As President Trump and first lady Melania took to the field this week at the opening ceremonies of the College Football Playoff National Championship game in New Orleans, a lesson in quiet protest was offered by the Minnesota Teacher of the Year who knelt during the singing of the national anthem in support of "marginalized and oppressed people."

Kelly D. Holstine was among a group of several dozen winners of the Teachers of the Year program who were being honored on the sidelines at the start of the game Monday while a huge American flag was unfurled on the field.

“I chose to kneel as a way to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people,” said Holstine, the 2019 Teacher of the Year from Minnesota.

In a tweet afterward, she underscored why she chose the sports venue for the protest.

"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” #imwithkap #blacklivesmatter #LGBTQ"

The on-field protest echoed a similar gesture in 2016 by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaeper who knelt during the anthem before an NFL game and triggered a national debate on the tactic. Two years later, the NFL instituted a policy requiring players to stand for the anthem.

It was not the first protest that Holstine, an English and language arts teacher at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee, Minnesota, has leveled at the current occupant of the White House. 

Last year, she was one of two educators who boycotted an Oval Office ceremony featuring Trump and winners of state teacher programs, according to The Hill. At the time, she cited her disapproval of the president's statements and policies toward immigrants, the LGBTQ community and other groups.

Holstine is director of educational equity for OutFront Minnesota, an LGBTQ activist organization.

In a TED Talk in 2020, Holstine said teachers should be willing to leave their comfort zones and "stand up for all of the human beings who are being marginalized and oppressed."

- Doug Stanlin