Women on the Leading Edge of Education
Regina Manns’ parents not only stressed the importance of education and the desire for their children to live a life better than theirs, but they demonstrated it. Her father, while working full-time, returned to school to get his GED; and her mother worked her way out of hardship to eventually become a court reporter for Milwaukee County.
Regina didn’t disappoint. Now as a Lead Induction Specialist for Milwaukee Public Schools, and an adjunct professor for Milwaukee Public School University (MPSU), she earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a minor in English from Lakeland College. Additionally, she earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, as well as director of instruction certification from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She also earned a reading certification from Viterbo University.
“At one point, I thought I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a court reporter, but I quickly learned that was not my calling,” she said.
After marrying and starting a family, Regina enrolled in a program at MATC for individuals interested pursuing careers in education. She later enrolled at Lakeland College at night, while working at school during the day.
“My boys struggled in school and I was always trying to figure out strategies to support them. In the process, I found myself getting frustrated with the system of one-size-fits-all. One of my sons is musically inclined, but struggled academically. I first started out at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) as a volunteer and I discovered that I enjoyed motivating and collaborating with the kids. It was like God decided this was a career path for me because I was good at it,” she said.
Over the years, Regina has worn several hats within the MPS system, including paraprofessional, curriculum generalist, and educator. At one point, while working at Frances Starms School, she paired up with another teacher to work with the lowest performing grade level in that school to improve their academic outcomes. This resulted in academic gains in both reading and mathematics for 95 percent of those students. She has spent the last three years teaching at Marvin Pratt Elementary School.
Regina attributes most of her success and motivation to her parents and a supportive husband.
“Watching my mother take the bus to school and helping her study in the evenings to better herself was inspiring. Also, witnessing my dad return to school to get his GED was a big-time motivator. And, I can’t say enough about my husband. We’ve been together since 1986 and he’s always had my back. He would tell me, ‘Don’t worry; I’ve got the kids.’ He has always been my backbone. There’s an old adage that behind every good man is a good woman, and I feel the same way about him,” she said.
Along her journey, Regina also met individuals like Martha Wheeler-Fair, the former principal at Frances Starms; colleague Joyce Peterson; and her aunt Elaine Agee, who motivated and encouraged her.
“When I was a paraprofessional, it was Martha Wheeler-Fair who encouraged me to finish school. She was always supportive of everyone— helping them find their niche. Joyce was one of the first teachers I worked with, and we remain in contact to this day. Then my Aunt Elaine was also an inspiration. She was one of the first African American nutritionist to oversee MPS’s school lunch program. The central office named a cafeteria in her honor. She was very articulate and always walked around dressed to the nines,” said Regina.
As an educator, one of Regina’s personal motivations is the notion that education can change a person forever.
“I feel that if we (as educators) get it right, we can change the world. The only way to change the world is to start in our homes, schools and then that big thing called the world. I approach my students and parents more like a community by helping them understand that education is bigger than just being present here and now. If children can’t read, write and do math it will change their entire direction.
“One of the things I did with students was create community service projects, such as acknowledging and thanking their teachers. Sometimes teachers don’t feel they are accomplishing much, but our community needs them; so students provided items to create baskets to give to the teachers in the school. This helps our kids feel good about themselves and the teachers feel appreciated,” she said.
Regina views the student-parent- teacher relationship as a three-tier team, with collaboration being the key to success.
“You must collaborate with the principal and teachers, the families and students. I’m good at analyzing data, so I take time to show parents where their children are academically, where they need to be, and what strategies we’re going to use to get them where they should be. It’s my responsibility to help students learn and grow so they can attain a better quality of life. Working with adults, as a teacher-mentor, I employ the same strategies. I stress how big the role of a teacher is in helping students achieve in life.
“I’m a motivator; a fighter. I work hard to help others succeed and I love kids. I strongly believe we are all one big family—teachers/principals, students, parents—and working together we can accomplish many things,” she said.