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Asking the Important Questions in the School of Education at Trent

February 21, 2019

Dr. Denise Handlarski works towards teaching students about advocacy, diversity, and respect

Dr. Denise Handlarski smiling at the camera

With a background in gender studies and combatting gender-based violence, Dr. Denise Handlarski became a professor at the School of Education in 2012, specializing in teaching literacy as a tool for empowerment, accessibility, advocacy, diversity and respect. In 2013, Professor Handlarski was ordained as a rabbi, bringing together her culture and pedagogy with values of tzedakah (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).

In a 2018 opinion piece for, Prof. Handlarski spoke out on the importance of sex education in schools stating that, “These discussions give students the tools to disclose sexual assault/abuse and to negotiate sexual activity in an empowered way. Make no mistake, these are issues of life and death”.

Having been born in South Africa, Prof. Handlarski always wondered at those who had experienced oppression but could turn a blind eye to the oppression of others. This inspired her doctoral research on South African literature after apartheid, asking questions about the intersections of race and gender in that tumultuous moment. As a result, teaching for Prof. Handlarski has always centred around justice, from teaching literacy to at-risk youth in Toronto, to teaching history with a critical lens, asking questions about who is not included in the curriculum/textbook.

You can learn more about Denise and programs offered at the School of Education by visiting