Everyday Heroes: Miss Mandy makes a difference

Mandee Bish (left) helps 4th graders Kalea and Jose with their math.

Mandee Bish is making a big splash with students and staff at Sitton Elementary.

Miss Mandee, as her students know her, is a special education teacher at the school.

A couple of years ago she introduced a new inclusion program to Sitton, allowing kids who would usually spend all day in a special education classroom the opportunity to spend part of their time in more typical classrooms, and learn from other kids.

The program, Mandee said, helps kids learn social skills, and also allows her classroom to feel like a haven for some of the students.

“Students come here to do their small groups,” Mandee said. “They might come here if they’re having a hard time and need a separate space for a while.”

The best part about that space may be Mandee herself. Students we spoke to were anxious to say nice things about her.

Kalea Cross, a fourth grader, called Mandee, “Nice and sweet.”

Her classmate Jose Zozaya added, “It’s fun to work with her. Cause she has work that’s fun for us.”

Adults at the school are also quick to praise Mandee.

“She brings a great deal of joy and passion to school every day,” Sitton Principal Dana Nerenberg said. “No matter if she has a sniffle, or whatever the situation may be, she always brings 110 percent to our students every day.”

As it is for many teachers, that devotion also means Mandee spends her own money on her students.

“She bought a soccer ball for me,” Jose said. “She ordered it.”

Mandee said small gestures like that can have a huge impact on a kid.

“I feel like there’s no better way to spend your day than to make each day the best possible day for kids,” Mandee said.

And she’s a volunteer

Mandee also spends a fair amount of time volunteering in her community.

Her friend, Nicole Staudinger, told us about Mandee’s devotion to nonprofits, like Portland Fruit Tree Project and Girls on the Run.

“During that recent cold snap, Mandee spent all night at a warming shelter in the community,” Nicole said. “She stayed there from 2 a.m. through 8 a.m. to make sure everyone was safe.”

Mandee added: “I felt that with the snow days and with the luxury that that was for teachers that I owed it to the community to try and give back.”

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