Two teachers that were honored with Teacher of the Year awards skipped the White House ceremony this week that recognized them and others because they disapproved of some of President Donald Trump’s policies.
Jessica Dueñas of Kentucky and Kelly Holstine of Minnesota did not the attend ceremony on Monday in the nation’s capital, The Hill reported.
Kentucky’s teacher of the year, Jessica Dueñas, said she did not attend the ceremony to protest the Trump administration’s stance on public education.
“I feel like the current administration is clearly attacking public education,” Dueñas told the Courier Journal.
“Why come to D.C. and smile and get an award and not stand up for my students?” she said.
Dueñas, who teaches for Jefferson County Public Schools, said her father was a Cuban refugee and her mother entered the country illegally years ago but has since earned legal status.
“I couldn’t in good faith come and smile and accept an award based on that one part,” she said.
Also skipping the ceremony was Minnesota’s teacher of the year, Kelly Holstine, who teaches at an alternative school. Holstine told The Hill that some of her students include refugees, transgender individuals and others who are impacted by the president’s rhetoric and policies.
“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,” Holstine said.
The teacher said she thought “long and hard” about the choice, but ultimately decided not to go to the ceremony.
“My students deserved to be stood up for,” she said.
“It’s not enough to tell our kids, ‘It gets better,'” Holstine said. “We need to make it better for them now.”
Holstine said she made the decision several days ago, but did not announce it ahead of the ceremony because she did not want to draw attention away from honorees who attended the celebration.
Both teachers said they had so far received positive comments for the decision.
2019 Minnesota Teacher of the Year @kellydholstine and 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year @JDuenas24 are sharing stories about the issues facing their schools and their duty to advocate for their students. Watch live ➡️ https://t.co/vMib2EK4kX pic.twitter.com/CD5xoQ1QoU— NEA (@NEAToday) April 30, 2019
Interestingly, the president was also not present at the ceremony. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos presented the awards, according to The Hill. Trump reportedly met privately with National Teacher of the Year winner Rodney Robinson of Virginia on in a surprise meeting in the Oval Office.
Robinson, a teacher at Virgie Binford Education Center, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he thought it was a productive day for his profession and his students.