The national Teacher of the Year award winner gave President Donald Trump letters from refugee students when the pair met.
Mandy Manning, who teaches at Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, handed Mr Trump a manila envelope with the words “Dear Mr President,” the Seattle Times reported. It was full of letters from children writing about what being able to immigrate to the US means to them, how the US is a role model of embracing other cultures, and what their experience has been like as a refugee in a new country.
The award was given to Ms Manning by the Council of Chief States School Officers, an organisation of public education officials, for her efforts in teaching English to refugee children who have experienced trauma.
It is unclear if the Council meant to send a message to Mr Trump in choosing Ms Manning given that many of her students’ countries come from countries on the president’s travel ban list: Syria, Iraq, and Sudan.
He had also temporarily suspended the US refugee programme and during his campaign, infamously suggested banning Muslims from entering the country. The organisation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Ms Manning, a teacher for 18 years, said in her speech: "I am here for refugee and immigrant students, for the kids in the gay-straight alliance, and for all the girls I’ve coached over the years, to send them the message that they are wanted, they are loved, they are enough, and they matter,” while highlighting their individual accomplishments.
Mr Trump, during a private meeting, told Ms Manning that he was “excited” to read the letters from her students who are enrolled in her schools “Newcomer Center” programme, she said to CNN, adding that the president had asked an aide to put the letters on directly on his desk.
The president called her an “outstanding educator” while handing her the award, a crystal apple placed on a short, engraved pedestal. “Your tireless dedication doesn’t just inspire your students, it inspires all of us, and I can tell you, it very much inspires me,” he said in his remarks.
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Mr Trump mentioned Ms Manning teaches English and maths, but did not specifically say she taught refugees. She also met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Labor Secretary R Alexander Acosta.
The awarding organisation said Ms Manning "uses experiential projects like map-making to help her students process trauma, celebrate their home countries and culture, and learn about their new community”. She is often their first teacher in the US.
Ms Manning encouraged those gathered to "go out today, seek an experience you have never had before. Get uncomfortable. Challenge your own perceptions to find clarity. Be fearless, be kind, meet someone new”.