Teaching Profession

Mandy Manning, 2018 National Teacher of the Year, Works With Refugee Students

By Madeline Will — April 20, 2018 3 min read
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Mandy Manning, who teaches English and math to newly arrived refugee and immigrant students in Washington state, was named the 2018 National Teacher of the Year.

Manning, who has taught for the past 18 years and is a National Board-certified teacher, was just announced as the winner of the national prize on CBS This Morning. In a video on the morning show, Manning’s students at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., said she is consistently supportive and has inspired them to pursue their dreams. Manning is often the first teacher her students have when they arrive in the United States.

Her students are from all over the globe, Manning said in an interview: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Mexico, and countries from South America.

“It is essential that teachers in these times communicate to their students in their actions and their words that our students are welcome, they’re wanted, they’re worthy of love, and they can accomplish and achieve everything they dream of,” Manning said.

She was recognized for creating connections between her students and the outside community—Manning often invites district officials, community members of color, and professional writers to visit her classroom.

Her goal during her term as National Teacher of the Year is to encourage educators, community members, and policymakers to make an effort to reach out to students and get to know their stories—and also provide students the opportunities to experience things they haven’t before.

“Let’s teach our students to be fearless,” she said in a statement. “Let’s teach them to be brave when confronted with uncertainty. Brave when they fail. Brave in meeting new people. Brave in seeking opportunities to experience things outside of their understanding.”

Starting in 1952, the president has held a White House ceremony honoring the National Teacher of the Year and the state teachers of the year annually—typically hosted soon after the announcement. Last year, President Donald Trump broke with tradition somewhat, and invited the group of renowned teachers to the Oval Office for an opportunity to take photos. Chaffee was not invited to speak—a departure from previous years, in which the National Teacher of the Year usually delivers remarks to a room full of educators and their family members. (The Washington Post has more on the details of last year’s unusual meeting.)

The CCSSO does not yet have information on this year’s event, a spokeswoman said. But Manning had her students and some of her former students write letters to the White House, in which they shared their stories. A former student from Afghanistan wrote that it took him 10 years to get to the United States, and he’s still waiting for his brother to be able to immigrate here—it might be another decade. A student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo wrote that before the 2016 election, she felt welcomed and included in her community, but recently, she’s been told to “go back to Africa.” That student urged the president to share positive messages of immigrants. Other students told the president that coming to the United States was an opportunity for them to accomplish their dreams.

“I just want to share my students’ stories,” Manning said. “They’re amazing people, and I think that it is imperative that the president goes out and sees things that maybe he hasn’t seen before ... because that will provide him with some perspective, and it might change his perception.”

Manning was selected from a pool of teachers of the year from every state, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and U.S. extra-state territories by a national selection committee composed of representatives from 14 education and community organizations, organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers association. The other three finalists were: Amy Andersen, an American Sign Language teacher in New Jersey, Kara Ball, an elementary teacher from the Department of Defense Education Activity, and Jonathan Juravich, an art teacher in Ohio.

Sydney Chaffee, a 9th grade humanities teacher in Boston, won the honor last year.

Post updated with quotes from an interview with Manning

Image courtesy of CCSSO

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.