By Martie Thompson
Ginger Manning is a long-time resident of Mandarin and well known by community members for her work with EF Homestay, the exchange program for international students. She is also a teacher at Crown Point Elementary School, where she has worked for more than 15 years. She said she used to teach first grade, but now enjoys teaching third grade because “the kids better understand my dry sense of humor.”
Born in New Jersey, Ginger’s family made its way down the East Coast before ending up in Florence, S.C. for her high school years. She went to Francis Marion University in Florence and earned her degree in English with a minor in business. She is married with three grown daughters: Emily, who is a teacher and lives outside of Seattle, Wash. with her husband and two year old son; Amanda, who is a pastry chef and lives in Orlando; and Olivia, who lives in San Diego while finishing her college degree online.
Q: How did you come to live in Jacksonville?
A: I worked for a mortgage company right out of college and the opportunity to move to Jacksonville came in 1984. I met my husband, Chris, here at a little bar called the Family Pub in 1988. We married later that same year in St. Joseph’s Historic Church and I was a stay at home mom for our three daughters, who all attended Mandarin schools, until they were grown and I started teaching at Crown Point.
Q: What do you like best about Crown Point Elementary?
A: My co-workers. I have made very close friends who have been with me through good times and sad. It is truly a family, especially during the loss of my mother recently. We have some teachers who have been there more than 20 years and also some new college graduates who have a very high work ethic and lots of great new ideas. I feel really good about the future of education.
Q: How did you get involved with EF Homestay?
A: Several of the teachers at Crown Point had hosted students and I heard about it. It never seemed like quite the right fit for us when the three girls were at home, but once we had more room, it appealed to me and I developed a passion for it. We have hosted seven students over the years. A lot of very nice people in this area open their homes to these students each year.
Q: Can you give some more details about EF Homestay?
A: All the students are high school age and all speak English. Their visit is short term; this year, approximately 150 students from Spain, France, Italy, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland will be in northeast Florida for about two to three weeks between June 26 and July 21. We are still looking for host families. The students are kept busy during the day, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and host families are just responsible for overnight and weekends. We say to just do whatever your family normally does during that time … errands, soccer practice. It’s all about improving the visiting students’ English conversation skills and you get to meet a student from another culture. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in hosting!
Q: What are your hobbies and favorite things to do in your spare time?
A: I’m an avid puzzler and reader. I’m currently working on a 500-piece puzzle of the Harry Potter world that is awful because all the pieces are tan. We also enjoy “music hopping” to listen to local bands in St. Augustine and Jacksonville. We love camping, especially at Hanna Park and Anastasia State Park, because they are convenient to the ocean, biking and restaurants. Finally, we love playing dominoes, especially on Friday nights with our camping friends.
[Editor’s Note: This interview was done in early March, before the effects of COVID 19. It seems reasonable, at press time, that there may be some changes to the EF Homestay summer exchange program dates. Email Ginger at email@example.com to stay up to date.]
Photo courtesy Ginger Manning