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First year music teacher finds acceptance, support

Ollie, music teacher, pride, nonbinary, lgbtq+
Ollie teaches music in a Steele County school and is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Submitted photo
By
Joni Hubred, News Editor

An educator who grew up in Owatonna spent the first year of their career in Steele County, teaching music–and maybe a few life lessons.

Ollie moved to the city as a 13-year-old, graduated from Owatonna High School, and picked up a teaching degree at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

“I always knew I was different,” said Ollie, who has asked that we withhold their last name and school. “I didn’t know how to put it into words.”

Ollie grew up in a very open home, without judgment. During high school, they experimented with different expressions of sexuality but didn’t experiment with gender until college.

“That’s where I met a lot of my friends who helped build who I am,” Ollie said. “It’s always a journey. Constantly figuring out who you are is a process.”

In college, Ollie heard the word “nonbinary” and they/them pronouns for the first time, “and I realized that’s who I am… I learned, for me, it doesn’t matter who I love, as long as I’m happy.”

Now identifying as queer/pansexual, Ollie uses the “Mx.” title in her classroom, and “the kids who get it, get it, and the kids who don’t, I’m just glad they’re in my class."

Ollie takes a more reserved approach to pronouns and how they identify.

“I’m a music teacher, I just teach music, that’s it. I don’t push anything,” Ollie said, but they do correct pronouns with older students. “I’m not strict about who I am because I understand. I’m okay existing where they need to be.”

“I understand this community, and I know I may get push back… People have asked questions, but everyone here has been super supportive,” Ollie added.

Even in this first year, Ollie has had students who wanted to be in their class “because they’re in my community and feel safe around me. I have students who aren’t as accepting, but if we’re both open to existing in a classroom, we’re fine.”

Ollie also realizes being part of the LGBTQ+ community means being more than a music teacher, as students are seeing somebody who is “confident and happy” in their identity.

“As a kid, I didn’t have the role model that I needed,” Ollie said. “(It’s) not just queer kids; if anybody needs a role model, they know where to find me.”

Ollie has also seen more acceptance in the community of people who are LGBTQ+.

“The first Pride in Owatonna, we had some people who were protesting, that comes with it, but there was more support for the LGBTQ community than against it. We’re still trying and growing,” they said.

“I would just like to talk. How can we both exist in the world together without feeling like either one of us is being attacked, when we’re not? We’re all just trying to exist in the same world.”

Looking back on a busy first year of teaching, Ollie sees a lot of success and hopes for even more fun in 2024-2025.

“It seems like since COVID, everyone’s been down," they said. "I want to get (kids) excited for music again.”

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2024 Pride in the Park

 

  • July 13, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Dartts Park, 429 Mineral Springs Road
  • Family-friendly event will feature music, food trucks, vendors, and community groups.
  • More information at rainbowatonna.org.

 

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