Don't invite Kelly Holstine to anything if you're worried she might make a scene.
Stop worrying. She will.
In 2019, Holstine was one of two recipients of state-level Teacher of the Year honors to reject an invitation to Donald Trump's White House. Holstine, then an English teacher at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee, said she wouldn't "feel comfortable" turning up at Trump's White House as a lesbian and a teacher of Somali-Americans and LGBTQ students.
Almost a full year later, Holstine's honor was still getting her on the VIP guest list, in this case to Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship between Clemson and LSU. That night and the morning after, everyone was talking about the actor (and former Minneapolis baby) Vince Vaughn, caught on camera getting along with Trump.
They should've been talking about Holstine, who used her time in the national spotlight to lodge another protest, this time borrowing a page from former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
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
Holstine had considered merely not putting her hand over her heart, but determined that wasn't enough of a visible message. (Indeed, neither Trump nor Melania put their hand on their heart, though that may have been a subtle protest against knowing what is happening.)
Holstine's kneel got noticed by the Washington Post and the Hill. Holstine said she'd consulted with her wife and other teachers before the game, and felt it was her "responsibility" to send a message.
“I really feel like our country is not serving the needs of all its inhabitants," she told the Hill. "So many humans right now... are not being given the respect and the rights that they deserve.”
Holstine now works on behalf of some of those humans, as director of educational equity at OutFront Minnesota. Holstine joined the LGBTQ rights advocacy nonprofit in July after seven years teaching at Tokata and 12 in Minnesota altogether. She was the first openly LGBTQ teacher to win Minnesota Teacher of the Year.
Below, watch a TED talk Holstine gave about feeling like an outcast as a child, and how that informed her efforts to reach students in her classrooms.
- Mike Mullen