The Trump administration banned the press from this year’s National Teacher of the Year Award ceremony and it is now clear why. Winner Mandy Manning sat down for an interview with Van Jones on CNN this weekend to speak about her remarkable work, the memorable honor, and offer a glimpse into what was said behind closed doors. She teased the anchor with an excerpt from the speech that covered the importance of education and immigration. Manning delivered that speech in front of a president who had complimented her “incredible devotion” to education, after implementing policies that made life difficult for her students, a group consisting largely of refugees and immigrants.
The National Teacher of the Year Award winner is determined by a selection committee consisting of leaders from major education organizations, who select from state-level winners. It is difficult to interpret Manning’s selection, well-deserved though it was — as anything but a protest vote. Manning teaches at The Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High school in Spokane, Washington and has students who speak over 72 different languages and come from a variety of different backgrounds. Beyond being taught by Manning, most of the students have one thing in common: immigrant status. During her speech on CNN, Manning gave just a taste of the stories and struggles of her students.
“I am here for refugee and immigrant students, for the kids in the gay-straight alliance, and for all the girls I’ve coached over the years,” Manning told Jones. “To send them the message: they are wanted, they are loved, they are enough, and they matter.”
Manning also explained that she will be sharing the stories of her students as well as their thoughts on the US over the next year, but didn’t outline exactly how she planned to do so. Still, she did give President Trump a big stack of letters from both her students and members of the Spokane immigrant community. Manning told Jones that she hopes he will read them and “understand the really rigorous and difficult process and length of time it takes to come to the United States as a refugee.”
Manning said the president received the letters and promised to have them put on his desk.
“They have gone through very, very difficult experiences, but they see coming to the United States as an opportunity. They feel that they can have dreams and that they can potentially achieve those dreams,” Manning told the Washington Post. “It’s really quite beautiful, actually, because no matter what — no matter what they experience — they still have this hope, this resilience.”