The winner of the US Teacher of the Year award staged a silent protect against President Donald Trump by wearing a selection of political badges during the presentation ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.
Mandy Manning, who teaches English to newly arrived immigrant and refugee children at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, was given the award for helping pupils “overcome their fears and seek out new experiences.”
Accepting the award, she wore several badges on her dress including one which read “Trans Equality Now,” another featuring a rainbow-coloured apple and one in support of the women’s march, which took place after the president’s inauguration.
She also wore badges for the Peace Corps, the National Education Association and the Teacher of the Year programme.
Manning also handed the president a stack of letters written by her teenage refugee pupils shortly before she was given the award, detailing their experiences of arriving in the US and what it meant to them.
Trump did not acknowledge the badges and did not mention the types of students taught by Manning.
The US president said: “Teachers like Mandy play a vital role in the wellbeing of our children, the strength of our communities and the success of our nation.”
After the ceremony, Manning told the Associated Press she had handed the president the pupils’ letters in the hope he would read them and visit the school.
“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 in an interview.
“They make the United States the beautiful place that it is,” she added.
One letter, written by a student from Rwanda, reportedly urged Trump to “take care” with his language regarding immigrants.
Trump has used hostile language towards immigrants and refugees and recently brought an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme (DACA) – which provided temporary protected new arrivals from deportation and made them eligible for work permits.
Manning, who began her teaching career in the Peace Corps in Armenia in 1999 before teaching in Japan, spoke out against the current “anti-immigrant” climate in her application for the Teacher of the Year award.
She said she had taught children from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Mexico and had helped students “process trauma, celebrate their home countries and culture, and learn about their new community.”
“In the current political climate, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric is rampant,” Manning wrote.
“As soon as my students arrive, they are afraid they will have to leave. Most of my students come to the US seeking safety, but they don’t always feel safe here.
“This makes it hard for them to share and learn from others. I must help them understand current events, know their rights, and provide a safe and welcoming environment.”