Owen Bondono, a teacher in Oak Park, Mich., who is queer and transgender, has been named Michigan Teacher of the Year.
“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,” Bondono, a ninth-grade language arts teacher at Oak Park High School, told Detroit TV station WJBK.
“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,” added Bondono, who believes he’s the first trans teacher to receive the Michigan honor. He’s now a candidate for National Teacher of the Year.
“I want educators to see that it’s urgently necessary that we support these students,” he continued. “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.”
Oak Park Superintendent of Schools Jamii Hitchcock praised Bondono’s work. “I can say without a doubt that Owen has dedicated himself,” she told WJBK. “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.”