Mandy Manning, a Spokane teacher, said she decided to stay a teacher on Sept. 11, 2001. On Monday, she was named the 2018 Teacher of the Year in Washington state.

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Shortly after she was named Washington state’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, Mandy Manning made a confession: She never wanted to be a teacher.

“I have a filmmaking degree,” she told a laughing audience at Monday’s ceremony at MoPOP in Seattle. She thought her time teaching would be limited to her two years in Armenia as a Peace Corps volunteer. But again and again, people told her: “You should be a teacher.”

“I said no way,” said Manning, who works at Ferris High School in Spokane. Still, she took a teaching job.

And then, 16 years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, her path changed. That was the first year she had her own class. She remembers everyone in the school watching television as the chaos unfolded.

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“I realized how important my job was, right then,” she said. “I had to help every single one of my students be fearless in the face of something none of us understood.”

Manning, 41, was one of nine regional finalists for this year’s honor. The Puget Sound finalist was Denisha Saucedo, a sixth-grade teacher at Kent Elementary, who graduated from the Kent School District and uses her own experiences, both good and bad, as her motivation. Linne Haywood, a Darrington High teacher, was the finalist in the northwest region, lauded for being quick to say “yes” to opportunities in her school, like coaching volleyball and advising the associated student body.

During the ceremony, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal gestured toward the nine finalists as he called teaching “the most magical profession” that is especially important in today’s world of technology and constant information. Teachers are now expected to tend to students’ social and emotional needs, he said, not just their academic knowledge.

“It’s as tough as it’s ever been to be a young person,” he said.

 

Manning teaches English and math at Ferris High’s Newcomer Center, where refugee and immigrant students spend one or two semesters. She came back to Spokane in 2008 after teaching in Texas, New York and Japan. In 2011, she started working at the Newcomer Center, where every semester she has a few dozen students from several different countries.

She’s also been involved in changing school policies, including the successful push to change her school’s discipline plan to include more voices from education and parent groups. As a result, the number of suspensions decreased by 74 percent in the first year.

In addition to teaching, Manning coaches softball and basketball and is an adviser for the high school’s writing club and Gay-Straight Alliance.

A former student described Manning as not just a teacher, but a second mother, said Kathe Taylor, assistant superintendent in the State Superintendent’s Office.

Speaking to the audience, Manning echoed what she teaches her students: “Be fearless, be kind, get to know your neighbors.”

And she repeated one, for emphasis: “Be fearless.”

As the state winner, Manning is a contender for the national teacher-of-the-year award. In addition to Saucedo and Haywood, the other six regional finalists were Jennifer Tenney from White Swan High in Yakima County, Ethan Chessin from Camas High in Clark County, Melissa Charette from Washington Middle in Olympia, Gary Coyan from Chimacum High in Jefferson County, Laurie Price from Hanford High in Benton County and Jon Magnus from Wenatchee High in Chelan County.

Camille Jones, an elementary-school teacher from Quincy, Grant County, was last year’s winner.