Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is unveiling the six finalists for the 2024 IPS Teacher of the Year Award. These educators represent the district’s best in effective teaching, excellent instruction, and outstanding accomplishments in the classroom.
There will be two IPS Teacher of the Year winners — one representing the elementary school category (Grades K–6) and the other representing the secondary school category (Grades 7–12). Winners will be announced in May.
To select the district’s top teachers, each IPS principal was invited to nominate their 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.
The finalists are:
Emily Fisher, Jonathan Jennings School 109
Emily Fisher is a proud educator who serves as the resource room teacher at Jonathan Jennings School 109. She is a passionate advocate for accessibility, equity and community partnership.
Fisher graduated from Indiana University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in special education. She completed her student teaching in the Chicago Public Schools system. She then began her career as an educator with the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C., where she taught for six years. After deciding she wanted to live closer to family, Fisher, a native of Cincinnati, moved to Indianapolis in 2020.
She went on to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in cultural competencies from the University of Iowa in 2021. Emily continued learning through a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2022, studying disability and identity through Wayne State University.
Fisher enjoys watching her students grow into eager and empowered lifelong learners as they grow their academic skills.
Antoinette Holmes, Step Ahead Academy
Antoinette Holmes has been teaching middle school English Language Arts at Step Ahead Academy since 2014. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University-Bloomington. She holds two master’s degrees from Marian University: one is in teaching and the other is a master’s of education.
Holmes has worn many hats over the years at Step Ahead Academy, serving as the head of the English Department, mentor teacher, and building literacy lead. She has had other teacher leadership roles throughout the district during her career, including evaluation teacher leader and acting building coach, spending time mentoring and helping both experienced and first-year teachers.
Holmes’ pride and joy consist of handling the school’s data, for which she earned the name, “The Data Queen.”
Even though she dreams of leading her own program, she is passionate about Step Ahead Academy because she truly believes in the mission and vision of its alternative education program.
“Helping students find their worth and getting back on track is my WHY!,” said Holmes, who notes that she is a firm believer that if we focus on building positive relationships with our students, then we will have positive outcomes. She also believes students learn best when they trust and respect their teachers.
Christy White, Center for Inquiry School 2
Christy White is a veteran IPS teacher with 23 years of experience in elementary education. She has educated students from several different schools within the district and currently serves the students and families at Center for Inquiry School 2 (CFI 2).
White graduated from Purdue University in 2000 with a degree in elementary
education that included a reading minor and a kindergarten endorsement. She then continued her education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), earning a master’s degree in language education with a focus on reading instruction.
White also completed the Urban Principal Program at IUPUI in 2010 to obtain an Indiana building level administrator license. She is a true lifelong learner, as she has also completed many workshops and trainings over the years to continue to grow her knowledge of best practices in education.
White is married to Andy and is the mother of Kate and Abby. Both daughters
attended CFI 2. Kate attended Herron High School and will attend Indiana University this fall. Abby will attend Herron High School this fall.
Brandon Denning, Center for Inquiry School 84
Brandon 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 the Indianapolis Public Schools system. He was previously voted Teacher of the Year for his building in 2019 and again in 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.
Ella Hereth, Harshman Middle School
Ella Hereth is an award-winning math teacher who is passionate about helping all students see themselves as mathematicians, bringing mathematics to life for her students, and helping them visualize and conceptualize math ideas.
She has worked tirelessly to make sure that students of all backgrounds feel comfortable in advanced math classes like eighth-grade Algebra, especially underrepresented minority groups and girls. She is a nationally recognized leader in mathematics education as a national board-certified teacher, a Desmos Fellow, and a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
As a public school graduate, a public school parent, and a public school teacher, Hereth is a devoted advocate for a strong and vibrant public school system and for teachers themselves. She continually leverages her experience at a state and national level to support IPS students, families and educators.
Robin Houdek, IPS | Butler University Laboratory School 55
Robin Houdek is a creative educator and youth advocate with over 16 years of experience in K–12 public schools in Chicago; Portland, Ore.; and Indianapolis. She works as the Atelierista at IPS | Butler University Laboratory School 55, a Reggio inspired Pre-K–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, Houdek 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.