Mike Manchee is the principal of Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School in Amarillo Independent School District and a member of First Baptist Church in Amarillo. He is one of nine public school educators who received the 2020 BEST—Baptist Educators Serving Texans—award. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on being a Christian in public education.
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Where else have you served, and what were your positions there?
I served Plainview Independent School District, where I taught at Ash 6th Grade Learning Center (closed in 2014) and algebra at Plainview High School, before becoming assistant principal at Ash 6th Grade and then principal at College Hill Elementary.
In Amarillo Independent School District, I was assistant principal at Fannin Middle School, principal at Coronado Elementary School and principal at San Jacinto Elementary before becoming principal at Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School, where I currently serve.
Where did you grow up?
How did you come to faith in Christ?
It was very traditional—Vacation Bible School in the 3rd grade. I remember Doug Manning, pastor at First Baptist Church in Hereford, going over the plan of salvation and just knew it was my time and what I needed to do.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
• Hereford High School, 1990.
• Wayland Baptist University, Bachelor of Science in history and math, 1994.
• Wayland Baptist University, Master of Education in administration, 1997.
Why do you feel called into education?
My family is filled with educators; so, it was where I first was directed. There is something rewarding about getting to work with kids all day long. You get the chance to live out your faith by trying to do the right thing, treating others with kindness and being a positive role model to the students who are just now starting to form who they will become.
How does being a Christian influence your work in education?
I hope I constantly live out a Christian influence in everything I do. I try—not always successfully—to be kind and patient, to put the needs of others first. I hope by being the best example I can be, I am showing my faith in my work.
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What is your favorite aspect of education? Why?
My favorite aspect of education always has been to see a student finally grasp a subject or idea they have struggled with. Seeing the smile and knowing it “clicked” is the most rewarding experience of all. Knowing, at times, I have been directly responsible for the “click” is what keeps me going.
How has your place in education or your perspective on education changed?
I always have believed making a difference in the lives of children is why we do what we do. However, when I taught and worked with students from extreme poverty, I began to see just how powerfully important my job is. Generational poverty is one of the hardest things to break, and education is the best—and likely only—tool that can break it. I’ve come to realize education is not just about teaching content, but changing mindsets and instilling a value in education.
How do you expect education to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
We definitely will be more virtual. We are seeing these changes right now with the COVID situation. What frightens me most is the fear we will move too far to the virtual side and lose the importance of the relationship in face-to-face instruction.
Why are you Baptist?
I grew up in a Baptist church. Baptists had influence in my learning early on. As I became independent, I tried other denominations and “nondenominations” and realized my belief system still aligned clearly with Baptist teachings.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
The “what” is easy. We have to find ways to remain relevant especially in the lives of college and post-college age adults. You see this divide in churches everywhere.
The “how” is much more difficult. I wish I had the answers for how to relate more effectively with this age group from a church standpoint.