The daughter of a school teacher and a pharmacist, Beth Manning started out as a pharmaceutical representative. But it wasn’t long before Manning felt the calling to become a teacher herself, a position that suits her love of science and her desire to share that passion with others. The Danbury educator has long been known in the district for her dedication in shaping the lives of her students, as well as her colleagues.
Now a science teacher at Westside Middle School Academy, Manning was chosen as the district’s Teacher of the Year 2017-18.
Ironically, it was the position as a pharmaceutical rep that fostered her desire to teach, as 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 her educational career 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 after it opened several years ago. 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.”
As further proof of her love for teaching, Manning adds to her busy schedule by working to train other teachers in the state through the Connecticut Science Center using the new curriculum platform. She also trains district educators.
Manning admits her greatest challenge is trying to fit everything in, but says that the district is very supportive – and 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 her hope for the future of education is that students continue to learn by doing and apply their knowledge to exploring 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 for teaching. Last year she was chosen by the Connecticut Science Teachers Association to receive the “Excellence in Middle School Science Teaching Award.”