Southfield (CW50) – Each year, hundreds of teachers around the state are nominated for Michigan Teacher of the Year for not only their contribution to education in their classrooms, but also the impact they have on students’ lives.

The field is narrowed down to just ten Regional Teachers of the Year. After that, each Regional Teacher of the Year then interviews with a panel of statewide education stakeholders, is presented a short professional development module and answers questions on a range of topics relevant to issues faced by teachers today. One of those ten teachers is then selected to become the Michigan Teacher of the Year. 

Owen Bondono, Oak Park Ninth-Grade ELA Teacher and Michigan Teacher of the Year, with students last year (Photo provided by Owen Bondono)

Owen Bondono, a ninth-grade English Language Arts teacher at Oak Park High School, went through this process last fall, and earlier this year became the 2020-2021 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

Bondono and his students spend time at the start of each year talking about identities and the communities they come from in order to build an atmosphere of trust. 

“So just by having these conversations about who we are and what we’ve experienced, we sort of, as a class, develop a vocabulary together to talk about things and to make plans for what we can do next time,” Bondono told Michigan Radio, in a recent interview.

Bondono became the first openly transgender teacher to win the award. He said this school year was the first in which he was out to students, partly because until recently, it would have been legal for him to be fired on the basis of his gender identity. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what the 2020-2021 school year will look like for teachers and students, and Bondono has expresses his concerns as an educator on how this year will affect students’ education, but also their mental and physical health.

Community Connect Host Lisa Germani, with Owen Bondono, Oak Park Ninth-Grade ELA Teacher and Michigan Teacher of the Year

Bondono joins Lisa Germani on Community Connect to discuss winning Michigan Teacher of the Year, and what his feelings are on the reopening of schools in Michigan.

Watch COMMUNITY CONNECT, Saturday at 8:30am on CW50