Trump presents Teacher of the Year trophy to Spokane educator of teen refugees

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President Donald Trump gives the National Teacher of the Year trophy to Mandy Manning during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House May 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Manning is a math and English teacher at Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, and works with refugee and immigrant students. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday presented the National Teacher of the Year award to a Washington state educator who leads a classroom for teenage refugees.

But Trump did not mention the kinds of students Mandy Manning teaches during a White House ceremony held to honor her and other winners. Manning teaches English to new refugee and immigrant students at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane.

“Teachers like Mandy play a vital role in the well-being of our children, the strength of our communities and the success of our nation,” Trump said. “The job of a teacher is not only to instruct the next generation of workers but the next generations of citizens to teach our children to care for others, to think for themselves, to love their country, to be proud of our history and to be true pillars of their families and their communities.”

The word “citizens” was written in all-caps in the president’s prepared remarks while the other words were lowercased. The remarks were projected on three teleprompters in the room for him to read.

Trump has taken a hard-line approach to both legal and illegal immigration and for a period suspended the U.S. refugee program. During his Republican campaign for president, he compared refugees fleeing war-torn Syria to a Trojan horse carrying would-be terrorists, and he proposed banning Muslims from entering the country.

The National Teacher of the Year Program began in 1952 and describes itself as the "oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching."

Every president since Harry Truman has honored its winners in a White House ceremony.

At the Newcomer Center where Manning teaches, students spend five hours a day working to set up a base of academic knowledge so that the teens can ultimately join their peers in general education classes. Manning also helps them adjust to American culture — from navigating the cafeteria and reading body language to understanding classroom etiquette, like taking turns when speaking.

Manning's students come from all over the world, many escaping chaotic, conflict-torn homelands across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

"My goal is to share my student's stories," Manning said. "But to send a message -- to not only my immigrant and refugee students but the LGBT community -- that they are wanted, they are loved, they are enough and they matter."

But while she had a record 33 students in the fall of 2016, she's now working with just five.

It's a correlation Manning can't ignore — that there has been such a drop in the number of refugees and immigrants landing in eastern Washington coinciding with the Trump administration's tightening immigration policies.

Fewer refugee families mean the children just feel more isolated in their new world, she had said.

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