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Five Questions with Ariana Adams  

IPS Teacher Reveals What It’s Like Growing up in a Family of Teachers 

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) recently asked Ariana Adams, a social studies teacher at the Step Ahead Academy at Emma Donnan Elementary and Middle School, what is really like growing up in a family of educators.

Adams is the daughter of Stephen Adams, who teaches ninth-grade social studies at Arsenal Technical High School (after stints at John Marshall, Shortridge, and Broad Ripple), while her mother, Rhonda Adams, is starting her career in IPS this year at Thrival Indy Academy after 31 years at Westfield High School. At Thrival, she teaches English/Language Arts for grades 9 and 11.

In a heartwarming display of generational passion for education, the youngest Adams finds herself living under the same roof with her parents. Every evening, as the sun dips below the horizon, their dinner table becomes a cherished hub of storytelling and shared experiences.

They exchange not just stories, but a deep-rooted sense of purpose and a commitment to shaping the minds of the next generation. The bond they share not only nurtures their own passion for teaching but also serves as a heartening reminder of the profound impact educators have on their students and the enduring legacy, they create within IPS.

Q – You went to Indiana University but didn’t focus on teaching. How did you change your mind?
A – When I was graduating from Lawrence Central High School (2014), education was not a field that looked promising. But after graduating from Indiana University (with a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs in 2018), I started my career in public affairs, but missed seeing a child learn something new and succeed – thanks to my parents. I talked through my worries with my parents, and I decided that I wanted to find the quickest way to become a teacher. I chose the Teachers of Tomorrow in 2020. It was hard to find a teaching position, but I knew that this was the right step for me. Eventually, I heard from the Step Ahead Academy, and everything just fell into place.

Q – What was it like to get the offer to teach?
A – The first thing I did was get in the car and drive to tell my parents in person. Luckily, it was a short drive because tears of joy started flowing quickly. Since they were enjoying their summers off from school, they were home, and I ran through the front door. My mom thought something was wrong, but I told them I got the job, and we all hugged it out and then got to work on helping me plan what I needed for the start of school. I was hired the Wednesday before professional development started, so it was a crazy whirlwind start to my teaching career, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Q – What drove you into the teaching profession?
A – From a young age, I saw how dedicated my parents were to their students and knew that I wanted to make that same impact. My parents often say they regret spending so much time with their students on extracurriculars than spending it with my sister and me, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I learned compassion and respect at an early age. I learned that teaching was hard, but always worth it at the end of the year when successes are celebrated. I saw how my dad gave his students tennis rackets and equipment. I saw students who had never played tennis in their lives, try something new and learn all of that from my dad. I saw how my dad waited until every student had been picked up after practice to make sure they got home safely. I saw students at Arlington play in state tournaments for tennis because they had learned from my dad. They didn’t have the private lessons, they didn’t have the new fancy facilities, but they had my dad.

Q – What did you learn from your mother, who has taught theater classes?
A – I saw my mom at home trying to cast a show and put every student in a part that she knew they would thrive in. I spent hours in the auditorium at Westfield watching my mom build these creative sets for her students to showcase their acting abilities.

And to me, that is so special because I saw that no matter the circumstances, every child should be given the support they need to succeed. The pride I feel for my parents and what they have accomplished over their careers is my guiding light to teaching.

Q – What would you tell your younger self about the future/any advice?
A – I would want to tell myself to celebrate the small successes. Each little step is a movement toward the end goal. Change doesn’t happen all at once; it takes hard work and dedication but it is very much worth it in the end.