When Dyamon Manning started working toward her degree in political science at Spelman college, she had her future in law school and then the courtroom completely planned out.
But those plans all came to a halt when she stepped into a classroom to teach for the first time.
She traveled to South Africa where she lived for seven months before her journey into the courtroom, where she briefly taught students, and when she came back home, she knew she wanted to find another opportunity to teach.
Before making up her mind, Manning worked for different law firms and eventually worked as a court administrator for a Superior Court judge. But her passion for teaching eventually won out.
School: Whitlow Elementary
Years teaching: 1
Subject: Fourth grade
Now, Manning is a full-time fourth grade teacher at Whitlow Elementary, spending time with her kids every day while earning her teaching certification in her free time.
“I can honestly say I just felt like I was home,” Manning said. “I feel like I’m home when I’m here and teaching and with my students. I feel like I was always meant to be doing this, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
That passion for her students and the classroom is one of many reasons the community voted for Manning as the Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for October. She spoke with the FCN about what drew her into teaching, her passion for shaping future leaders and why she was drawn into a new career.
What made you decide to try out teaching?
“I realized teachers have a huge role, and I don’t think that it’s emphasized enough. We are literally the leaders in teaching the future. I have this banner up here [in my classroom], and I love it because it says, ‘Our future of the world starts here in this classroom,’ and that’s true. It does.
“These are the future lawyers, doctors, politicians, teachers, engineers, scientists. And we are like the shepherds of that, so I just really wanted to have a positive impact and influence children in a major way. I thought what better way to do that than to have boots on the ground here in this setting.”
Did you immediately fall in love with teaching?
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny because my grandmother was a professor, my mom is a teacher, my aunt is a professor. I come from a long line of teachers, but I feel like I might have been trying to maybe run away from it because I didn’t want to do what was expected of me.
“And then I did a lot of public speaking in college and in high school, so everyone was pushing for me to go into law because they said, ‘You would be an excellent lawyer. You have the voice to speak up for people.’
“I do agree with that, but I want to be the voice for students in the classroom and not necessarily in the courtroom.”
What was it like finally starting to teach full time?
“I started teaching full time here [at Whitlow]. I’m in the MetroRESA GaTAPP program, and it is filled with career changers — people who are coming out of corporate and into teaching.
“They have just given me the golden tools to be successful. I mean, the coursework is rigorous. They give us assignments we can use. As soon as we do them, we can go in our classroom and use them the next day.
“I think for a long time I thought, ‘I don’t want people to know this. I don’t want people to look down on me because I’m in a program and I’m changing careers and I didn’t come straight out of college into teachers.’
“But I think it speaks to the fact that teachers don’t have to look or be a certain way and that they can come from all parts of life. As long as you have that passion for children and that love for the profession, then you can be successful.”
How have you been liking it so far?
“I love it. Oh my gosh.
“I don’t think I’ve ever wanted and been excited to get up and go to work. And when I say I feel like I’m home, I really do because you never know what to expect. I have 28 students who come in with their own experiences, their own backgrounds, their own environments.
“You just don’t know what you’ll get, but I realized if I’m that common factor for them that remains the same and gives them the same love and passion and attention, then they’ll be all right.
“I always think about Maya Angelou when she said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ I lead with that. When I’m interacting with them, [I think about] how am I making you feel after we’re done with our conversation.
“And we have this popsicle stick system with these cups, and when they come in the morning, they have to put it in green, yellow, blue or red. I’m a stickler for that. They’ll say, ‘Well, Ms. Manning, I forgot.’ I don’t want you to forget. I want to know how you’re feeling when you’re coming in.
“And I’ll take a moment during the day, it might be in the morning or it might be in the afternoon, and say, ‘Hey, I noticed you’re blue today. Why?’
“You would be amazed at the things children will tell you if you just ask them.”
What do you like to do outside of school?
“I like to spend time with my family. Anything they want to do. I have a 3-year-old daughter and my husband, we just like to do stuff with her and watch her grow up.
“I love to craft and build things like party favors for baby showers and birthdays or make baskets. I don’t have as much time now, but at some point, I would like to get back to that.”