The state of Michigan has honored a transgender educator as teacher of the year.
The Michigan Department of Education announced at a virtual meeting on Friday that Owen Bondono is Michigan’s Teacher of the Year. He teaches ninth grade language arts at Oak Park High School near Detroit.
Bondono said that his perspective as a transgender and queer man has helped him help students feel safe in school.
“My goal is to always make sure students whether they are marginalized because of their race, their ethnicity, or their gender identity, their sexual orientation, that they feel safe in school,” he told Fox 2 Detroit.
“I know from a personal standpoint how vulnerable you feel when you’re not safe and how when you feel that vulnerable everything else takes a back seat.”
“No matter what you may be going through and what you may be feeling, there is a whole community of people that exist in this world who will love you and if you don’t feel loved right now we already love you,” he said.
Bondono said that his primary concern is for his students – including his LGBTQ students.
“I want educators to see that it’s urgently necessary that we support these students,” he said. “I want students to see that they are supported and loved and that their future is possible. I want parents of LGBTQ students to see that their children have a future.”
“I can say without a doubt that Owen has dedicated himself,” said Jamii Hitchcock, the superintendent of Oak Park schools. “He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk every single day to ensure that equity and justice is served. Every time he walks into the classroom it has an impact on the students he teaches.”
State Superintendent Michael Rice said that the state Department of Education received over 400 nominations for Michigan Teacher of the Year and that the title is more than an honor.
“The Michigan Teacher of the Year is an important advocate and ally for teachers and students,” he said. “We are very fortunate to be able to draw upon Owen’s expertise as the 2020-2021 Michigan Teacher of the Year and are looking forward to working with him and the other nine 2020-2021 Regional Teachers of the Year.”
Bondono is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year.