For Jamie Manker, school was always a place that built up her confidence. As a social studies teacher and department chair at Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton, Mo., Manker works to instill that same kind of confidence in her students and fellow teachers.
“I promote a spirit of self reliance,” Manker said. “My most important contribution has been to change the attitude of the students I teach and the teachers I lead from one of passive acceptance of failure to vigorous drive for success.”
On Thursday Manker’s own success as an educator was recognized when she was named Missouri Teacher of the Year by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Manker attributes her ability to relate to students and her love of history to a childhood that found her family making frequent moves. She says attending six different schools in three states gave her the versatility that allows her to “quickly understand and connect with her students and push them forward.” Living in the former Gold Rush town of Rough and Ready, Calif., she was surrounded by old mines, family cemeteries and long-abandoned homesteads that inspired her interest in the past.
"In my classroom, I find ways to create relevance linking each student's personal experience to the history I teach by integrating local history and current events," Manker said.
Connecting with students is a pivotal part of Manker's teaching, especially in her advanced placement (AP) world history classes where she works hard to convince her students they can meet the challenges of a rigorous course.
"As a teacher, Jamie maintains high expectations for all of her students, but she makes sure that she provides the support that they need to reach those expectations," said Renee Trotier, principal at Rockwood Summit High School. "As an AP (advanced placement) teacher, her goal is to open up opportunity for as many students as possible."
While Manker spends her days teaching history to sophomores and psychology to juniors and seniors, her educational interests extend far beyond those courses. She promotes the importance of literacy in all subject areas and for children of all ages. She believes the adoption of the Common Core State Standards is an important step toward improving literacy and preparing students for college and careers.
“Literacy rates among our youth is the single most important issue facing education today because literacy directly correlates with success in all educational areas and is largely responsible for forming student attitudes toward school,” she said.
She also believes early education is key to developing lifelong learners, and she strongly supports the Parents as Teachers program to promote early learning and literacy skills.
"Educators must call for intensive, hyper-focused attention to young readers, particularly those in Pre-K through second grade," Manker said. "Refocusing education on literacy will result in high school graduates that are analytical problem solvers ready to face the challenges presented by tomorrow's workplace."
Manker has taught at Rockwood Summit High School for the past 13 years. She earned a bachelor of science degree in history and a master of arts degree in education from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo.
Manker will represent Missouri in the National Teacher of the Year competition. She and the six other finalists for the Missouri Teacher of the Year award will be honored at a banquet Oct. 21 in Jefferson City.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education conducts the Teacher of the Year Award program with financial support from the Boeing Company and the Monsanto Fund of St. Louis.