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South Dakota Likely to Ban Teacher of the Year Kurt Russell

Yes! Finally! Kurt Russell is Teacher of the Year!

No, no—America’s Teacher of the Year is Kurt Russell, history teacher at Oberlin High School in Ohio.

Kurt Russell, Oberlin High School, sreen cap from Cleveland News 5, 2022.02.22.
Kurt Russell, Oberlin High School, screen cap from Cleveland News 5, 2022.02.22.

“I’ve always encouraged my students to talk in class, to have discussions in class, to have students think on their own, instead of that direct instruction where I’m giving all the answers,” he said. “I want students to think critically, to own their learning. And I think that has helped me teach history more effectively.”

…Following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, Russell helped his students grapple with racial injustice and form the Black Student Union at the high school.

“I try to be as honest as possible. I think students are more than willing to learn about these tough conversations and they’re more than willing to participate in it,” he said.

Russell teaches U.S. history, History of the Americas, African American history, and Race, Gender, and Oppression to grades 9-12. He explained he strives to bring cultural relevance and diverse representation to his lessons.

“It’s equity, representation in the classroom. Make sure we empower students and give students a voice,” he said. “It gives students a sense of – ‘my education matters. My race, my sex, my sexual orientation – it matters.’ And it should be reflected in our curriculum. But not only our curriculum but our staff and our faculty as well” [Catherine Ross, “Oberlin High School Teacher 1 of 4 Finalists for National Teacher of the Year,” Cleveland News 5, 2022.02.22].

Uh oh—encouraging students to think on their own and talk about race and gender? That can only lead to trouble

Ryley Steggall, a senior at Oberlin High School, says Russell works hard to create a safe, respectful and constructive space for his students.

“Mr. Russell is such an incredible teacher and person, in general. He does a really good job of fostering conversations where everyone can have a perspective.”

“He wants us to engage with one another and embrace new ideas,” added senior Anna Fritz. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned from him is to confront the uncomfortable” [Tim Walker, “Meet Kurt Russell, the 2022 National Teacher of the Year,” National Education Association, 2022.04.19].

Russell says his teaching of uncomfortable subjects is not controversial:

Asked about critical race theory, an academic framework about systemic racism decried by conservative politicians and commentators, Russell called it a “dog whistle.”

“I always tell individuals I do not teach controversial courses,” Russell said. “I teach different courses. There’s nothing controversial about teaching about women’s rights or the gay rights movement” [Mark Gillespie, “Strong Influences Help Mold 2022 US Teacher of the Year,” AP via WRAL, 2022.04.19].

Dismissing “critical race theory” as a dog whistle will surely get Kurt Russell in Kristi Noem’s doghouse. The National Teacher of the Year spends the year speaking at schools and events across the country to “share wisdom, advocate for students, elevate issues teachers face, and inspire others to join the profession.” Expect Governor Noem to read Russell’s comment that race, sex, and sexual orientation matter and his student’s affirmation that Russell teaches uncomfortable subjects and declare that her Executive Order 2022-02 bars the  South Dakota Department of Education from inviting this Teacher of the Year to speak to South Dakota’s teachers and students.

She might even call Kurt Russell “Snake“.


  1. Mark Anderson 2022-04-20 17:05

    He obviously teaches critical race facts. Cory, the right wingers misunderstand, actually they lie about anything with the term Theory in it, Critical Race Theory, the Theory of evolution, they are mostly texualists you know. Like the Empress Mizelle in her defining of sanitation to take away the mask mandate. Now, I’m not sure this would apply to sanitary pads but the next time you fly check your seat before you sit in it.

  2. grudznick 2022-04-20 17:26

    Escape from Oberlin

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-04-20 18:57

    Your right grudz, all those truthful ideas are escaping all over the country, you can bet your breakfast on it.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-04-20 20:53

    Mr. Russell is teaching on the right side of History. Of course the conversation should not be stifled by the Qists and right wing revisionists. Let the future begin.

  5. All Mammal 2022-04-20 23:27

    Oh, boys, lets light this ol thing up already. It’s always better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. We might as well stage tons of civil resistance exercises. Exercise the demons.
    Flex on those hos we do not give consent to. Set up the highway signs and saddle up the troopers to escort the good teacher on a tour of South Dakota high schools. Mr. Russel, Ms. Vandana Shiva, Ms. Madonna Thunder Hawk, and Killer Mike on the ghetto blaster, rapping, ‘Reagan’.
    [Sample: Ronald Reagan]
    Our government has a firm policy not to capitulate to terrorist demands. That no-concessions policy remains in force, in spite of the wildly speculative and false stories about arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments, we did not, repeat, did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we

    [Verse 1]
    The ballot or the bullet, some freedom or some bullsht
    Will we ever do it big, or just keep settlin’ for li’l sht?
    We brag on having bread, but none of us are bakers
    We all talk having greens, but none of us own acres
    If none of us own acres, and none of us grow wheat
    Then who will feed our people when our people need to eat?
    So it seems our people starve from lack of understanding
    Cause all we seem to give them is some ballin’ and some dancin’
    And some talkin’ about our car and imaginary mansions
    We should be indicted for bullsht we inciting
    Handin’ children death and pretendin’ it’s excitin’
    We are advertisements for agony and pain
    We exploit the youth; we tell them to join a gang
    We tell them dope stories, introduce them to the game
    Just like Oliver North introduced us to cocaine
    In the 80’s when them bricks came on military planes

