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Bill Gates Highlights 'Teacher of the Year' Working With Refugee Kids

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Washington State’s “Teacher of the Year” has long had a large fanbase in her students. But now she can count millionaire Bill Gates as one of her champions, too.

Mandy Manning, who works at Ferris High School’s Newcomer Center in Spokane and specializes in teaching English language development to immigrants and refugees, received a huge shoutout and video interview with the Microsoft mogul in his GatesNotes blog as part of his foundation’s back-to-school awareness campaign, reported Fast Company.

Take Action: Every child deserves quality education. Share how a refugee camp is embracing innovative learning

“Hearing Mandy talk about her students reminded me of one of the biggest strengths of America’s public schools: They are intended to help every child succeed,” Gates wrote in an annual profile dedicated to his state’s top teacher.

Eighty percent of Manning’s students are refugees from countries such as Syria, Myanmar, Sudan, and other conflict zones. The school serves a population that speaks 77 different languages, according to the report.

Manning was spotlighted not only for her work encouraging young minds, but also for urging teachers to become more active in shaping education policy and for her activism demanding legislators engage with local schools.

She was asked by Gates to share her thoughts in a separate piece on “how teachers can collectively continue to impact the country,” noted Fast Company.

Manning wrote that she has witnessed firsthand how teachers can influence change when she attempted to distill a federal law in Washington State. The law was meant to improve kids’ access to recess in order to promote health and fitness, but was “vague enough to be interpreted differently among school districts,” according to the report.

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“Some had up to 60 minutes of recess a day, while others had virtually none,” she wrote, noting that those who suffered the most were in low-income areas.

Recess policy in the Seattle area changed when local educators corrected the problem and mandated that all districts allow for 30 minutes of unstructured recess a day.

“This is a prime example of how educators can use their experience to impact local policy,” Manning said. “As the people who interact with students every day, we know what is best for them in the classroom, and we must lead not only in carrying out policies, but in developing them in the first place.”