Here’s a story that I missed from President Trump’s trip to New Orleans to watch the NCAA football championship game. I’m betting a lot of other people did, too. A Teacher of the Year honoree took a knee in protest on the playing field because of President Trump’s presence.
That’s right. Minnesota’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, Kelly Holstine, was standing in a row of teachers on the football field to be honored as Teachers of the Year when she decided to do something that none of the other teachers did – she knelt down and took a knee. She wanted to make a statement against the bad Orange Man.
The honoree from Minnesota, Kelly Holstine, chose to kneel during the national anthem at the NCAA football championship game on Monday, where the ceremony took place, “to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people,” according to a tweet she wrote, which included a photograph of her kneeling.
“Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat’l Anthem because, ‘No one is free until we are all free,'” she wrote, referencing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and citing a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My initial reaction was probably like a lot of adults – ugh. The worst part of the story, for me, is that she is a teacher. This indicates to me that she probably also plays the part of a social justice warrior in the classroom, too. Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education apparently approves and rewarded her with the honor of Teacher of the Year. Perhaps it is a naive request but I’d like to see teachers held to a higher standard as the educators of the next generation. Conflating Colin Kaepernick and Dr. King tells me that she is arrogantly justifying her behavior while boosting her own ego. She was presenting herself as a teacher, not a random protester.
It isn’t her first protest against Trump. She and the Kentucky Teacher of the Year boycotted a visit with President Trump at the White House. At the time “she said then that the administration’s policies defied her belief that every student matters.” She said that the Trump administration is filled with a lot of hate towards the LGBTQ community. She isn’t the first in her community to lodge such a complaint but I would question exactly what she is talking about. When Trump accepted the GOP nomination at the convention in 2016, he became the first party nominee for president to address his support of the LGBTQ community. I would question exactly what during his administration so far has Trump done to go against his pledge to support the community.
She no longer teaches. She now advocates for LGBTQ rights as director of educational equity at OutFront Minnesota. She knew in advance that President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump would be at the game.
Holstine is a gender-nonconforming lesbian who last summer stepped down from a teaching position at an alternative high school in Shakopee to serve as director of educational equity at OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBT rights organization.
In the days before Monday’s game, a “TED-Ed” video featuring Holstine was posted during which she spoke of being a tomboy who was bullied and how she wished she could go back to tell that girl how she would learn and grow and be given opportunities to help keep kids safe — and also be one of the first teachers to boycott a visit with the president over discriminatory policies and practices.
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
She has a history of activism.
She led a TED Talk in October 2019 titled “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.”
“Allies are wonderful and we need them, but it is not enough for educators to just be allies,” she said. “We need them to be advocates too.”
She acted on her own when she knelt in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. A statement was released from the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, which facilitates the “Teacher of the Year” program, said in a statement to ABC News that Holstine’s actions hadn’t been coordinated with the program’s organizers.
“The Council of Chief State School Officers appreciates the opportunity for outstanding teachers to be recognized on the national stage,” the statement read. “The decision by an individual State Teacher of the Year was not coordinated by the National Teacher of the Year program or CCSSO.”
Holstine is the first openly LGBTQ teacher to receive the honor. She’ll continue with her advocacy work but I admit I think it’s a good thing that she will be doing it outside her role as a public school teacher.
‘I think the current environment that is being created and has been created in his tenure definitely adds to my feelings of wanting to support individuals who are not being supported,’ Holstine said.
‘I really feel like our country is not serving the needs of all its inhabitants … so many humans right now that are not being given the respect and the rights that they deserve,’ she added.
‘Not everybody is given the opportunity to have a voice, and I can take a small moment, a respectful moment of protest, and exercise my First Amendment rights, and stand up for my students and for vulnerable adults and for people who are not treated in the way that they should be. It feels like my responsibility to do that,’ Holstine said.
She saw an opportunity to stick it to Trump – and Melania, too – and took it. She calls it a respectful moment but it took away from the other teachers being honored on the football field. That isn’t being respectful – that’s being a selfish egotist.