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IPS Announces Teacher of the Year Winners

Robin Houdek from IPS Butler University Laboratory School 55 and Brandon Denning from Center for Inquiry School 84 have been recognized by Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) as the district’s Teachers of the Year.

The educators were honored in ceremonies at their respective schools during a surprise announcement made in front of administrators, staff and students.

Houdek represents the elementary school category (grades K-6) and Denning is from the secondary school category (grades 7-12). The pair were honored as the district’s best in effective teaching, excellent instruction, and outstanding accomplishments in the class.

Each IPS principal was invited to nominate the building’s top educator for consideration. The selection committee, consisting of a group of peers, reviewed each nominee’s portfolio, including their teaching philosophy, professional accomplishments and instructional practices.  

Houdek is a creative educator and youth advocate with over 16 years of experience in K-12 public schools in Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and Indianapolis. She works as the Atelierista at Butler Lab 55, a Reggio-inspired Pre-K through grade 8 school. In this role, Houdek works with teachers to integrate hands-on, material-rich experiences into the curricula that foster curiosity, joy and creativity.

She also facilitates professional development for teachers and preservice educators and leads community projects that cultivate partnerships between the school, families, businesses, professional artists, and other community institutions.

Houdek earned a master’s of art teaching from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a bachelor’s in fine arts from Indiana University’s School of Fine Arts. She is a graduate of North Central High School and IPS Shortridge Junior High. In addition, she attended the Key Learning Community, a former IPS magnet school based on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Houdek credits her foundational experience at the Key Learning Community with ultimately inspiring her to pursue a career in education and to keep students’ interests and perspectives central to her work.

Denning is a mathematics educator in the Middle Years Programme at Center for Inquiry School 84 (CFI 84). He has spent his career devoted to the applications of mathematics, social equity, the development of other teachers, and spreading positivity to make all students feel valued, safe and respected.

Denning served as a spokesperson for Proving What’s Possible, the district’s initiative to recruit and retain top-level talent in IPS. He has been voted Teacher of the Year for his building twice: in 2019 and 2023.

As a member of CFI 84’s School Equity Team, Denning helped develop an equity teacher reflection tool to help all staff members better identify inherent biases and gaps in equity in their classrooms.

Denning said his mission is to create positive, culturally responsive, and inspiring learning experiences so all students can reach their full potential.