Serving Louisiana as the 2019 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year has been, and will likely be, one of my life’s most crowning achievements. My most significant work, which greatly overshadows the award itself, has been the efforts and legacy I left in my former classroom and in the community that I faithfully served for nine years.
This effort included teaching children about more than just content. To me, it meant educating my students about the world of opportunities that being positive, confident, and educated people would open for them. Of course, confidence doesn’t come easy for most middle school-aged youth. It’s a treacherous age, full of hazards and pitfalls. Circumstance and privilege significantly dictate the challenges ahead. Some paths are rendered “safer” or easier to travel, while some are riddled with inequity. This is particularly true for our students of color, students with intellectual and physical exceptionalities, our LGBTQ students, students without status or means, and our students without documentation. Some of our children are unable to finish this journey with us, which is the hardest reality that any educator has to face. We cry together. We mourn together. We pick up the pieces, and we push on together. For me, it is the honor of representing these individuals (and so many more) that I am most proud of as serving in the State Teacher of the Year capacity.
While I do not feel obligated to speak on recent developments surrounding the National Championship, there are some aspects concerning some information circulating in the news that I wish to clarify. After many news circuits picked up on the story about the 2019 Minnesota State Teacher of the Year kneeling during the National Anthem, many individuals have reached out seeking to understand a statement found within many of these publications. The statement reads to the affect that the educator who made the personal decision to kneel was doing so as the first openly LGBTQ State Teacher of the Year. While there is some merit to this (as she is the first openly LGBTQ Teacher of the Year from Minnesota), this has raised some questions among some who know that I, too, am an openly gay State Teacher of the Year. While I have no reason to believe that I am the first Louisianian to hold this title, I am proud to represent but a fragment of the incredible diversity found in our state’s educator workforce.
I am thankful to be one of the countless courageous LGBTQ educators chosen for this honor. It is my hope that my service will continue to inspire others to become positive and confident dreamers. Representation and visibility can mean the world to students in communities who may not fully understand and not yet fully embrace the incredible potential of unique individuals, but I am grateful for a community that saw the greatness in me, allowed me to foster greatness in its youth, and supported me as the 2019 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year.