Nearly 35 years is a long time for anyone to be in one place.

Maryann Manning, who was recently given the Truman Pierce Award from the Alabama Association of Elementary School Administrators, has been teaching at UAB for 35 years.

Just think about the events of the world that have occurred during the past three-plus decades. We’ve had seven U.S. presidents. We’ve launched a space shuttle and decided to ground the fleet in favor of a new design.

Closer to home, UAB has gone from being the second-largest employer in the city of Birmingham with 6,000 workers in 1973 to being the largest employer in the state with some 20,000 workers today.

Maryann Manning, Ed.D., has been one of those employees, serving as a professor of education in the UAB School of Education while watching all of those events occur.

But she’s not quite ready to turn in her reading glasses just yet. “Why would I? I think I have the best job anyone could have,” she says.

Manning recently was awarded the Truman Pierce Award from the Alabama Association of Elementary School Administrators (AAESA). Her commitment to improving professional development instruction for teachers in the state led elementary principals to select Manning as the recipient of the annual award.

“It’s nice that they thought of me as someone who improves their schools,” Manning says. “It’s nice to feel the approval close to home from people you’ve known all these years.”

State getting better
Manning says she has seen improvement in reading and writing on the elementary school level in the state through the years. She says the key to the improvement – which is the same anywhere – is reading comprehension.

She credits Alabama’s investment in libraries and an increase in the number of books available to students as keys to the improvement. Another important factor, she says, is children are reading more at school and at home with their parents and siblings.

“I don’t think there’s a trick or a magic bullet to improving reading. We just have to have a citizenry that reads more,” she says. “It’s just the emphasis of all parents, all teachers and all schools to increase the amount of reading, and I mean quality literature.

“I don’t think Hooked on Phonics has really helped anybody, but real books have. If kids are birthed as readers on a good book, they’ll go on and be readers.”

Manning recommends giving children hardback board books as early as three or four months old – even if all they can do is chew on them. Parents also should make reading to their children at that young age an important activity in their child’s development.  

Busy lady
Manning has written or co-authored more than 10 books; some “were so long ago I can’t remember them,” she says. And she still keeps several writing projects going on at any given time.

She writes a monthly column for Teaching K8 magazine and writes a column for Childhood Education twice a year. She also is one of nine members on the International Reading Association (IRA) Board of Directors, and travels all over the world to present to and support teachers as they grapple with their own reading problems.

“When you go to other places and see many children sharing one book and dealing with no running water in some schools, you realize some of the educational problems in our country are not as great as we think they are,” she says.

Manning traveled recently to Hungary, Siberia and Romania. She’ll go to Berlin, Germany, with the IRA this year. “There are still some corners of the world I haven’t seen.”

And there’s still work to be done at UAB, she says. Manning, who was the inaugural recipient of the Ellen Gregg Ingalls/UAB National Alumni Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching in 2002, can’t wait to see what the future brings to her here on campus.

I just love the excellent students we have at UAB and the colleagues I work with, and I mean that sincerely,” she says. “I couldn’t work with a better group of human beings. I’ve been blessed with many good administrators. It’s a wonderful job where I get to do things I enjoy.”