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In it for the ‘right reasons’: Tinley Park woman up for teaching award

Dee Mannes teacher Parker Junior High School Flossmoor is finalist for Illinois State Board Education's Teacher Year award.  |

Dee Mannes, a teacher at Parker Junior High School in Flossmoor, is a finalist for the Illinois State Board of Education's Teacher of the Year award. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 4, 2013 6:51AM



Dee Mannes said she has never doubted her decision to become a teacher, not even on those “few and far between bad days.”

“It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, ever since first grade,” Mannes said.

After 26 years as a language arts teacher, 22 of them at Flossmoor School District 161’s Parker Junior High in Flossmoor, Mannes, 48, has learned that others support not only her choice but also her methods.

Mannes recently was chosen as the district’s nominee for the Illinois State Board of Education’s “Those Who Excel” teacher recognition program. She then was selected by an ISBE committee as one of 11 finalists from among about 200 nominees statewide for Teacher of the Year.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” said Mannes, a graduate of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights.

The winner is to be announced Oct. 19.

Mannes, of Tinley Park, said the hardest part for her was not the significant amount of required paperwork or the personal interviews.

Her trouble was with asking others for assistance.

“I was most uncomfortable going to people and saying, ‘Would you write a letter of recommendation for me?’ Everyone was very gracious,” Mannes said.

Among the four or five essay questions Mannes had to answer was one about her philosophy of education. Simply put, Mannes loves teaching children and she loves teaching children literature.

Helping “struggling readers” by getting them interested in literature, showing them how stories are connected to their lives or encouraging students to express their ideas is all part of her plan.

“The discussions we have are just always amazing,” Mannes said. “Every year, somebody picks up something different, and that’s just the really cool part about discussing literature.”

She has found teaching most rewarding with her beloved sixth-graders.

Parker Junior High special-education teacher Melissa Santos said she took notice of Mannes’ methods when the two were on the sixth-grade team of teachers six years ago.

“I was very impressed with her organization,” Santos said.

When Santos later became a co-teacher in Mannes’ classroom, she saw Mannes as a “good old-fashioned teacher” who wasn’t afraid to use new technology but held relationships in higher regard, she said.

“It’s just an innate trait in her,” Santos said. “She teaches to the kids in front of her, not to the curriculum.”

Even though Santos also is a seasoned teacher, she said Mannes “set the bar.”

“She was the person I looked up to and really wanted to be like,” Santos said.

Mannes thinks the “good teacher” formula is pretty simple. She advises anyone who might want to pursue a career in teaching to make the choice for the right reasons.

“It drives me crazy when someone says they want to teach so they can have summers off,” Mannes said. “It’s a tough job, and it’s tough even when it’s something you’ve always wanted to do. The work is so overwhelming. I don’t know that you could get through it if you didn’t love it.”



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