Mike Manke1

“Mr. Manke = pure dedication. He's the first teacher to arrive and the last teacher to leave. You'll see him at all kinds of MS science events and working with kids after school. After the academic clubs are complete, Mr. Manke works at many of the athletics events held at school for both the middle and the high school. However, it is not just the time he puts in. Mr. Manke makes connections with his students. He is able to connect to kids that many others before him could not do. To top it all off, his students learn a TON about science from him”! Clearly this parent who nominated Mike Manke had a child who valued the time spent in his class! Manke, of Machesney Park, has 39 years of teaching experience. He’s in his 13th year at Rockford Christian Middle School, where he teaches 7th grade physical science. When he started teaching there, the school did not offer any science extracurriculars. Now there are middle and high school robotics teams, middle and high school science olympiad teams, a rocketry club and a high school competitive team. These teams compete at local, state, national, and international competitions, under Manke’s guidance. He is the science department chair, director of the Rockford Christian Science Olympiad Invitation; Coordinator for Science Extracurricular Robotics Teams, Science Olympiad Teams, Rocketry Team and Science Club and much more. Stephen Postma, chief Technologist and Innovation Leader with Sysmex America Inc. in Mundelein, has worked with Manke for 17 years to help guide the development, creation and execution of innovative educational programs. He pointed out that Manke led students to many achievements, such as the Middle School Innovation program’s second place finish in the WORLD in 2013. Also in 2013, he helped a team write and obtain a U.S. Patent for an invention. But of course, his primary focus is on his students and their growth. He realizes that each student is unique in how they process and learn, so he varies his class presentations and incorporates lab work, homework and projects into his classes in addition to tests. Lab time is often his best time to check in with each student to see how they are doing, academically and personally. “It gives me another opportunity to let them know that I care not only about if they did their work, but about them as a person.” Sometimes personal issues must be addressed with the whole class. “I never want to face my students again with tears in my eyes, telling them they will never see a classmate again because of a senseless act of violence.” But by Manke’s sharing his grief, his students could see how important they are to him. They felt safe to join him as they started to heal together. Manke strives to let each student know how unique and special they are. He is a lifelong learner, always searching for ways to teach and motivate more effectively. Principal Drew Popejoy commented, “Mike does an amazing job helping kids discover the amazing world of science.” And he loves it. Manke says, “With every new day, I look forward to watching my students marvel at the science of their world, from the Milky Way Galaxy with its trillion stars, to the effects of model rockets launched on Earth as they dream those secret dreams of reaching distant places. I am humbled at the privilege of teaching these youth. It is an honor to enable them to see the beauty of their world and everything beyond its great vastness.”