By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Maneesha Mankad has taught Algebra II, Calculus and Finance/Stats and been a forum leader at Community High School for the past five years. She grew up in New Delhi, the bustling capital city of India. Her father was an environmental engineer and her mother worked as a translator and news reader at All India Radio. Her father was a pioneer in his family—the first to come to the United States from India to pursue his post-graduate degree. This inspired Mankad to do the same 30 years later.
Mankad earned her master’s in statistics and worked as a biostatistician at a major pharmaceutical company until her two daughters were born. Throughout their childhood, she volunteered in the Ann Arbor Public Schools in a variety of ways: classrooms, the PTSO, as a Girl Scout Troop Leader, Science Olympiad coach and instructor for Indian folk dance workshops. Discovering joy in mentoring young people and moved by the dedication of AAPS teachers, she chose teaching as the next step in her career. Mankad completed a second master’s in mathematics secondary education from the University of Southern California with fieldwork through AAPS.
Mankad has lived in Ann Arbor with her husband, two daughters for 18 years, and they have an energetic boxador puppy. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, traveling, dancing, reading and watching movies.
What are your fondest memories of your own high school math classes? Going up to the board to put up a problem, passionately discussing solving a challenging problem with my peers and competing with my classmates for high scores on our math tests. I felt such joy when the steps of a problem fell into place like pieces of a puzzle, and still do to this day.
How did your high school compare to Community High? One of the reasons I love teaching at Community High School is because of the similarities it holds to my own high school. My high school was very progressive and student-centered. Student voice was given a lot of importance and helped shape school policy. Our teachers were passionate about their subject and their students and I walked away from high school with a strong belief in self.
What inspired you to become a teacher? The years I spent volunteering in my kids’ schools were a defining factor in my decision to become a teacher. I enjoy mentoring young people and helping them grow into the best versions of themselves. Growing up, my educational institutions in New Delhi were crucial in shaping me as a learner and an individual. I saw this rich learning experience provided to my daughters by AAPS teachers and was inspired to become one of them.
Why did you want to teach at Community? Anne Thomas, a revered math teacher at CHS, had shared her teaching experiences with me as I first embarked on my teaching journey, and I was inspired by her passion and dedication. I loved that it was a small, relationship-oriented school and was intrigued by the place it held in the community as an institution that promoted student voice.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you? That I have touched someone’s life in a positive way.
In which other teacher’s classroom would you like to enroll, if only for a day? Why? I had the privilege of observing in the classroom of a mathematics teacher at Scarlett Middle School, Mr. Scott Turner. His passion for his students and his constant self-reflection about his pedagogical practice was truly inspiring. His focus on individual student needs and his relentless effort to motivate students to achieve their best made me wish I could have been one of his students.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? Teaching is a lifelong learning experience. There is always one more student you can reach, by adapting and improving your pedagogy. There is always an opportunity to enhance your repertoire of skills and tools based on current research and emerging technology.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? The best part about teaching is every year is an opportunity to build upon the previous one. This means that you get to hone your skills year after year. One way to take advantage of this is to journal or write notes to your future self. I often find myself going back to my notes in order to learn from my past mistakes and my successes. I would also recommend using the community around you as a resource. My first year, I had so many questions for those around me that I even considered dressing as a question mark for Halloween!
What’s the happiest part of your day? Spending time with my family and hearing about what’s going on in the lives of my students.
How do you keep students engaged? I always have a “hook” for my lesson: a story, video, situation or context that makes it relevant. I also always give my students the opportunity to work with their peers as collaborators.
How do you show school spirit? I love sharing my excitement for Community High with my students, whether it is through sweatshirt drives, forum community service days, dressing up with the other teachers for Halloween, or planning MultiCulti.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? Teaching provides me with the opportunity to help students grow their belief in themselves and their abilities. Helping students achieve their goals, big or small, and reach their true potential is an incredibly rewarding experience. Further, the relationships built with students in the process of learning and growing together bring tremendous joy to my life.
How do you recharge? Nature helps me recharge, whether it is a walk in nature or traveling to a beautiful destination.
How do you spend your summers? I always spend a part of my summers in some kind of professional development. However, I do make it a priority to spend some quality time with family, reading and traveling so that I feel recharged and ready for the upcoming academic year. The last two weeks of summer are always spent in organizing and preparing for the new academic year.
How do you think students will remember you and your class? I strive to build a community of learners that is a safe space where students feel comfortable taking risks, making mistakes and have the opportunity to be challenged. I do not give up on a student and hope that students leave my classroom with a stronger belief in themselves and a better self-efficacy in math.