Robert Manipole, Spanish Teacher at West Genesee High School

educator of the month
Photo provided by Robert Manipole

1. What is your education background and what are you currently teaching?

Spanish has been one of the loves of my life since I’ve been going to school. My high school Spanish teacher, Señora McLaud, really had an impact on me. She always said I was really great at Spanish, but would be a lot better if I was more disciplined. She suggested I go into the military to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif. I didn’t think much of it then, so after graduating, I went to Cortland State and majored in physical education. Joining the service was always in the back of my mind, so I took Señora McLaud’s advice and went into the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. I was lucky to be in the officer’s core. I was going to school full time learning Spanish. Each period, I had a teacher from a different Spanish-speaking country. That’s where I truly fell in love with the language, people, cultures, etc. After the military, I went to Le Moyne College and majored in Spanish and minored in elementary education. In 2000, I started teaching Self Contained Bilingual Education at Seymour Elementary School in the Syracuse City School District. In 2004, I started my current position as the Spanish teacher at West Genesee High School.

2. You also have your Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership. How has your administrative experience been thus far?

While I was in the military, I found direction and it changed my life forever. Being in certain situations where leadership was necessary, I learned that I had all of the qualities to become a leader. It came easy to me. When teaching, I always thought about being in some sort of leadership role, but I didn’t want to leave the classroom environment. I took a sabbatical to complete the LEADS program at Le Moyne College. When I did my internship as the 10th grade principal at West Genesee High School, it was during COVID, and I got to see the different hats you wear as a principal. During my internship, I noticed I was having less of an impact on students individually because I was no longer in the classroom. I found myself more detached from students and that was unsettling for me. Right now, my path is right here with my students. I feel I can be more of a leader in my classroom than as an administrator. I’m one of the building union leaders, so I still have a leadership role.

3. What lessons have you learned about education during the pandemic?

One of the biggest things I’ve learned, and am still learning, is the impact the pandemic has had on the students’ social and emotional needs. It’s the first and foremost thing on my mind every day. There are additional qualities that make up a good teacher today because the social and emotional needs of students are all over the place. The stresses and emotions of the students are manifesting themselves in many different ways. It’s our job to be the level to all of them. It’s not easy, but my stance is if not me then who? It’s the same approach I take with administration. People would always ask me why I want to become an administrator and my answer would be because if I want to see change, then I am the one who has to take initiative.

 4. What advice could you give new educators in your field (foreign language)?

My biggest advice comes from something I learned from Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx. To be a teacher, you have to be selfless and want to be a part of something bigger than yourself. No matter what you do, you should have the ability to love and be loved. I have been fortunate to have learned this in my upbringing, and I am continuously growing in this role that I believe I was called to do.

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