Two state teachers of the year skipped a White House awards ceremony meant to honor them to protest President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Education Week reported that rather than attend the Oval Office ceremony on Monday, Kentucky Teacher of the Year Jessica Dueñas and Minnesota Teacher of the Year Kelly Holstine decided to hold a press conference on Tuesday to explain why they weren’t attending.
“It’s uncomfortable for me right now to not be with my peers, but it’s the right choice,” Dueñas, a 6th-grade special education teacher at W.E.B. DuBois Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, told Ed Week. “When I’m gone someday from this earth, I feel like I’m going to be on the right side of history, for speaking up for my students and my state in this manner.”
Holstine, who described herself as an “out, gender-non-conforming lesbian” and Minnesota’s first teacher of the year from the LGBTQ community, said she could not attend due to the Trump administration’s homophobic and transphobic policies.
“I feel that the policies of this administration, and the homophobia and the transphobia and the demonizing of the LGBTQ people, is so damaging and hurtful,” she said. “And it creates an environment where other folks feel emboldened to also feel that hatred.”
Holstine explained to Ed Week that many of her students at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee, MN, an alternative learning center, are undocumented, have family who are undocumented or are Somali refugees.
“I cannot in good conscience even implicitly support an administration that does not support my students,” Holstine said.
Dueñas revealed to the magazine that one of her parents was formerly undocumented and said the Trump administration’s family separation policy was one of the main factors in her decision to boycott the ceremony.
You can watch Dueñas and Holstine’s press conference at the American Federation of Teachers’ headquarters in DC below:
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