DANBURY, Conn. — The daughter of a school teacher and a pharmacist, Beth Manning started her career as a pharmaceutical representative. But it wasn’t long before Manning felt the calling to become a teacher.
Now a science teacher at Westside Middle School Academy, Manning was chosen as the Danbury School District’s Teacher of the Year for 2017-18.
In her job as a pharmaceutical rep, she was tasked with training co-workers in technological changes. “I soon realized that was my favorite part of the job,” Manning said. “And because my mom was a teacher, I always thought I might want to be a teacher.”
Manning earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Saint Michael’s College and a master’s degree in education and instructional technology from Western Connecticut State University. A teacher since 2001, Manning started at Danbury High School as a student teacher. Her first teaching position was at Rogers Park Middle School.
After teaching in the STEM program at Rogers Park, Manning made the move to Westside when it opened.
She enjoys that the district has embraced creativity in teaching the required curriculum, and said all of the science teachers work to decide how students best learn under the new state science standards adopted last year (NGSS). Manning said she accomplishes this by helping students – rather than telling them – find the answers through science-based questions.
“It’s a really big shift. It’s totally student-centered,” Manning said. “Kids figure science out rather than being told facts. For example, I might ask, ‘Why is it so foggy this morning?’ Students might make diagrams and apply learning activities that support the main concept. The kids do the heavy lifting, and the teachers facilitate that. I never tell them the answer. I let them figure it out. I think that is a gift.”
Manning says the students’ excitement about learning science makes it all worthwhile.
“I like the variety of kids I have in Danbury,” Manning said. “They add a whole new layer to my classroom.”
Manning said she hopes that students continue to learn by doing and by applying their knowledge to explore concepts in depth.
“My hope is that kids learn to think, rather than learn to pass a test,” she said.
This is Manning’s second recent award. Last year she was chosen by the Connecticut Science Teachers Association to receive the “Excellence in Middle School Science Teaching Award.”
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