Kaitlin Manchester, Richland School District Two’s Teacher of the Year
Kaitlin teaches ELA at Muller Road Middle, helping students, “unlock the potential they did not realize they possessed.” Here is a bit of her story:
“When I was five, I remember steering my stuffed animals to ‘school’ on a toy wooden bus each morning and teaching them lessons! But it wasn’t until my student teaching experience in Beijing was when I realized I’d been called to teach. My first week in China was slated for observation; I sat terrified in the back, convinced that I’d never be able to meet the diverse array of needs within my cooperating teacher’s classroom. Some students could clearly read and write English with college-level skill while others struggled to understand her verbal instructions. How could I, an introverted American college student, differentiate for all these students while also navigating cultural barriers? To my surprise and delight, the day I assumed responsibility for the classroom, I felt something click. Instincts took over that I wasn’t aware I possessed. I learned that my students’ differences were far more fascinating and beautiful than frightening. I felt overjoyed that for the first time in my life, my social intelligence, my creativity, my organization, my communication skills, my wit, my sensitivity, my gift for language, and my compassion were working in perfect tandem toward a noble, vital purpose.
To those interested in the teaching profession I would say, ‘nothing has challenged me more than teaching. Teachers must artfully collapse apparent dichotomies: rigor and differentiation, freedom and structure, firmness and kindness. Doing this job well requires every ounce of my creativity, the fullest extent of my critical thinking powers, a ton of compassion, and on many days, every drop of energy I possess. But as challenging as it is, nothing has rewarded me more than teaching. It’s an intellectually rich and emotionally rich profession. It brings me so much joy to help students unlock the potential they did not realize they possessed.”’

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