WELL-TRAVELED TEACHER USES SKILLS, EXPERIENCES
With nearly two decades experience teaching across the country, Newberg High School language arts teacher Ramona Mangelsdorf has seen the challenges of America’s education system firsthand.
For six years, she has used what she’s learned at previous jobs to help mold young minds in Newberg, and her dedication earned distinction as one of Pamplin Media Group’s Amazing Educator.
“I feel honored and appreciative, but I’m not sure I deserve any special recognition,” Mangelsdorf said. “Most teachers work extremely hard and care about their students the same as I do.”
Mangelsdorf’s colleagues feel differently. Jennifer Bass, a counselor at Antonia Crater Elementary School, nominated her for the award.
“When Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care,’ he might as well be describing Ramona Mangelsdorf,” Bass said. “She is so humble and cares so much about every student. … She creatively finds ways to get students — even the disengaged — to participate more than they may have known they could.”
And Mangelsdorf doesn’t confine her talents to just lower-performing students.
“Her ability to challenge the highest achievers by giving direct thoughtful feedback is amazing considering she typically has well over 100 students a day,” Bass said. “She spends countless hours and weekends or breaks reading student essays or assignments and says it’s worth it because she can learn so much from and about her students.”
Mangelsdorf graduated from George Fox University before starting her teaching career, which has included stops at high schools in Maryland and Tennessee. Both were Title I schools in the inner city with the kind of diverse populations often underserved in education.
Her focus was on helping students grow their educational potential. She did so by starting advanced placement classes at the school in Knoxville in addition to her regular duties.
“It was a much more diverse student body than here in Oregon, which helped broaden my perspective and understand many of the inequities facing students in our country,” Mangelsdorf said. “It taught me how to teach students of different economic backgrounds and how to be mindful of that, and it was great because it made me a better teacher.”
Always teaching English and writing courses, Mangelsdorf also spent time teaching in community college. But the experiences that shaped her perspective most were working at the two Title I schools, working hard to help broaden their horizons and show that she cared.
“I educate my students, but I also try hard to make students know that I value them and care about them as human beings …” she said. “When students confide in me about struggles they’re going through, I try to help them as best I can. That’s an important part of the job of a teacher.”
Mangelsdorf carries the lessons of her career with her in her day-to-day job in Newberg, an admittedly far less diverse community than the ones she previously worked in, but one that still presents its own unique challenges. In her six years, she said she’s tried to connect work in the classroom to modern events as a way to keep students engaged.
“One thing I really try to teach is empathy, which I think we need a little bit more of these days, especially in light of everything that’s been going on in the last year,” she said. “I love literature, I love the classics, but I also like to (branch) out into relevant topics to discuss morals and life lessons we can draw from written works.”
Mangelsdorf’s conviction has not wavered despite the uphill battle of teaching remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bass said she’s still the same resource and mentor via a computer screen that she was in the halls of the high school.
“She is tireless in her desire to teach and reach students,” Bass said. “During this distance learning time, she is seeking ways to still make personal connections with students and has masterfully presented captivating stories to help students learn to find voice so they can find their own as they write a personal memoir.”