eachers have some of the most important jobs in the world. They mold the minds of our youth, along with putting up with all the shenanigans that can entail, all for a salary that pales in comparison to the work that they do.
That's why it's always nice to see them rewarded for their hard work, like receiving the Teacher of the Year award from the President of the United States.
One of those hard-working teachers is 29-year-old Nikos Giannopoulos, whose hard work and dedication to the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts was recognized as he won 2017's Rhode Island Teacher of the Year.
He specializes in special education, and identifies as queer, something he wanted to make sure came across when he met with President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump when he went to the Oval Office to receive his award.
Giannopoulos even dressed to the nines for the occasion, donning a patterned navy blazer (with a rainbow pin attached to the lapel), a golden anchor collar necklace (to rep Rhode Island), and the perfect accessory - a black lace fan, which he says "celebrates the joy and freedom of gender nonconformity."
He took to Facebook to describe his meeting with President Trump, who, despite promising he is an advocate of the LGBTQ community, hasn’t been the most outspoken ally. His administration even caused a stir on Inauguration Day when the LGBT page was no where to be found on the official White House website.
Giannopoulos, who never refers to the president with his name but rather "the man", revealed that Trump's prepared speech was not so much about education, but rather CEOs and electoral votes. In fact, Trump was the only person to speak at the event - which usually includes a speech by the state teachers of the year.
Disheartened by the fact he wouldn’t be given the chance to speak out at 1600 Penn, Giannopoulos opted to use his Facebook post as a platform instead.
“Had I been given the opportunity, I would have told him that the pride I feel as an American comes from my freedom to be open and honest about who I am and who I love,” he wrote. “I would have told him that queer lives matter and anti-LGBTQ policies have a body count. Taking pride in queer identity means rejecting the shame imposed upon us by a harsh society. It means opening yourself up to a lifetime of criticism and misunderstanding, but knowing that it’s worth it to be able to live authentically.
“Each and every queer person has been confronted with cruelty in ways many cannot imagine — verbal and physical abuse from strangers, friends, & even family; politicians callously attacking on our right to love or merely exist in public spaces; legalized discrimination for daring to be who we are. Brutality is a universal part of the queer experience.”
“As LGBTQ people, our identities are complex, but our needs are universal — to be loved, to be respected for who we are, and to be fully equal citizens of the United States of America.”
As for the viral photo of Giannopoulos fanning himself next to the Trumps in the Oval, he tells NPR that the president gave the OK to use the prop prior to the photo being taken.
“Absolutely go for it,” he recalled the president saying. Trump said that he looked “very stylish” with his fan as the teachers gathered around the president, Giannopoulos told Yahoo.
Giannopoulos added that when he looks back at his day at the White House, he “will not remember the person seated at the desk.” He’ll remember the students he has taught and the other teachers being honored alongside him that day, including one who presented Trump with letters from her refugee student, “pleading with him to hear their voices.”