Traci Manuel is a 10th Grade Advanced English II teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a child, Manuel faced many academic challenges that brought her back full circle to the classroom to ensure she unlocked every student's brilliance. Through her design of a district-level leadership course and curriculum, directing of the Advancement Via Individual Determination Program (AVID), creation of an annual summer reading service-learning project in conjunction with the Middle Years Programme – International Baccalaureate, designing of the college-career trip for minority girls, leading the Women of Power School-Service Organization, she has witnessed the brilliance unlocked for many students.
Manuel’s fierceness, dedication, and unique teaching methods, inside and outside of the classroom, have always caused her to be a motivator and champion for all children. Her unconventional path to teaching shows her that the difference starts in the classroom. This teaching path started for her as a full-time graduate student where she began studying the effects of the achievement gap on African American students in the Ann Arbor Public School District located in Michigan. This study propelled her to see if there were any parallels with her hometown of Tulsa and after further research, she saw alarming connections which eventually brought her back home. Upon returning home, she started as a long-term substitute, teacher assistant, parent facilitator, and ultimately a classroom teacher.
Her motivation to never give up is attributed to her teaching village and today in her English classroom, she pours that same strength into her students. She is now teaching at the school where she was told by a counselor her senior year that “she had no options.” These experiences have given her the urgency to help average and below-average seniors gear up for college by partnering with community groups to ensure young people have the resources and tools to make college an option. Manuel shows students that life has two roads, and she took the one less traveled, which has made all the difference.
Manuel earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR, and plans to complete her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction at Eastern Michigan University in 2024.