As all the 2019 “Teacher of The Year” honorees lined up during the national anthem at the NCAA football championship game on Monday, Kelly Holstine stood up for her students by kneeling.

The ceremony to honor the educators took place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were in attendance, reports ABC. 

Holstine, an English and language arts teacher at Tokata Learning Center in Shakopee, Minnesota, chose to kneel during the national anthem “to stand up for marginalized and oppressed people," according to her tweet."Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat’l Anthem because, 'No one is free until we are all free,'" she wrote.

Potatoes hated on Holstine's decision to protest.  But many championed the educator. 

Holstine, the first openly LGBTQ educator to receive the honor according to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), has been outspoken about advocating for her students before. She was one of two educators — the other was the Kentucky Teacher of the Year — who skipped the April Teachers of the Year ceremony held at the White House. She said she did not attend because her beliefs do not align with those of the president.

“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 told The Hill.

She said many of her students, who include Somali refugees and some who identify as transgender, are affected by the Trump administration.

"I thought long and hard about what I felt was right to do in my heart. My students deserved to be stood up for," she said.

In October 2019, Holstine gave a TED Talk titled "Educators must be more than allies." Speaking on her own experience growing up, she asked teachers to be advocates for students who face injustice and bullying in the classroom.

“Supporting is not enough. We also need to be willing to leave our comfort zones and stand up for all of the human beings who are being marginalized or oppressed," she said. “Many of our students are scared and in pain and since they don’t have the same fully developed brains, resources or support systems that we have, then it is up to us to step into our own discomfort so that we can help them.”


The CCSSO, which facilitates the Teacher of the Year program, said in a statement to ABC News that Holstine's protest on Monday hadn't been coordinated with the program's organizers.

"The Council of Chief State School Officers appreciates the opportunity for outstanding teachers to be recognized on the national stage," the statement read. "The decision by an individual State Teacher of the Year was not coordinated by the National Teacher of the Year program or CCSSO.”