On Wednesday, Mandy Manning, an English and math teacher from Spokane, Washington, was recognized at the White House for being named 2018 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Manning brought some reading material for President Trump — a stack of 45 letters from her immigrant and refugee students. The 19-year teaching veteran says that Trump accepted the letters graciously.
Manning teaches English at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School, which serves students speaking 72 languages and aims to help immigrant and refugee students adjust to life in the United States. "A good education," the program's website states, "is the key to a successful life in America."
The letters Manning brought chronicle her students' experiences coming to the United States from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Uganda, Burma and El Salvador. Manning tells The Washington Post that her students "felt it was important for the president to understand the really rigorous and difficult process and length of time it takes to come to the United States as a refugee."
President Trump has previously made negative comments about immigrants and refugees, including a 2015 campaign speech in which he said that Mexican immigrants were "bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." In this speech he also said that the threats he associates with immigration were "coming from all over South and Latin America" as well as the Middle East.
One of the letters that Manning gave Trump was written by a student from Rwanda who addressed the president's language in relation to immigrants and refugees. Manning tells Politico that the student "hopes he would model for others positive messaging around our immigrant and refugee communities," stressing that "his words have a lot of weight."
In her remarks upon accepting the award on Wednesday, Manning emphasized that all students "are wanted, that they are enough and that they matter." During the ceremony, she wore several pins including one that read "Trans Equality Now" and another from the Women's March.
Manning tells The Washington Post that she's not sure if Trump will read all the letters, but she's hopeful — a characteristic she learned from her students.
"The thing about our immigrant and refugee students is that they have this innate hopefulness," Manning told the paper. "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. It's really quite beautiful, actually, because no matter what — no matter what they experience — they still have this hope, this resilience."
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