OAK PARK, Mich. (FOX 2) - A teacher at Oak Park High School has been named Michigan Teacher of the Year.
As a ninth grade teacher, Owen Bondono has a passion for helping students that goes far beyond Language Arts.
"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 says. That's because Bondono, who's a queer and trans person, says he remembers growing up and not feeling valued in school.
"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," he says.
Now Bondono's hard work and dedication is being recognized, not just by his students, but by the state. Bondono recently found out he's Michigan's Teacher of the Year - and he believes he's the first trans teacher to receive this honor.
"I want educators to see that it's urgently necessary that we support these students. 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."
The superintendent of Oak Park schools says she's thrilled for Bondono, but not surprised.
"I can say without a doubt that Owen has dedicated himself. 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," Jamii Hitchcock says.
Now Bondono will work with the state while continuing to advocate for marginalized students.
"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 says.
Bondono is now in the running for the National Teacher of the Year.