RIVERDALE, Calif. -- Parents and students in a Fresno County town received news this week that one of their local high school teachers is undergoing a sex change.
Friday at school was the last day for Mr. Don Gilbert. On December 1st, Ms. Sophie Gilbert will return to the classroom.
"It's been a struggle for me for a long time. It's called gender dysphoria and it's severe discomfort with oneself," said Gilbert.
Since she was a child, Gilbert felt like a woman, even trying different ways, including cross dressing, to feel comfortable in her own skin. After years of battling and with her wife, daughter, and friends behind her, she made the decision to officially transition to become a woman.
"It's something that we talked about together in making this move, in making this change, and it was something we kind of decided together actually," said Gilbert.
Gilbert is a teacher at Riverdale High School in Fresno County. The school district sits in a small, tight-knit farming community. This week, Interim Superintendent Jeff Percell sent home a letter to parents, informing them of the visual change students will see in their teacher.
"I believe our expectation for staff and for students alike is to promote a culture of acceptance," said Percell.
Percell has received a wide range of opinions on Gilbert's gender transition. He's hoping students won't dwell on the changes and instead move forward with learning in class.
This week, Gilbert talked to her students about her transformation and gender dysphoria. Some had questions. All showed support.
"He just told us that he's been struggling with himself, and he needed to make this change, and that's what he needed to do for him to be happy," said student Misseao Vega.
When students see Sophie Gilbert on December 1st, they'll notice big differences. Gilbert is taking hormones. She'll have different hair, wear makeup and new clothes. As for why the transition took place now, Gilbert says it's just how the process timed out.
Her wife and daughter already are seeing differences in the person they once thought of as "withdrawn."
"They've seen positive changes in me and are liking the person I am becoming," said Gilbert.