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Congratulations to the winners of
the Hubbard
Life-Changing Teacher
and School Leadership Awards.

 

Winners were announced at a special invitation-only
dinner Wednesday evening at the Eiteljorg Museum. Family members,
colleagues, district leaders and IPS Board members were among the crowd celebrating
this year’s honorees.

 

Of the 10 teachers and four principals selected as
finalists, only four teachers and two principals were named winners by a
committee of distinguished educators with experience in urban
education. The winners received $25,000 each. Finalists
received $1,000 each.

 

During the event, Global Prep Academy Principal and Emcee
Mariama Carson announced the following winners:

 Teachers

 

  • Daphne
    Draa, Center for Inquiry School 2
  • Antonia
    Powell, Arlington Woods School 99
  • Marleen
    Signer, McFarland School
  • Stella Vandivier,
    Marion County Jail School

 

 

Principals

 

  • Julie
    Bakehorn, Arsenal Technical High School
  • Margi
    Higgs, Rousseau McClellan School 91

 

The awards ceremony was a celebration of the ways in
which teamIPS goes above and beyond to help students succeed.

 

Daphne Draa

Daphne Draa, visual art teacher at Center for Inquiry
2, has a passion for art that is infectious to students and parents.

“She makes art your favorite class,” said Elizabeth R.,
a seventh-grader. “If you were to ask any student in school, in middle school
especially, they 

Daphne Draa would say, ‘Art is my favorite subject. It’s the best part of
my day.’”

 

Parents recognize that Draa does even more than teach
art.

 

“She has the heart of a person of great social
justice and raw character, and she models that for our children,” said parent Judith
Cebula. “She helps them stand up for themselves and for one another. She helps
them think, not just about art, but what it means to be a citizen in our
world.”

 

“I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my students is resilience
and perseverance,” said Draa. “It gives me so much joy and so much hope for the
future that I can lead people and be almost like a disciple, and lead them
instead of in front or behind them.”

 

In 2004, Draa
also won the Unsung Heroes Award from the Lowell Milken Center for working with
student Elizabeth R. on a project about the woman who helped make the Indiana
Dunes a national park.

 

Antonia Powell

Arlington
Woods teacher Antonia Powell is another educator who is making a lasting impact
in her school and her community. She treats her students as if they are her own
and expects excellence from each of them.Antonia Powell

 

“She’s one
of the best,” said Daniel Kriech, the Project RESTORE co-founder at Arlington
Woods. “I’ve been in education for 36 years and I’ve been around a lot of
teachers in multiple schools, and she’s in my top five of all time in 36 years
of education.”

 

Ask anyone
and they will tell you that Antonia has a heart for helping others and she
always does it with a smile on her face. After losing her own son through
tragedy, she selflessly took in her three nieces who were removed from their
home and bound for foster care.

 

“I’m going
to step up and do what I need to do to make sure I’m a role model for them and
to provide the emotional and physical support that they need,” said Powell.

 

She put her
goals on hold to give them the opportunity to reach theirs.

 

“For her
to win an award like this, I think it’s amazing,” said Kyari Williams, Powell’s
niece. “It’s a chance to show her that she’s not just an average person. She’s
someone who’s made an impact on someone’s life, that’s helped people through
things. She’s a role model to them, a hero actually. I think she should know
that.”

 

 

Marleen Signer

McFarland
School teacher Marleen Signer might also be described as a hero by some of her
students. Others call her an angel.

 

“I’m thankful
to have her in my life because without her I don’t know where I’d be,” said student
Raquel P., as she fought back tears. “I told my sister that I’d prayed to God,
and God has answered my prayers. She’s an angel from God.”Marleen Signer

 

Signer,
who’s dedicated the last 39 years to students with special needs, moved Raquel
into her house when she needed a stable place to call home. Because of this
support, Raquel will be the first in her family to graduate from high school
next week!

 

“Her mom
didn’t see the value of school. (Raquel) wanted a different life than her
family,” said Signer. “She was constantly shuttled from her mom’s house to her
sister’s house. She didn’t have a place for herself, so she kind of ended up at
my house.”

 

At
McFarland, Signer teaches students the skills they need to be successful in the
real world, including how to get a job, ride a city bus or cross the street.

 

 

Stella Vandivier

Teaching in any setting comes with a unique set of
challenges. Marion County Jail teacher Stella Vandivier knows this,
perhaps, better than anyone. She instructs youths who were sentenced for
serious crimes – many involving bodily harm. These students are often dealing
with serious emotional and mental issues, as well as being years behind
academically.Stella Vandivier

 

“Even
though they have done something outrageous like that, 85 percent of them are
still sweet little children wanting to please and wanting to learn,” said Vandivier.

 

She admits
the job can be depressing at times, but she consistently digs deep to look for
the positive each day. She also encourages her students and staff to do the
same. Vandivier is focused on getting her students to grade level, while also
serving as their emotional support while behind bars.

 

“She gives
us hope that one day we can become someone and our schooling helps keep our
brains active,” wrote one unidentified student in a heartfelt letter. “IPS
needs Ms. Stella, and we appreciate her for everything she does.”

 

The Marion
County Sheriff’s Department Chaplain Sherry Proffitt confirms that sentiment.
“She really loves those kids and she cares.”

 

This year, for the first time, principals were
eligible to win a Hubbard Award.

 

Julie Bakehorn

Arsenal Tech Principal Julie Bakehorn was recognized
as a leader who has transformed her school by focusing on engaging lessons,
curriculum standards, small group instruction, attendance and classroom
procedures. Additionally, she always puts her students first.

 

“I think the role of a principal is to provide a safe
and secure and very nurturing environment for students to be the best they can
be, to be the most successful they can be,” said Bakehorn. Julie Bakehorn

 

She’s also served as a respected mentor to several
teachers, staff members and assistant principals, who are now running their own
schools.

 

“Some of the best advice she’s given me is to make sure that everything
I do is about the student,” said Louis B. Russell Jr. School 48 Principal Crishell
Sam, who served as Bakehorn’s assistant principal at Brookside School 54 for
two years. “She always asks the questions, ‘What if this was your son?’ ‘Would
it be okay if this was happening to your children?’”

 

Margi
Higgs

It’s only fitting that Rousseau McClellan School 91 Principal Margi
Higgs would receive a Hubbard Award as she relishes her final days before
retirement.

 Margi Higgs

Higgs has been in education for 43 years. Of her 17 years at Rousseau
McClellan, she’s been able to get the school back on track from a challenging
time. And she’s earned tremendous respect for what she’s done in the community.
 
 
“When you look around the school, you see parents that are happy,” said
Sarah Moore, kindergarten teacher. “Kids that are happy and teachers that are
happy. That’s what Margi has done for us.”

 

The appreciation that Higgs feels from the people she touches makes her
transition to retirement bitter-sweet.

 

“I consider them part of my family and part of my community,” said Higgs.
“To leave my family and community on a daily basis will be difficult.”

 

We wish Margi well as she moves on to her next adventure. And we welcome
you to join us in congratulating all of the winners on their accomplishments.