    [Sample: Ronald Reagan]
    A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not

    [Verse 2]
    The end of the Reagan Era, I’m like ‘leven, twelve, or
    Old enough to understand that sht’d changed forever
    They declared a war on drugs, like a war on terror
    But what it really did was let the police terrorize whoever
    But mostly black boys, but they would call us “nggers”
    And lay us on our belly, while they fingers on they triggers
    They boots was on our head, they dogs was on our crotches
    And they would beat us up if we had diamonds on our watches
    And they would take our drugs and moneys, as they pick our pockets
    I guess that that’s the privilege of policin’ for some profits
    But thanks to Reaganomics, prison turned to profits
    ‘Cause free labor’s the cornerstone of US economics
    ‘Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison
    You think I am bullshttinn’, then read the 13th Amendment
    Involuntary servitude and slavery it prohibits
    That’s why they givin’ drug offenders time in double digits
    Ronald Reagan was a actor, not at all a factor
    Just an employee of the country’s real masters
    Just like the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama
    Just another talking head telling lies on teleprompters
    If you don’t believe the theory, then argue with this logic
    Why did Reagan and Obama both go after Qaddafi?
    We invaded sovereign soil, going after oil
    Taking countries is a hobby paid for by the oil lobby
    Same as in Iraq and Afghanistan
    And Ahmadinejad say they coming for Iran
    They only love the rich, and how they loathe the poor
    If I say any more, they might be at my door
    (Shh..) Who the fck is that staring in my window?
    Doing that surveillance on Mr. Michael Render
    I’m dropping off the grid before they pump the lead
    I leave you with four words: I’m glad Reagan dead

    What she gon do when we prove she can’t tell us what to do? Ha! We never needed anyone’s blessing to facilitate the truth. It’s like, called liberty, baby.

  6. Jake 2022-04-21 07:39

    Gov. Kristi Noem claims to be concerned and passing laws about making children uncomfortable while not giving one ‘twit’ about not making so many adults and seriously good/great teachers feel uncomfortable.
    Mmmmm, wonder why, really. Could it be because she claims to be a ‘conservative, Christian politician’ that she knows she’s pandering votes from a growing crop of Republican voters that refuse ro vote for anything but an “R” because it might make them feel “uncomfortable!”

  7. Don Porter 2022-04-21 09:13

    Will we even know whether an invite to speak is issued? If not, would that be a news item covered by anyone but DFP? There are so many critical school issues NOT covered bc they involve things not done e.g. special education pay / teachers; all staffing; best use of pandemic money; “brain drain” issues; teacher pay, etc

  8. O 2022-04-21 09:46

    The conservative/GOP/MAGA attacks on teachers are having a real effect. We will see teacher shortages in SD (and the nation) worse than predicted because conservatives/GOP/MAGA have chosen to make teachers boogiemen in their newest fronts of the culture wars. The new emphasis on pedophilia and grooming being directed at teachers has resulted in teachers being harassed by parents who answer to Fox News’ calls for violence to answer this “threat.”

    Low pay, disrespect, and physical harassment: We are on it!

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-04-21 10:20

    One problem, O, is that this social doom spiral helps lock in a Republican Senate majority that will filibuster any meaningful federal legislation to protect civil rights and check the corporate concentration of wealth.

  10. David K 2022-04-21 16:13

    O: 2022-04-21
    “The conservative/GOP/MAGA attacks on teachers are having a real effect. We will see teacher shortages in SD (and the nation) worse than predicted because conservatives/GOP/MAGA have chosen to make teachers boogiemen in their newest fronts of the culture wars.”

    I’ve actually seen a few articles hypothesizing that the far right wants to deliberately hamstring public education, in efforts to incapacitate the k-12 system and privatize k-12 schools (akin to the privatized industrial prison complex). Obviously it would be difficult to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. However, any groups of people in power who believe they benefit from an uneducated populace, might believe it’s in their best interests to dumb down our nation…

    Not factually documented, but highly plausible.

  11. Loti 2022-04-21 18:49

    We need to hold onto teachers for sure. Hope he is respected by getting Teacher of the Year. Of course there will always be jealous haters around. I hope he stays in SD

  12. V 2022-04-22 06:55

    David K, I know many Republicans in my family who think public education K – 12 and college hire liberals to indoctrinate their children, groom them, and strip them of all their Christian values. Private, parochial and charter schools are what they advocate with a voucher system. Some want to defund public education altogether. Yes, some want an uneducated populace without an introduction to many of the sciences.

    Book banning and burning is a sign of centuries old ignorance. Maybe they are illiterate or like Trump just don’t read.

    We can’t let the Republicans destroy the concept of education for all, just like equality for all, and justice for all. They can’t get the all bit down. Private, parochial, and charter schools can exclude students, whereby public ed is inclusive.

  13. P. Aitch 2022-04-22 10:10

    When it comes to the core issues at hand (support for the racial justice movement and LGBTQ rights) the ship has sailed leftward and has been doing so since the 1960s, if not before. If you’re a committed conservative activist, that’s a genuine cause for weeping and hand wringing.

    The conservative attack on Disney, as with their attack on the NFL over Black Lives Matter, will reveal just how little leverage they really wield when it comes to America’s cultural mainstream.

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