Kentucky’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, Jessica Dueñas and Minnesota’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, Kelly Holstine boycotted a meeting with President Trump on Monday that was meant to honor state winners of the award. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos were also part of the meeting. The two teachers boycotted the event to protest the administration’s policies concerning education, immigration and LGBTQ rights.
Dueñas teaches sixth grade special education at the W.E.B. DuBois Academy in Louisville, Ky. She’s the daughter of a Cuban refugee and a Latina mother who was formerly undocumented. Holstine teaches high school English at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee, Minn.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about this decision… but we needed to make our own choice about what felt right for us,” Holstine said in an interview with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! “And for me, I work at a school that is extremely diverse. It’s an alternative high school in Shakopee. And the policies and the words and the actions of this administration show a great deal of discrimination and prejudice and hatred toward the students that I serve. And I could not, in good conscience, even implicitly support people who hate my kids.”
Dueñas also spoke to Democracy Now! about how the administration’s education policies are affecting schools in poor areas of Kentucky.
“One of the biggest issues that Kentucky is facing right now in terms of education is adequately funding our public schools,” she said. “If we allow the privatization agenda that the Trump administration is pushing and also the state administration right now in Kentucky is pushing to happen, the funding that is already barely there for our public schools is going to diminish and get even worse.”
Dueñas and Holstine also expressed support for their fellow teachers who did decide to attend the meeting, including the National Teacher of the Year, Virginia’s Rodney Robinson.
“I respect that location and the position. And I really respect the folks in our cohort who chose to be a part of that. And I’m very much a believer in freedom of speech, and I support that everyone shows that and demonstrates that right in different ways,” Holstine said.
All 48 of the other state winners agreed to attend Monday’s meeting with the President.
Watch Dueñas and Holstine’s appearance on Democracy Now! below.