Mandy Manning teaches immigrant and refugee children in Spokane, Washington. She is the 2018 National Teacher of the Year. TFK’s Lina Mai spoke with her about Manning’s goals as an educator and the potential she sees in every student.
1. How does it feel to be named the National Teacher of the Year?
It’s really a privilege because there are so many amazing educators out there. You can see great things happening in so many classrooms. It’s an honor to be able to advocate for our educators and schools.
2. What have you learned from your students?
My students come from all over the world, including Mexico, Malaysia, Syria, and Afghanistan. I have the honor of learning different ways of thinking, being, and doing from them. That gives me a global perspective.
3. What is your greatest challenge as a teacher?
Many people think it’s the language barrier, but that’s not insurmountable . The challenges of working with immigrants and refugees are much like the challenges of working with kids born in the United States. It’s about getting to know students as individual people. And it’s about having different people in the same room and teaching every single one of them.
4. What has been your greatest success as a teacher?
The privilege of being an educator is that we get to impact students every single day. We get to be at the starting line, and we get to see the race. I’ve seen so many of my kids move on and go on to such great things.
5. How did teaching in Armenia and Japan prepare you for teaching immigrants and refugees in the U.S.?
It made me open to new experiences and different types of people. Also, I experienced what it was like to go to a place that was different and adjust to the expectations of a new culture. But regardless of what you teach, you need to be open to everyone who walks into your classroom.
6. What do you hope kids will take away from your class?
My students come in brand-new to this country. They are trying to maintain who they are and adapt to a new environment. I get to give them the confidence and skills to move forward. I’m their first teacher in the U.S., and that’s really cool.
7. What advice do you have for new teachers?
I really encourage them to take the time to focus on their classroom and get to know their kids. Hope lies within our kids. There’s hope in a room filled with young people. And we get to watch them grow.
8. What advice do you have for kids?
I would like to tell them to believe in themselves and believe in their friends and other young people. Also in the power they have to change whatever they want. I’d also like to tell kids that the world is a very beautiful place with a lot of opportunities. And the more good we put out in the world, the more good we will see and receive.