INGRAM, Heather

Heather E. Ingram’s Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story (Greystone $32.95) reverses the stereotypical situation of a teacher accused of having sex with a student. Usually the exploitive teacher is male and the student is female. Ingram, as a 30-year-old math teacher at Chatelech Secondary School in Sechelt, engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male student and wannabe rap musician. If the student had been a few weeks older, she would have simply lost her job. Because her lover was not yet eighteen, however, she faced trial for sexual exploitation of a minor. Ingram was convicted and sentenced to ten months under house arrest.

Her autobiographical account places the events in the context of her childhood deprivations, her educational achievements, and of a common-law relationship. Raised by a single father, due to her mother’s mental problems, she was a good student who obtained a business degree from Simon Fraser University and her education degree from UBC. She became an effective and conscientious teacher. At the same time she claims she was trapped in an unsatisfactory long-term relationship with a controlling partner. Ingram wisely refrains from psychological explanation and self-analysis, leaving the reader to draw her own conclusions. Instead, she describes her overwhelming attraction to the handsome, rebellious student of mediocre ability, the initial flirtation, the clandestine meetings, the separations, reunions, quarrels, infidelities and final breakup. It reads like a piece of romantic fiction. At the same time, the book serves as a useful springboard for the discussion of teacher-student relationships and zero-tolerance, the fine line that exists between sexual exploitation and consensual sex, and the arbitrary nature of legal age limits for teenage activities—as well as the gender-inflected nature of power and authority. 1-55054-980-4

[Joan Givner / BCBW Winter 2003] "Sex"