invitation to work with the 20-25 student members and, shortly thereafter, came out to all her students as a lesbian.  

Rigby grew up in a household that supported her as a person on the LGBTQIA spectrum. At the age of 50, Rigby’s mother, who was the first woman in her family to go to college and who Rigby counts as her biggest inspiration, came out as a gay woman. Seeing the stigma that her mother encountered from her friends and patients, Rigby has a deep understanding for the need to support those who are marginalized.   

While Rigby has faced the prejudice of students wanting to transfer to a different classroom because of her sexual identity, she feels genuinely supported by her co-workers and the staff at McCall and is inspired by their curiosity and interest in improving the LGBTQIA experience for McCall students. Rigby has found inspiration in the book It Gets Better by Dan Savage, about young people—especially LGBTQIA teens—facing daily tormenting and bullying and is determined to work towards making these early years better for McCall LGBTQIA students.  

As QSA Leader, Rigby has worked with her students to: practice identifying and responding to homophobic and transphobic language and behaviors they experience in hallways; think about best strategies for coming out to family and friends; build an inclusive safe after-school space; create signs for gender neutral bathrooms at McCall and distribute a list of gender-neutral bathrooms for the annual 8th Grade DC trip; garner their input on gender identity policies for the Winchester Public School (WPS) policy manual; engage in activities to raise awareness of LGBTQIA issues, including the National Day of Silence and at the recent MLK Day of Service in January; and connect them to volunteer opportunities so that they can start to make a difference in their communities. She is extremely proud of the work they have done, but is mindful that there is more to do and is keenly aware of the need to incorporate LGBTQIA-inclusive content into the current curriculum, particularly in Health and Sex Education, as 10-20% of the student population identifies as LGBTQIA.  

In addition to her work in Winchester, Rigby is active at the Cambridge Women’s Center as the Lesbian & Bi- Women’s Discussion Group leader, where she is devoted to help women find community and build social circles. Longtime, she aspires to one day be on the board at GLSEN (formerly the Gay, Lesbian &Straight Education Network.)

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