A Coon Rapids elementary school has a new principal who hopes to pay forward his gift of a great education.
Principal Nate Manaen officially started at Mississippi Elementary School Aug. 10.
“Mississippi (Elementary) feels like coming home in the sense that there is an incredible sense of family and community,” Manaen said. “Mississippi seems to be a place where staff are incredibly committed to their students and families.”
A Minnesota native Manaen completed his undergraduate degree at Wheaton College in Illinois and eventually went on to earn his master’s degree in educational leadership at Harvard University.
His first job as a teacher was in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he also earned a master’s degree in curriculum and assessment from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
“I had done a lot of winters and wanted to try something a little bit warmer,” Manaen said.
He taught third grade for three years before returning to Minneapolis to teach for two more years.
After that he pursued his master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Upon completing his degree, Manaen went to Chicago where he worked in multiple roles including six years as principal of Ravenswood Elementary School.
Manaen and his family returned to Minnesota in 2019. At that point he worked as a principal of Hiawatha Leadership academy in Minneapolis.
Manaen is the son of a Nepalese immigrant. When he was a junior in high school, Manaen’s family moved to Kathmandu, Nepal where he had a chance to meet a part of his family who still lived there.
“What I discovered was that these wonderful, loving, caring, thoughtful, skilled people who work incredibly hard would never have the same opportunities that I had virtue of being in the U.S. and getting a fantastic education,” Manaen said.
He said that in the U.S. a powerful education can transform an individual’s life and the lives of their families by providing opportunities they otherwise may not have. Manaen started working in education because he wanted to pay that gift forward, he said.
Manaen said he looks forward to building relationships with families, students and staff at Mississippi Elementary.
“That’s always fun for me as a principal, and getting to know this school and how to best support it,” Manaen said. “I’m really looking forward to welcoming students back into the building.”
Manaen said he spent the first three weeks in the district time planning how students will return to school during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I do think we have a very solid plan in place,” Manaen said. “I think the biggest thing there is just making sure as we navigate the safety accommodations we’re putting into place, not losing sight of what matters most – which is powerful learning experiences for kids and meaningful relationships with adults in our building and with each other.”
I feel very grateful and honored to be here serving this community,” Manaen said. “We exist to serve students and families. I think we have a long history, and tradition of doing that and I look forward to being a part of that now.”