'Teacher of the year' sends message to Donald Trump as she takes the knee in front of him during national anthem

Ellena Cruse
Kelly Holstine knelt during the national anthem at a college football game: Getty Images

A woman recognised as teacher of the year in her state knelt down during the US national anthem in protest against Donald Trump at a football game.

Kelly Holstine, who was being awarded Minnesota's 2019 Teacher of the Year, put one knee on the field in front of the US President and the First Lady Melania Trump in a show of solidarity with "marginalised and oppressed people".

Her protest mirrored former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who took the knee to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

On Twitter, she quoted civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr as she explained the move.

She said: "Like many before, I respectfully kneeled during Nat'l Anthem because, 'No one is free until we are all free (sic)'."

Ms Holstine, who teaches at an alternative high school in Shakopee that serves Somali refugees and students who identify as LGBT+, told The Hill that her public display was the right thing to do.

“I think the current environment that is being created and has been created in his (Donald Trump's) tenure definitely adds to my feelings of wanting to support individuals who are not being supported,” she said.

Other teachers decided to stand up for the song (Getty Images)

"I really feel like our country is not serving the needs of all its inhabitants...

"So many humans right now that are not being given the respect and the rights that they deserve."

Melania Trump and Donald Trump put their hands over their hearts for the anthem (Getty Images)

She also rejected an invitation to the White House to receive the honour from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in April.

Ms Holstine was told in advance that the president would be on the field for the national anthem at the championship game in New Orleans between LSU and Clemson University.

The First Lady and US President Donald Trump walk on to the pitch before the game (Getty Images)

Not everyone around realised her silent protest was happening, but those that did were “very supportive”, she said.

While she was kneeling on the field, Ms Holstine said she was thinking about the students and other young people she had worked with for the last 25 years.

Teachers were honoured at an American football game (Getty Images)

“Not everybody is given the opportunity to have a voice, and I can take a small moment, a respectful moment of protest, and exercise my First Amendment rights, and stand up for my students and for vulnerable adults and for people who are not treated in the way that they should be,” she said.

“It feels like my responsibility to do that.”

Colin Kaepernick famously knelt during the national anthem in 2016 (Getty Images)

After Kaepernick's famous kneeling, Mr Trump called on NFL owners to fire any player who failed to stand during the national anthem.

Ms Holstine previously worked at an alternative high school in Minnesota that she helped design and open.

She released a Ted Talk on Friday discussing why she feels educators should be advocates.