At Ignite Education Lab 2018, Nine Speakers Reflect On Success — And Mistakes

By Katherine Long
The Seattle Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) At a Seattle conference focused on education, teachers shared the good, bad and the ugly of some of their teaching experiences over the years and how those experiences shaped them to become the teachers they are today.

The Seattle Times

A 13-year-old who has figured out a recipe for leadership, an award-winning teacher who learned an important lesson after making a mistake, a parent haunted by the taunts she leveled at another student in middle school, those were some of the speakers who took to the stage for an evening of storytelling about education.

Ignite Education Lab’s “Unexpected Adventures in Learning,” sponsored by The Seattle Times Education Lab project and Town Hall Seattle, gave nine very different speakers a chance to talk about a range of education issues.

Mandy Manning had a filmmaking degree, two years of volunteer work in the Peace Corps and no teaching degree when she began working at a small-town Texas high school. One day, she erupted at a student who was disrupting class, calling him an idiot.

Manning quickly realized her mistake. She tried to take it back, but her words had done lasting damage to her relationship with the student, and underscored for her the power of the words she uses as a teacher.

“I took that moment with me for the rest of my career,” she told the audience of about 250 at Seattle University’s Campion Ballroom. Today, Manning is the 2018 Washington State Teacher of the Year, and one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Charette described the hardest day in her 20-year career as a special-education teacher: The day a new student, who was autistic and nonverbal, fell apart in her classroom.

“I spent three hours with this student under a table; nothing was working,” Charette said. It took her and her fellow teachers time to figure out what the student needed in order to stay calm and focused. Three years later, her student is integrated with his peers for much of the school day, has learned functional life skills, and has made friends. She urged the audience, many of whom were teachers, not to judge a student by his or her behavior on the first day of school.

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