‘We should all be ashamed’ that Ky’s Teacher of the Year is leaving the classroom

·4 min read

Kentucky’s Teacher of The Year has chosen to leave the profession. Why? There are still too many people in our schools and communities who want to focus on who he loves rather than what he loves.

What does Willie Carver love? The same thing every teacher loves! Teaching! He loves to see the children’s progress, to see their eyes light up, allowing them to be themselves, and he loves when they participate and enjoy learning.

What he doesn’t love … is being treated differently than his colleagues, book banning based on someone’s discomfort, being thought of as not normal, or the alarming suicide rates of children who identify as a different gender or love someone of the same gender. He doesn’t like being called names, being threatened, or being pushed aside. He doesn’t love having to defend other teachers who, like him, love someone that societal “norms” say they shouldn’t.

We should be ashamed. Every single one of us. The ones who think this is a sin. The ones who attack and condemn. The ones who turn a cheek. The ones who try to beat the gay out of children.

The ones who say, “I’d rather my child die than be gay.” The colleagues who pretend the teacher down the hall isn’t being harassed. The ones who ignore that they have privileges in the school setting that their colleagues do not.

We. Should. All. Be. Ashamed.

If one of my students goes home and talks about how welcoming and safe my classroom is, their parents praise me for being a loving teacher. If a gay teacher’s student says his teacher told the students “everyone is welcomed in my classroom,” people start a social media campaign to get the teacher fired with accusations he/she is grooming their child. One administration praises the teacher for being such a kind soul and building relationships with students. The administration of the other sends the teacher home, tells parents his/her behavior is unacceptable, and ultimately asks the teacher to resign.

Willie Carver is a teacher, a award winning educator, and an advocate for children. Willie Carver is a representative of all teachers in Kentucky as he testified to Congress in DC. He is THE KENTUCKY TEACHER OF THE YEAR! Willie Carver is a gay man.

Sadly, that last line erases every other line before it when read by a huge portion of our society. They choose to erase every amazingly wonderful thing about this TEACHER, because of who he loves.

I recently said goodbye to my time as the active teacher Ex Officio member of the Kentucky Board of Education. This was a piece of my parting words… an ask for those still on the Board:

“Increase diversity in the teaching profession, as well as the acceptance of that diversity. No longer shall teachers of color, various races and ethnicities, sexual orientation, and gender identity be discouraged to work in our public schools by anyone in or outside the system. No one teaching in our schools should be fearful of being themselves. No one working in our schools should be reprimanded for who they love, the color of their skin, or their identity. If we are preaching diversity, equity, and inclusion among our students, why would we not demand and support that for our teachers? Everyone should be welcome in our classrooms.”

It is time to take action. No longer can we sit by and allow our LGBTQ educators to be harassed, wrongly accused, or persecuted. I am asking anyone in or outside our system to report any mistreatment of our LGBTQ teachers to the Education Professional Standards Board. I then ask the EPSB, Kentucky Board of Education, and the Department of Education to investigate these reports sincerely and thoroughly. I also ask our district and school leaders to please support ALL teachers. Stop reacting to the fear, the politics, and the systemic societal problems with rash decisions.

I don’t blame Willie Carver for leaving our profession, but I really wish he didn’t have to. Our students are the ones impacted the most. They deserve teachers like Willie Carver.

Allison Slone
Allison Slone

Allison Slone is a teacher in Rowan County, administrator of Kentucky Teachers in The Know (a Facebook group with over 25,000 educators, legislators, media personnel, KBE, and KDE members), and the first active teacher to serve as an Ex Officio Member of the Kentucky Board of Education.