Dec. 11, 1925 – Nov. 14, 2017
Vashti C. “Vas” Mann, who along with her late sister, Esther Gardner, was among the first African-American teachers in the Buffalo schools, died Tuesday in her Buffalo home. She was 91.
Born in Buffalo, the fourth of seven children, the former Vashti Coleman attended School 75 and Hutchinson Central High School. She was a good student who wanted to be a teacher, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from Buffalo State Teachers College in 1943.
Mrs. Mann was among a half-dozen African-Americans in her graduating class who became teachers in Buffalo schools, according to her family. While there had been a few black teachers in the district prior to that, the hirings were significant at the time, because it had been years since the district had hired a black teacher, particularly that many, according to her Renee Gardner, her niece.
Mrs. Mann started teaching on Sept. 1, 1947 at School 32.
"She could be tough, but was also very fair," her niece said. "You knew even if she was getting down on you, she had a lot of affection for you. The kids loved her."
Her family said that “no child ever was in Mrs. Mann’s classroom and left without knowing how to read.”
Mrs. Mann was proud of that, but would also get frustrated. She felt many of her students would leave her class and regress, because they weren't getting the same attention, Gardner said.
"She had good discipline," her niece said. "Her classes were well run."
On Sept. 1., 1969, Mrs. Mann transferred to School 54 and remained there until her retirement in 1985 after teaching first- and second-graders for 38 years, according to school district records.
She was a parishioner of Mount Zion Church of God Holiness, where she was a longtime member of the Purity Club, Women’s Willing Workers and the choir. A whiz at math, Mrs. Mann also enjoyed crossword puzzles.
Her husband of 48 years, Willie L., died in 2000.
Survivors include a daughter, Reynise Mann Smith; two sisters, Ruth Coleman and Seolar Young; a brother, Ozias Coleman; three granddaughters and four great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at noon Saturday, Nov. 18 in Mount Zion Church of God Holiness, 32 Oakgrove Ave. at Hedley Place.