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Spokane’s Mandy Manning named National Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the year Mandy Manning poses for a photograph at the Washington Court Hotel, Wednesday, April 18, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

When you speak with Spokane teacher Mandy Manning, her enthusiasm is contagious, and one really does get the sense that she finds teaching to be its own reward. But the awards are official too, as she’s been named the 2018 National Teacher of the Year for her work at Ferris High School.

“Every family has value, because every parent loves their kids, so there’s going to be something beautiful in every family,” Manning told Morning News with Dave Ross last September, shortly after being named Washington’s Teacher of the Year. “I think it’s my responsibility as the classroom teacher to find the beauty in every single family.”

She’s far more than a teacher with a cool name. An educator for 17 years, Manning has taught English and math at the Ferris Newcomer Center since 2011, where immigrant and refugee students often enter their first American classroom. Her students come from all over the world, and there are usually 12 to 14 different languages in class at a time. Despite the challenges, her impact reverberates throughout the students’ lives.

“I think when I came to her class I only knew how to say, ‘Hi,'” one student told CBS This Morning. “I always wanted to be a doctor,” said another, “and she inspired me. She convinced me to do it.”

Though she has almost as many awards as students, Manning never imagined becoming a teacher. Her journey toward it began in Armenia as a Peace Corps volunteer. Over the years she went to Texas, New York, and Japan. She moved to Spokane’s Newcomer Center in 2011.

Teacher of the year Mandy Manning

For Manning, developing a relationship with parents and understanding where her students are coming from is essential.

“Even as teachers we get nervous to talk to parents, because we’re unsure of what that relationship is going to look like,” she said. “Then we do it and it’s this magical moment where we realize that we’re in it together.”

In addition to helping immigrants and refugees adapt to the American education system, Manning took a lead role in improving her school’s discipline plan. Since its activation, tardiness, unexcused absences, and suspensions were significantly reduced. Her discipline models are currently in use by other schools across the district.

As National Teacher of the Year, Manning will serve as an advocate for more than three million teachers and 50 million public school students, going to over 150 speaking events in the U.S. and internationally. It will enable her to spread her ongoing message for students of kindness and fearlessness.

“It took me years to get to this approach,” Manning said. “You love your child because they are a part of you, and I love your child because, just like you, I want the very, very best for them.”

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