In 2018, Mandy Manning, a teacher for English Language Learners in the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School, was named National Teacher of the Year. Of the over 3.2 million educators that teach children in the 132,853 K-12 schools in the United States, Mandy Manning was chosen as someone who stands out among them all. Clearly, it is an honor to receive such a prestigious award in a field that impacts so many lives in such significant ways. Mandy Manning didn’t just accept this huge award as a compliment, she took the fame that it brought her and chose to use it for good, to make an even bigger impact in the world, in the country, and in the lives of the individuals that she teaches. This is a teacher who cares deeply about every student in her classroom and is changing lives every day when she goes to work.
The National Teacher of the Year Award rewards many years of hard work and the display of excellence in classroom instruction, student interaction, professional behavior and other areas. Mandy Manning displays excellence in these in incredible ways. As a teacher in the Ferris High School Newcomer Center, she teaches a unique student population. For many of these students, Mandy Manning is one of the first faces that they saw and one of the first people that they built a relationship with in the United States after leaving their home countries. Mandy’s unique teaching position requires much more than the typical classroom teaching job. She must make her classroom a place that is welcoming and safe to people of very diverse backgrounds and students who speak all different languages. She must help each student reach graduation requirements, learn to read and write in English, and learn all of the same content that a typical U.S. student is required to learn.
Mandy’s classroom is clearly very diverse. She says, “I’ve had students from every single continent: Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Myanmar, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico — literally all over the world. In my classroom, I usually serve between 15 to 25 students. They generally have between 12 to 15 languages spoken at the same time” (Socialist Worker).
Teaching students who speak up to 15 different languages is no easy task, yet she does it every day. She welcomes these students with open arms and even more than teaching them school content, Mandy makes it her priority to “help these students transition to living and studying in the U.S.” (Socialist Worker). Mandy is making a different in our world, starting with her small classroom in Spokane, Washington, United States.
Mandy Manning gained fame for obvious reasons, being an incredible educator and difference-maker. But her name became more and more well-known after her visit to the White House to receive her reward from President Donald Trump. Because of Mandy’s close relationships with refugee students, it is no surprise that the Trump administration’s decisions surrounding refugee and immigrant children and families hit very close to home. Therefore, while receiving her incredible award of Teacher of the Year, Mandy Manning stage a silent protest, in which “She handed Trump a stack of 45 letters written by her immigrant students, in which they explained their “hopes and dreams for the future” and their disagreements with Trump’s rhetoric and policies toward refugees and immigrants” (Socialist Worker). In addition, Manning had pins on her dress which showed support of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. Mandy was not afraid to stand up for her beloved students in the presence of the President of the United States. Clearly, Mandy’s claim to fame as an outstanding teacher has provided the opportunity to make a different beyond Spokane.
Her Digital Identity
Mandy has found many ways to make a difference as her name has become more well-known and she has had opportunities to speak with many people in power in politics and education. Manning has used her own growing digital identity to make the voices of her students, of refugees, and of children in general heard in the world.
At Ted Talks, Manning has put together a panel of women from several African countries, giving them a voice (Spokesman). Additionally, in her TEDx talk: “Welcoming the Newcomer”, Mandy talks about how her experience in the Armenia in the Peace Corp gave her an idea of what it feels like to leave the familiarity of your home and enter a new, completely foreign place. The difference is that she chose to leave her home, but her students are forced to. Therefore, in many ways, such as this TED talk, she gives these future citizens of the United States a voice and a sense of hope.
Mandy Manning’s award grew her digital identity very quickly and significantly and, with the gain of fame on a larger, political scale, her profile has grown even more. Now, with 8,007 twitter followers and over 16,000 likes, Manning is using Twitter to make a difference and share her message. Every tweet on Manning’s profile in the past few years has had a clear purpose and is clearly related to her mission: to welcome the newcomer and give people hope. She primarily retweets posts regarding education and meeting the needs of ALL students.
Twitter is just another way that this teacher gives her students, and all people that she wants to represent, such as women, the LGBTQ community, those in poverty, and refugees, a voice. She often retweets what she believes will make our classrooms more welcoming places, will improve education as a whole, and will offer hope to every single person, starting in the classroom, regardless of where they come from or who they are.
WEBSITE & BLOG
The first phrase you see when clicking on Mandy’s personal website is “teaching fearless”. On her website, you can follow Manning’s recent trip to Serbia to make a difference in their schools, but scrolling down, there is a long strand of blog posts by Manning herself. Mandy Manning is a difference maker and her website is one of the primary ways that she uses her voice. Some titles of her blog posts include “The Poverty Next Door…”, “A Community of Peers”, “Giving Students Voice in State Government”, and “The Kids Aren’t All the Same”.As teacher of the year, there is no question that she has respectable and valuable advice for other educators, parents, and students. Her website is one place that this wisdom can be found.
She provides links on her website to videos of speeches that she’s given and interviews she has done, and a VLOG that she has created, further providing resources, using her voice, and making an impact.
“Be fearless, be kind, get to know your neighbor”– Mandy Manning
Allen, Jim. “A Teacher’s Odyssey: Mandy Manning Looks Back on Her Tenure as Teacher of the Year.” Spokesman.com, The Spokesman-Review, 7 Oct. 2019, http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2019/jun/17/a-teachers-odyssey-mandy-manning-looks-back-on-her/.
Hoop, Darrin. “The Teacher of the Year Who Schooled Trump.” SocialistWorker.org, socialistworker.org/2019/02/13/the-teacher-of-the-year-who-schooled-trump.
Riser-Kositsky, Maya. “Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools.” Education Week, 22 July 2019, http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/education-statistics/index.html.