NaQuisha Mann is the kind of teacher students remember forever. As a 1st-grade teacher at the School for Agriculture and Environmental Studies (SAGES) in Fox Lake, a public charter school through the Waupun School District, she is known as someone who enthusiastically cares about students and their families, always looking for ways to foster students’ excitement for learning.
She is a fixture at school events outside of the workday, a visitor to students’ homes, and an animated conversationalist with parents whose children she taught more than a decade ago.
In education, Mann believes that creating relationships with everyone she works with is a lifetime commitment. “I teach my students that, one, we are a team. If one fails, we all fail. Two, integrity -- doing the right thing when no one else is watching. They are responsible for their own actions, and it’s their responsibility to take care of their team. We are a family.”
Mann’s educational family extends beyond SAGES. She began her teaching career in Milwaukee and has bridged her love of learning, students, and acceptance with kids across the state. As the first and only African American teacher in the Waupun School District, she decided to hold some courageous conversations with the 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students at SAGES, allowing them to ask her questions and understand biases. These conversations lead to more courageous conversations with their peers through a partnership with students from Milwaukee.
Mann says, “At the beginning, it was awkward, but by the end, they were engulfed in rich conversations. When they got back, the children were so excited, they had a community project and shared with parents.
The visit to Milwaukee fostered an excitement in students about learning, diversity, understanding, and acceptance.
“We have so many great things going on in so many districts. How can we bring these together? How can we get inner-city FFA partnerships? How do we get students in rural settings to go to the cities and have those rich experiences? If we as educators partner and work together, we can have that impact-- not just academically, but socially, globally,” Mann says.
At SAGES, where walls are optional, Mann knows that students see school in a different way. She is able to “flow” with her teaching, being creative and flexible when students get excited about learning something.
Mann also credits the small teaching staff at SAGES as a powerful force that produces responsible, productive students. “We are like a family. Everyone brings something to the table to drive the vision and mission of the school.”
The combination of commitment and enthusiasm for students establishes an expectation that they all learn together. That love of learning transfers to students, and they never forget it.