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Joel Soto ’21

2021 SOAR Profile

Queer and Trans* Youth Lives in the English Classroom

Major: English, Secondary Education
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Project Advisor(s): Dr. Bess Van Asselt

Briefly describe your project.

With the assistance of LGBTQ+ narratives, we interviewed local English teachers to gauge their interest in teaching LGBTQ+ narratives, and we sought to learn how the modern English classroom understands queer and trans* students.


Joel Soto ’21

Describe the origin of your project. (E.g., did you pitch the idea and choose a faculty member, or did they come to you with an idea?)

The original idea was pitched by the faculty member, but the idea evolved as we discovered new avenues of research.

What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?

The best part of the project was learning queer theory and reading queer studies. Likewise, interviewing teachers was intriguing. A valuable insight about queer theory is how most, if not all, humans travel between queer and normative behaviors.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

One obstacle was reading the students’ narratives and creating a coherent, honest representation of them. The narratives were intriguing, but I did not like choosing what was “pertinent” to the study.

The biggest obstacle was presenting the information. It was difficult to present a study about the LGBTQ+ community while making it clear that I was not speaking for the community. Likewise, it is difficult to present a study such as this because it does not have concrete answers or solutions. At most, we have suggestions. This is a hard thing to communicate to a science audience.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

As a teacher, I am more conscious of my LGBTQ+ students and the ways I enforce normative behaviors. I am also asking myself, “in what ways can I introduce queer literature and probe for queer conversations?”

What was the result of your project?

I received flattering feedback from the audience. My mentor and I are looking for ways to expand the project, and I am looking for ways of implementing some of the suggestions into my classroom.

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian University?

This is a great opportunity. I learned that I could do academic research and I learned that I could contribute to the academic community. Students should take advantage of the program. One is introduced to research and feels “adult” working beside their mentor. More so, it gives one the confidence to enter the important conversations that shape our communities.

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, how?

Yes, Dr. Van Asselt and I are thinking about expanding our research. We may be attending an educational conference in the summer where we share our findings, and we are looking for more teacher-participants.

Have you, or do you plan to present this research outside the SOAR presentations? If so, where? Be specific, if possible.

We plan on presenting our research at the Annual Conference for the National Council of the Teachers of English. The proposal has been submitted.