RPCV Mandy Manning National Teacher of the Year (Armenia)


Thanks to a ‘heads up’ from Dan Campbell (El Salvador 1974-77) 


The winner of the National Teacher of the Year award handed President Donald Trump a stack of letters from refugee and children in her classroom during a ceremony in the White House.

Mandy Manning (Armenia 1999-2000), who teaches English to newly arrived immigrants and refugees at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, was announced as the winner of the annual award after the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) praised her methods for helping children to “overcome their fears and seek out new experiences.”

While accepting the award, Manning staged a silent protest against the president by wearing a number of political badges. The badges included one reading “Trans Equality Now,” one promoting the Women’s March which took place following Trump’s inauguration and a rainbow-colored apple.

After the ceremony, Manning told the Associated Press that she used a private moment with the president to hand him letters written by the refugee and immigrant children she teaches in the hope that he would read them and visit the school.

“I just had a very, very brief moment so I made it clear that the students that I teach…are dedicated and focused,” Manning told AP. “They make the United States the beautiful place that it is.”


She said the letters portrayed what arriving in the U.S. meant to the immigrants and refugees and how “people in power, particularly the president, should be very careful about how he or anybody else in power communicates about our immigrant refugees and, frankly, any group of people.”

After handing Manning the award, Trump said: “Teachers like Mandy play a vital role in the well-being of our children, the strength of our communities and the success of our nation.

“The job of a teacher is not only to instruct the next generation of workers but the next generations of citizens to teach our children to care for others, to think for themselves, to love their country, to be proud of our history and to be true pillars of their families and their communities.

Trump did not mention the type of students Manning teaches during the ceremony. According to the Associated Press, the word CITIZENS was displayed in all caps for his prepared remarks, which he read off three teleprompters projected in the room.

Manning began her teaching career working for the Peace Corps in Armenia in 1999 before spending several years working as a teacher and assistant teacher in schools in Japan and across the U.S.

In 2008, she moved to Spokane, Washington, to work at the Lewis and Clark High School before transferring to Joel E. Ferris High School in 2011, where she has worked ever since.

According to her application form for the Teacher of the Year award, Manning is the first teacher her students have after they arrive in the U.S.

Manning said that over the years, she has taught students from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Myanmar, Mexico and Tanzania. She described the difficulty in helping children learn about and experience real life in the U.S.

“In the  current political climate, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric is rampant,” she wrote. “As soon as my students arrive, they are afraid they will have to leave. Most of my students come to the U.S. seeking safety, but they don’t always feel safe here. This makes it hard for them to share and learn from others. I must help them understand current events, know their rights, and provide a safe and welcoming environment.”

She has previously been awarded the National Education Association Foundation’s California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence in 2017 and the Kim Plemons Leadership Award from the Spokane Education Association in 2015.

“Every student in this country deserves access to a teacher who is committed to their success. Through the National Teacher of the Year program, CCSSO is honored to support the nation’s great teachers,” said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of CCSSO. “I congratulate Mandy Manning on this outstanding recognition and look forward to the important conversations that she will lead around the country with students, parents and communities.”

Director Olsen’s Remarks

WASHINGTON – Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen delivered remarks at the White House yesterday during events honoring 2018 National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning, a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Spokane, Wash.

“While Peace Corps volunteers work on projects in many different sectors—from health to community economic development—education is our largest program area,” said Olsen, who taught for eight years at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. “During her two years of Peace Corps service, Mandy gained a global perspective that informs her work today. She likes to joke that she thought her teaching career would end after her Peace Corps service. My goodness, aren’t we all glad she was wrong?”

Manning worked in classrooms as a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia after earning her bachelor’s degree in media and film from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash. She now teaches English and math at Ferris High School’s Newcomer Center, which provides instruction for immigrant and refugee students.

Prior to a ceremony with President Donald J. Trump, Manning met with Director Olsen, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a listening session with educators from around the country.

With her family and fellow teachers in the audience, Manning discussed her efforts to see that students are able to connect with one another from a young age, building a culture of respect and civility in the classroom, school, and community.

“You can’t get to academics if you don’t make connections,” said Manning. “We can all agree that content is important, but connections are the most important thing. Without them, they can’t learn to have civil discourse and empathy for one another.”

The National Teacher of the Year program is presented by the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nonprofit organization that brings together education leaders from across the nation. Winners of the award spend a year traveling nationally and internationally as advocates for the teaching profession.

Manning, who is frequently the first American teacher for her students when they arrive in the United States, said that she will dedicate the next year to sharing her students’ stories and insights to show them that “they are wanted, they are loved, they are enough, and they matter.”


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  • The medals she is wearing are supporting programs that Trump has cut in his budget or has otherwise been negative. One of the medals was for the Peace Corps.

  • Manning wore six badges on her black dress. According to a pooled report, they included one with a poster for the Women’s March that followed Trump’s inauguration, one that said “Trans Equality Now” and one in the shape of an apple with a rainbow.

    The badges also represented the teacher of the year programme, National Education Association and Peace Corps, where she began her teaching career.

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