A Lifetime of Teaching and Learning

A Lifetime of Teaching and Learning

Voted Best Teacher by Chapel Hill Magazine readers, Ellen Manning shares her story

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Ellen Manning grew up across the globe, spending time living in Latin America and Europe. The world she loved the most was the natural one, and through various outdoor adventure and learning companies she realized her innate passion for teaching. “I’ve been a teacher all of my life,” she explains, “but as an environmental educator and park ranger for some of the time.”

Ellen Manning. Photo by Briana Brough
Ellen Manning. Photo by Briana Brough

She ultimately went back to school to earn an elementary education degree, moved to North Carolina and has taught school locally for 12 years. Ellen currently teaches first grade at Carrboro Elementary. She lives with her husband, Mark Barroso, and daughter, Natalie Barroso, in northern Pittsboro. Here, Ellen fills in a few blanks.

The biggest misconception about teaching is that …

You can’t let the child within your own self out when you are teaching. I share my passion for dancing with my kids; I play my guitar and harmonica and recorder all the time, and we get our wiggles out with interactive music and dance.

A piece of wise advice I’ve received from one of my young students is …

To let the mystery be.

My favorite day of the school year is …

Valentine’s Day. We have a weeklong post office that the kids work in to mail cards to each other. On Valentine’s Day, they open all their cards. It’s so much fun.

The student I’ve kept in touch with longest …

Is from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, now 19 years old and at Emory University in Georgia studying writing and literature.

When I’m not teaching, I’m …

Walking my dog in the woods, out on Jordan Lake with my husband on our boat, or going to music festivals and dancing to live music with friends.

A moment in my career that I’ll never forget is …

When I had a Karen refugee student in second grade. He had just moved to this country from Burma and spoke no English. He did not read or write in his own language. He had lived in a refugee camp his entire life. At the end of the year, with hard work and perseverance on his part, I moved him through nine reading levels to proficiency by the time he went to third grade. I have never been so proud of a student.

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Jessie is a former Chapel Hill Magazine editor-turned freelance culture writer based in Chapel Hill. She tends to structure her days around a morning cup of coffee and evening glass of wine.