While many people have trained me, offered me career guidance, and encouraged my career as a sex educator, my very first (and most influential) sex ed mentor was Ivy Chen. When she’s not mentoring, Ivy’s a lecturer at San Francisco State University and teaches age-appropriate sexuality education classes to primary, middle, and high school students throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
I first learned about Ivy when I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about her work in schools. The article described her passion for educating young people about making healthy choices and reflected the sex-positive approach she takes to her work. At the time the article was published, I was starting my first year as a sexual health peer educator at my university and just beginning to learn about the possibilities for how I could turn my love of teaching others about sexuality into a life-long career.
Several months later, I learned that Ivy would be coming to speak at the weekly meeting of my peer education group. That night, she spoke briefly about how she had been part of the program when she was an undergraduate at Berkeley and how it had helped her get her start in sex ed (what an inspiring thing to learn!). After her activity-filled presentation, I went up to her – a little star struck – to introduce myself and ask her more about her work.
She was friendly and seemed very happy to talk about working in the sex education business. During our brief chat, she offered to let me shadow her during one of her sex ed classes. After several email exchanges, I was able to shadow her for an entire week during my Spring break, during which time she coached me on the content and delivery of good education. I loved getting to watch her teach and answer students’ questions, and I found it useful to see how she navigated the logistics with the school administrative staff. Since many sex education jobs (hers included) are freelance, knowing how the business side of things worked was incredibly helpful.
Eventually, Ivy connected me to paid sex education work and invited me to guest lecture in her Human Sexuality subject at SFSU. Throughout the whole process, she offered support for my challenges and celebration for my successes. In true mentorship style, Ivy nurtured our on-going relationship beyond straightforward career advice. Even now that I live on a different continent, Ivy and I still correspond and I visit her when I’m back in the Bay Area.
In addition to helping me become a sex educator, Ivy taught me how to be a mentor. I’ve had to opportunity to mentor a couple of sex educators in the last year, which has been rewarding and fun. Because of Ivy, I know firsthand the value of mentorship in the sexuality education field and I’ll always consider it an integral and invaluable part of my work.