What Does Success Look Like to You? – Bill Taverner

What Does Success Look Like to You? – Bill Taverner

Bill Taverner is a distinguished sexuality educator and leader with over 30 years of experience in the field, primarily serving as the Executive Director of the Center for Sex Education (CSE). Born in Staten Island, New York, Bill’s early life was marked by a strong involvement in community theatre and a deep affinity for baseball, particularly the New York Mets.

Bill’s educational background is robust, with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and a Master of Arts in human sexuality from New York University. His academic pursuits also took him to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a cross-cultural, international studies program, enhancing his understanding of global sexual health issues.

Professionally, Bill has been instrumental in advancing sex education through various roles. He founded the Sex Ed Lecture Series in March 2020 to support continued learning among sexuality educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also serves as the chief editor of the “American Journal of Sexuality Education,” a role that underscores his commitment to scholarly discourse and practical applications in sex education.

Bill’s authorship includes more than 85 publications, spanning teaching manuals, curricula, articles, and books. Notably, his work has been recognized with numerous awards from prestigious organizations like the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), including the Book Award for “Teaching Safer Sex, 3rd Edition” and the first “Schiller Prize” for best workshop using interactive strategies.

His advocacy efforts have reached the national stage, including presentations at U.S. Congressional briefings. Bill’s commitment to racial and social justice in sexuality education has also earned him accolades such as the Social Justice Award from the Academy for Adolescent Health and the “Golden Apple Award” from Planned Parenthood.

Outside of his professional endeavors, Bill remains a passionate Mets fan and enjoys traveling with his adult children. His career reflects a lifelong commitment to enhancing the field of sex education through leadership, advocacy, and continuous professional development.

Q&A with Bill Taverner on Success in Sex Education

What initially drew you to the field of sex education?

My journey into sex education was sparked by the stark realization of how poorly our society communicates about and understands sexual health. During my studies in psychology and later human sexuality, I recognized the profound impact knowledgeable, empathetic sex education could have on individuals’ lives. I saw a critical need for accurate and inclusive information, and I wanted to be part of a movement that empowered people to make informed decisions about their sexuality.

What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?

The field of sex education often faces societal and political resistance, which can hinder our work and the dissemination of information. One major challenge was ensuring continuous professional development for educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, which we addressed by launching the Sex Ed Lecture Series. This platform helped maintain a connected and informed community of educators. Personally, persistence has been key; every setback has been an opportunity to learn and adapt.

What achievements in your career are you most proud of?

I am deeply proud of the impact the Sex Ed Lecture Series has had. Since its inception, we’ve facilitated over 200 webinars, significantly advancing the professional development of sexuality educators globally. Additionally, receiving the AASECT Book Award was a highlight that validated the hard work and quality of our educational materials. These moments underscore the importance and impact of our work in the community.

How do you measure success in sex education?

Success in sex education can be measured by the reach and impact of our teaching. It’s not just about the number of people educated but the depth of understanding they gain. Success is also reflected in the empowerment of individuals to make healthier decisions and in the evolution of societal norms towards more open and supportive discussions about sexuality. Feedback from educators and students also provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of our approaches and materials.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in sex education?

First, immerse yourself in the literature and current practices in the field. Education is crucial. Second, network extensively. Relationships built through professional associations and conferences can provide support and open up opportunities. Lastly, be prepared to advocate strongly for the importance of this work. Sex education often requires defending the necessity and validity of our field, so resilience and a clear communication style are essential.

Looking forward, what do you see as the future trends in sex education?

The future of sex education lies in increasingly digital and interactive platforms that offer personalized learning experiences. We’re also moving towards a more global perspective that considers cultural sensitivities and inclusiveness. Challenges will include navigating the misinformation prevalent on digital platforms and ensuring that educational materials remain accessible and scientifically accurate.

Can you share a personal story that highlights a turning point in your career?

A defining moment was when I organized my first large conference. The success of that event, in terms of attendee engagement and the feedback received, really solidified my commitment to this field. It demonstrated the tangible desire and need for continued education and community building among sex educators, and it reaffirmed my path towards leading and innovating within the field.

How do you balance the demands of your professional life with personal interests and responsibilities?

Balancing professional and personal life is a continuous challenge, especially in a field as demanding as sex education. I prioritize time management and mindfulness to ensure that while I am dedicated to my work, I also make time for family, hobbies, and rest. Acknowledging that you can’t always do everything and learning to delegate and trust others in your professional circle are crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

What common misconceptions about sex education do you frequently encounter, and how do you address them?

Despite what many people may believe, sex education does not encourage One common misconception is that sex education encourages early sexual activity. The research, however, consistently shows that comprehensive sex education actually delays the onset of sexual activity and promotes safer practices among those who are sexually active. To address this, I focus on educating policymakers, parents, and the community about the benefits of comprehensive sex education, emphasizing its role in empowering young people to make informed decisions.

How has the field of sex education changed since you began your career?

The field has evolved significantly over the past three decades. When I started, sex education was often reactive and limited to addressing problems after they had occurred. Today, there’s a greater emphasis on proactive, comprehensive approaches that include discussions about consent, gender identity, and sexual orientation, making the education much more inclusive and relevant to today’s societal needs.

What role do technology and social media play in sex education today?

Technology and social media are increasingly integral to delivering sex education, especially among younger audiences who spend a significant amount of time online. We use these platforms to disseminate accurate information quickly and engage with a broader audience. However, they also present challenges, such as the spread of misinformation. It’s crucial to develop critical media literacy skills among educators and learners to effectively navigate these tools for educational purposes.

Key Takeaways

  • The Importance of Comprehensive Approaches: Bill Taverner emphasizes the value of comprehensive sex education, which not only educates about the biological aspects of sex but also covers critical topics such as consent, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Such education helps delay the onset of sexual activity among young people and promotes safer, informed decisions.
  • Adaptation and Innovation in Education: The field of sex education is continually evolving, with a significant shift towards the use of digital platforms and social media. This shift requires educators to adapt to new teaching methods and technologies to effectively reach and engage their audience. It also necessitates ongoing professional development to keep pace with changes and innovations.
  • Advocacy and Resilience: Success in sex education often involves overcoming societal and political barriers. Bill Taverner’s career highlights the necessity for strong advocacy and resilience in promoting the benefits of sex education against misconceptions and resistance. His work demonstrates that passionate and persistent advocacy is crucial for advancing the field and achieving broader acceptance and implementation of comprehensive sex education programs.