When Mandy Manning went to the White House to accept the 2018 National Teacher of the Year award, she brought along a message for the president.
Manning, a teacher at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, met with President Trump to receive the prestigious award in the East Room of the White House on May 2.
Her work as an English teacher at the school’s Newcomer Center, focuses on helping new refugee and immigrant students get up to speed and integrated into the classroom.
It’s noble work, and pretty much the antithesis of what Trump, who has railed against refugees and immigrants, stands for. Yet unlike artists who boycotted the Kennedy Center Honors due to disagreements with his positions, Manning attended the event — and made sure to take advantage of her moment with the president.
Manning was perfectly polite during the ceremony and the brief moments she had to speak with Trump, but her outfit spoke volumes.
Manning wore a number of pins on her dress during the ceremony. Some, like the National Teacher of the Year, National Education Association, and Peace Corps pins, were pretty standard. Others, like her Women’s March, rainbow flag, and “trans equality now” pins sent a bold message to an administration that’s devoted time to gutting protections for trans students and attacking Title IX.
The most important message, however, was the one she handed Trump: a stack of letters from her students and her local community.
“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 the Associated Press. “They make the United States the beautiful place that it is.”
In a video recorded for the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization behind the National Teacher of the Year, Manning went into more detail about what she does, why she cares so much for her students, and what she hopes Trump and the rest of America can see in them.
“All of the students who walk through my classroom door have three things in common,” she says in the video:
“1) They are just learning English, 2) they have escaped trauma and are building new lives in our nation, and 3) they are determined and focused to be productive citizens of our United States. Most importantly, they succeed.”
She wants her students to feel like they are wanted, like they are loved, like they are enough, and like they matter. It’s the same basic goal we should have for all students in all schools around the country. In fact, it should be a goal for how we treat anyone, of any age.
People like Manning and her students make America a great place, and we could all learn a thing or two from their example.