Mandy Manning brings message of acceptance and community

By Sue Frause
Sno-Isle Libraries contributor

Mandy Manning plays an important role in the lives of young refugee and immigrant students living in Spokane, Wash.

Mandy Manning speaks at South Whidbey High School on Oct. 15, 2018.
Sue Frause photo

Thoughts from Mandy Manning

– Schools are central to our communities

– It’s not about the content

– Teaching human beings to be human beings

– Think about what you can do for your community

– Open our doors

So much so, that the high school English teacher was named 2018 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 15, Manning shared her experiences during a public event at South Whidbey High School sponsored by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.

As an English language learning educator, Manning is the first teacher for refugee and immigrant students at Spokane’s Joel E. Ferris High School’s English Language Development Newcomer Center. The center is a specialized English language development program for new immigrant and refugee students who have limited proficiency in English.

Along with language skills, Manning also helps the students process trauma, celebrate culture and learn about their new community while building relationships with students from all different backgrounds. Her message to them is simple: “You are welcome; happy you’re here.”

Manning’s appearance on Whidbey Island is one of many stops during her reign as 2018 National Teacher of the Year, traveling nationally and internationally to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers. A graduate of Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Manning received her Master’s in Communications from West Texas A&M University. As a 20-year educator, she served in the Peace Corps in Armenia and has taught in the Bronx, Texas and Japan.

Although Manning teaches English Language Arts and Development to her students at Ferris High School, she feels that language is the least of the barriers. She gave an example of giving a driving lesson to Hussein, a cosmetology student.

“He felt welcomed and important because I believed in him,” Manning said.

She also feels that one-on-one interactive activities are the gift everyone should give to each other every day. “All it takes is 2-3 minutes to show interest,” said Manning, who had audience members pick a partner and chat away for several minutes.

Manning is passionate about building community within the classroom, outside the classroom and during home visits. “I strive to ensure my students feel welcome, wanted, and loved, and work to instill in them the belief that they are worthy of every success and happiness they dream of in life,” she said.

In her welcome letter to new students, Manning writes: “At the Newcomer Center you will study English, foundational reading skills, mathematics and computers. You will earn high school credits and learn about life in the USA as you start learning English. We want you to have a successful start to your education in America. A good education is the key to a successful life in America.”

The National Teacher of the Year Program began in 1952 and continues as the oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching.

(Sue Frause is a freelance writer and photographer from Whidbey Island.)