A teacher from Minnesota who was chosen as a “Teacher of the Year” by the Council of Chief State School Officers and refused to attend a White House ceremony celebrating the “Teacher of the Year” honorees in April 2019 got attention at the NCAA football championship game on Monday by kneeling for the national anthem.
Kelly Holstine, an English and language arts teacher at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee, Minnesota, tweeted, “Honored as State Teachers of the Year at NCAA Champ FB Game. Given platform to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people. Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat’l Anthem because, ‘No one is free until we are all free’ (MLK).”
Honored as State Teachers of the Year at NCAA Champ FB Game. Given platform to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people. Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat’l Anthem because, “No one is free until we are all free” (MLK). #imwithkap #blacklivesmatter #LGBTQ pic.twitter.com/DimP3pBtBn
— Kelly D. Holstine (she/her) (@kellydholstine) January 14, 2020
As ABC News noted, Holstine led a TED Talk in October 2019 called “Educators must be more than allies.” In her speech, she advocated for teachers to be willing to leave their comfort zones and “stand up for all of the human beings who are being marginalized or oppressed,” stating:
Allies are wonderful and we need them, but it is not enough for educators to just be allies. We need them to be advocates too … support is not enough. We also need to be willing to leave our comfort zones and stand up for all of the human beings who are being marginalized and oppressed … All humans deserve to be called by their chosen pronouns and names and they should be able to use whatever bathroom makes them feel safe. Too many of our transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming are not eating or drinking during the day so that they don’t have to use the bathroom at school.
The Hill reported in April 2019 that Holstine skipped the White House ceremony honoring the teachers. Holstine told the outlet, “The words and practices and policies of this administration have been filled with a lot of hate toward the LGBTQ community, so I didn’t feel comfortable in that environment.” She added, “I thought long and hard about what I felt was right to do in my heart. My students deserved to be stood up for.”
ABC News noted, Holstine is “the first openly LGBTQ teacher to receive the honor, according to CCSSO.” The Hill reported, “ … she said her students include Somali refugees, students who identify as trans and others who are impacted by the administration’s rhetoric and policies.”
CCSO told ABC News that Holstine’s decision to kneel for the national anthem had nothing to do with them, stating, “The Council of Chief State School Officers appreciates the opportunity for outstanding teachers to be recognized on the national stage. The decision by an individual State Teacher of the Year was not coordinated by the National Teacher of the Year program or CCSSO.”
The Washington Post noted, “In 2018, Trump was the subject of a silent protest by the national teacher of the year at a White House ceremony. Mandy Manning of Washington state, who received an award from Trump, handed him letters from her refugee and immigrant students, and she wore pins and buttons with political messages, including one in support of the LGBTQ community.”