May 30, 2018

Indianapolis Public Schools today announced its Top 10 finalists for the 2019 Teacher of the Year. The district conducts the Teacher of the Year program to recognize the district’s top educators. The top 10 candidates come with inspiring stories that motivate current and future teachers seeking to advance in this noble profession.

Each school is offered the opportunity to nominate and elect top teachers in their building. A special selection committee uses a rigorous process to determine the top 10 districtwide candidates – ending with the selection of the IPS Teacher of the Year.

Meet this year’s Top 10 finalists below (in alphabetical, not rank order):

1. Chris Boylan – George Washington High School

Chris has been a life skills teacher for 17 years – with 16 of those years at George Washington. He also serves as the unified track and field coach and president of the George Washington High School Dollars for Scholars Chapter. During his career, Chris has been an advocate for families of students with special needs – presenting to groups locally, regionally and nationally on a range of topics to benefit his students. A product of IPS himself, Chris attended district schools from Grades K-12 and graduated from Northwest High School.

“I have always held the view that the greatest learning is done by doing. … In my life skills program, community learning is at the core of what I do. This is why I create and take as many opportunities to gain a variety of experiences. With these experiences, we work to develop social, vocational and emotional skills to make each student as independent as possible.”

2. Erik Catellier – Center for Inquiry School 2

Erik (or Mr. Cat, as his students call him) is a Grade 6-8 language arts teacher at CFI 2. It’s a position he’s held since 2012. Erik began his teaching career at Arsenal Technical High School in 2008. Diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade, Erik believes this learning disability has allowed him to be a successful teacher – helping him excel in breaking down information in new and interesting ways, building relationships with students and differentiating classroom activities to appeal to a variety of learners and skill levels.

“I am still in love with the work of being a teacher. Every year, I come to my classroom with new ideas and grand plans. Some work, some don’t, but I continue to improve and grow in my craft as a teacher, trying never to forget that frustrated youngster I used to be.”

3. Jordan Fath – Thomas Gregg Neighborhood School

Jordan Fath has served as a special education teacher for Grades 2-3 at Thomas Gregg Neighborhood School since 2014. Education, however, wasn’t her initial career choice. Jordan received her bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management from Purdue University, but later went back to school to receive her master’s in teaching from Marian University. Jordan believes teaching is her life’s calling and says her desire to do work that matters led her to education. A member of the IPS Diversity Cadre and the Thomas Gregg School Culture and Community Engagement Committee, Jordan is committed to educating reluctant and marginalized students.

“My most significant contribution to education is my ability to relate to students who need to be encouraged and invested in most. My classroom is a landing pad for students who feel they have nowhere else to go.”

4. Laura Gladish – Newcomer Program

Laura has been a teacher for nine years. She currently teaches music at the IPS Newcomer Program. She started and built the music program at the school this year. Laura works with newly arrived immigrant and refugee students, many of whom suffer from trauma and have had a severely interrupted formal education. She believes in the therapeutic power of music.

“Those first smiles of success, even when students haven’t uttered their first word to me, are among my greatest accomplishments this year!”

5. Rachel Head – Center for Inquiry School 84

Rachel Head is a first-grade teacher at CFI 84. She has held this position for the last four years. Rachel supports students in many ways – both in and out of the classroom, including serving as co-director of the CFI 84 musical, leader of the Theater Club, High Ability coordinator, and member of the School Equity and School Leadership teams. She also values an education that includes student voices, questions and authentic discoveries.

“The greatest thing I can teach my students is that they are worthy and that someone believes in and cares about them. Content knowledge, honestly, is secondary to lifelong skills of confidence, compassion, inquiry, problem-solving and joy-finding.”

6. Jamie Rickard – Broad Ripple High School

Jamie has spent 15 years teaching – all of them in IPS. He currently teaches history and government at Broad Ripple. He plans and uses innovative and research-based strategies that engage students in meaningful tasks. He takes great joy in being a part of the school community in many capacities: coaching athletics, serving on committees, attending school functions, even playing in the band.

“I support the encouragement of students using and amplifying their voices on important issues through social media and other channels. Listening, taking note and acting on student attitudes, values and beliefs have always been important to the work of teachers.”

7. Paige Sjoerdsma – IPS/Butler University Laboratory School 60

Paige has been a teacher for five years – all of them in IPS. She currently teaches English language arts in Grades 6-7 at IPS/Butler Lab. Paige is devoted to creating equitable education for all students – that includes fighting systemic racism.

“Until we are able to be open and honest about advantages and disadvantages due to race and be willing to adjust and share privileges and limitations that come with race, I do not believe things will get much better in our public education system as a whole.”

8. Michael Smith – Arlington High School

Michael Smith has served the students of Indianapolis Public Schools for the past two years, teaching secondary English language arts to freshmen at Arlington. Michael has made it his life’s goal to ensure all students – no matter their socio-economic background – have access to a quality education through his work in the classroom and Teach for America. He often designs classroom lessons around students’ interests.

“My work is directly tied to who my students are and how they are moving through the world. In my classroom, on the frontlines, I can’t change how my students experience life outside of school, but I can embrace who they are and where they are in their learning to help them grow to become critical thinkers and lifelong learners.”

9. Alexandria Stewart – Center for Inquiry School 70

Alexandria has been a teacher for nearly five years. She currently teaches middle school at CFI 70. She helped design and implement a new middle school program. Stewart believes learning is social and best stimulated when students question, experiment, bounce ideas off one another and become confident taking risks.

“Teaching is one of the most challenging professions with little monetary reward. The rewards come in other ways like inspiring a student to find a passion, showing a child how to develop a healthy relationship or be a kind person.”

10. Eric Vanveelen – SUPER School 19

Eric has been teaching for nearly three years – all of them at IPS. Here’s currently a second-grade teacher at SUPER School 19. He aims to teach the “whole student,” going beyond their academic needs and taking into account the emotional, mental and physical needs of the students.

“I take an inpidualized approach to each student. I am led by the quote, ‘Life should be a series of nudges, not just a few big pushes.’ I find where each student’s current skills and deficits may be and help them make the next small nudge to a higher level.”

The Teacher of the Year will be announced Friday, June 1, 2018.