The newest National Teacher of the Year—who instructs teenage immigrants and refugees—used the award ceremony at the White House on Wednesday to demonstrate her support for the rights of women, LGBTQ people, and her students by sporting pins for various causes and giving President Donald Trump notes from her students.
After the ceremony, Mandy Manning, who teaches English to immigrant and refugee students at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, handed the president "a stack of letters from some of the teenage refugees she teaches that talk about what coming to the U.S. has meant to them," she told The Associated Press.
"I just had a very, very brief moment so I made it clear that the students that I teach...are dedicated and focused," Manning said. "They make the United States the beautiful place that it is."
Some letter writers, Manning added, expressed their belief "that all 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."
During the ceremony, Manning wore six pins on her dress, which "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 Guardian reports. "The badges also represented the teacher of the year program, National Education Association, and Peace Corps, where she began her teaching career."
Trump—who continues to push policies that restrict the ability of immigrants and refugees to lawfully enter the United States as well as policies that roll back the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community—praised Manning before presenting her with the award:
President Donald Trump praised educators during the National Teacher of the Year award ceremony at the White House pic.twitter.com/ARw1YfOVka
— POLITICO (@politico) May 2, 2018
— Megan M. Allen, NBCT (@Redhdteacher) May 3, 2018
We Mandy Manning, Teacher of the Year! How lucky are we that she has devoted her life and talents to the futures of immigrant and refugee students in WA state?... https://t.co/xwnRwMjRP3
— K-12 News Network (@K12NN) May 3, 2018
Manning will spend the next year traveling across the world to advocate on behalf of teachers, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which runs the award program and praised Manning's "fierce belief in her students, unwavering commitment to their learning, and demonstrated efforts to ensure that they can be successful both in school and in life."
"This year I hope to engage the nation in a conversation about how we can encourage students to experience things outside of their understanding," Manning said last month, when the award was announced.
"When we move out of our comfort zones, visit new places, listen to others' thoughts, and share our own opinions, we become compassionate and open," she added. "This is the first step in creating a more hopeful, safer, and kinder society where everyone can be productive, global citizens."
The ceremony to honor Manning and the nation's teachers comes as educators in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona have walked out and rallied at state capitols in recent months to fight for higher pay and greater government investment in public education.