“I would never want somebody to go through what I did,” says Riley Hintzche, who waited until he was in college to come out as gay. His mother, upon being told, said, “What took you so long?” Hintzche is using his experiences growing up in a small Illinois farm town to create welcoming and safe spaces for students of all stripes. He is an ag teacher and FFA advisor at Streator, Illinois, High School. In the audio clip below, he tells WGN’s Steve Alexander about the progress being made in embracing diversity, not only for LGBTQ students but for all students, whether they fit into what their peers deem “normal,” or not. In addition, enrollment in the ag program at Streator HS is surging, requiring the addition of a second teacher. Hintzche and his students have been recognized multiple times at the national level for their achievements. By the way, if the Hintzche name rings a bell, Riley’s father was an ag teacher and FFA advisor at Rochelle Township HS for 34 years, and his mother taught Physical Education for 33 years.
Rural America isn't known for its acceptance of LGBTQ people, but a high school ag teacher and FFA advisor is helping change that perception and reality.