Mandy Manning, an English and math teacher who teaches refugee and immigrant students in Spokane, Wash., was named the 2018 National Teacher of the Year on Friday by the Council of Chief School State Officers (CCSSO).
An 18-year teaching veteran, Manning has taught at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School for seven years, where she has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to students who are adjusting to life in their new community. “Every student in this country deserves access to a teacher who is committed to their success," said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of CCSSO, and Manning embodies that dedication and spirit.
“I am honored and excited to be the 2018 National Teacher of the Year,” Manning said. “This year I hope to engage the nation in a conversation about how we can encourage students to experience things outside of their understanding. When we move out of our comfort zones, visit new places, listen to others’ thoughts, and share our own opinions, we become compassionate and open. This is the first step in creating a more hopeful, safer, and kinder society where everyone can be productive, global citizens.”
National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García called Manning "a shining example of how teachers transform the lives of their students every day, engaging them and creating enthusiasm for learning.... Mandy sees no barriers—only bridges.”
Manning began her career as an educator in the Peace Corps in Armenia, and has taught in Japan and in schools across the U.S. These experiences have instilled a global perspective in her teaching.
“Student-centered teaching is essential to my successes in the classroom,” said Manning. “Globally, we need to encourage others to explore, be fearless and embrace new experiences with compassion. I want to inspire educators and students as I have been inspired, to see potential in every voice and opportunity in every classroom.”
Manning's students at Joel E. Ferris High School come to the U.S. from all over the world: Syria, Chuuk, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Myanmar, Sudan, Mexico, and Tanzania. Most of them are seeking safety, "but they don't always feel safe here," said Manning. The current political climate has only increased fear and anxiety, making it hard for newcomers to share and learn from others. Manning says her role in the classroom is to "help them understand current events, know their rights, and provide a safe and welcoming environment."
As a National Board Certified Teacher, Manning is seen by her colleagues as a mentor and an enthusiastic collaborator. She was also instrumental in re-evaluating her school’s discipline plan. Manning led a committee of key stakeholders that adopted a progressive, evidence-based behavioral intervention plan that placed enhanced academic and social behavior outcomes over punishment. Implemented in 2016, the new plan led to a 74 percent decrease in suspensions in the first year.
In addition to her work in the classroom and as a coach, Mandy, an NEA member, is deeply involved in her local and state union. She started as a building rep, discussing important workplace issues with her co-workers, representing their interests and concerns at union meetings and getting them involved. She is currently on the executive committee of the Spokane Education Association.
"Mandy understands as a leader, being part of a strong union helps her students succeed," said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association. "As a teacher, I couldn’t be more excited to have her represent us."
As the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, Manning is looking forward to serving as a full-time spokesperson and advocate for teachers and public education.
“Public schools aren’t failing," she said. "We are being successful, and we are changing lives.”