Camas, WA — Mandy Manning, the 2018 Washington State Teacher of the Year, spent Monday visiting with Camas High School teachers, administrators, and students as part of her semester-long tour of the state.
Manny, who received the prestigious honor on September 11, 2017, teaches in Spokane at Ferris High School’s Newcomer Center, where she works with immigrant and refugee children.
“It’s humbling, and a lot of pressure, but I always say I’m the same person I was before I was named,” said Manning, at a small lunch meeting of teachers and CHS principal, Liza Sejkora. “Everybody should always know what we think as teachers, we need to be open, and it’s been really cool to have a title that makes it so I can share about my classroom and kids.”
In her job at Ferris, she teaches brand-new immigrant and refugee students in a district that serves 72 language groups.
”It changes all the time,” she said. “I teach Level 1 English language learners. The common language is English. We focus on the basic building blocks of language.”
What does she want teachers to know about working with language learners?
“Welcome them and make sure they feel 100 percent part of the community,” said Manning. “They need to know that they’re interested in who they are. To reach out and invite them into the classrooms. To show them that everyone is excited about having them there. Find ways to make everything relevant to them. Little access points help all people feel connected and integrated into our schools. It’s about opening up and allowing people to access what’s available. We have to be open to all ways of thinking.”
As part of being Washington State Teacher of the Year, she’s been able to work with state legislators, from both parties, to be a voice for education.
During this current semester, she’s been released from her teaching assignment, and travels daily — visiting schools all around Washington.
“I’ve gotten to see a lot of different areas,” Manning said. “I wish all educators could travel to other schools. Even in the most difficult situations there are incredible things happening.”
She spotlighted Jana Dean, a middle school teacher in Olympia at Jefferson Middle School who teaches math and science to gifted and non-gifted kids.
“She is working on social and academic discourse,” said Manning. “And, she was teaching them how to really communicate, provide feedback and then have a thoughtful discussion. There was constant communication in the classroom and it was enjoyable watching them have real academic discussions about geology. There was such an elevated discussion in the room. I just went around and listened. They were really focused on the academics.”
Manning also told the CHS educators that it’s important to do exchanges with other schools and learn and value what others are doing. She also encourages cross-content — where math teachers learn about languages, and science teachers learn about art, and so forth.
Her travels have also opened her eyes to poverty.
“I went to White Swan and really started to understand poverty,” she said. “There’s no single home that has every single window. Half their homes are burnt because the wiring is so bad. Why is this happening? You dig deeper and it challenges your perceptions as to why there is poverty. It helps you look at lower socioeconomic areas in your own community. It opens your view of us and helps us to understand that we are all responsible for our entire community. It gives you some insight into kids. So many Native American kids are coming from poverty.“
Teachers nominate candidates annually for the Washington State Teacher of the Year, and they go through a voting process, and are ultimately honored by the Washington Governor. There are high standards and criteria that must be met.