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IPS Names Finalists for 2025 IPS Teacher of the Year

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) unveils the six finalists for the 2025 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 peers, reviewed each nominee’s portfolio, including their teaching philosophy, professional accomplishments, and instructional practices.  

The finalists are:

Stephanie Pierce

Stephanie Pierce: George Washington High School

Stephanie Pierce has been a public school educator for about 12 years in both Arkansas and Indiana. She is certified in secondary English/Language Arts and has taught Grades 8-12, including honors and pre-AP classes within the Indianapolis area. Pierce teaches 11th-grade English and AP Language and Composition at George Washington High School, where she is also one of two lead teachers in the building. 

Raised in Springdale, Arkansas, she is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, earning her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts in English, and a Master of Arts in Teaching. She and her husband moved to Central Indiana in 2013.

“Ms. Pierce is well-respected among her peers and administration,” said Principal Stan Law. . She is a strong educator and works well with her peers. The most notable quality is that she goes above and beyond for all her students, holding them to high learning expectations, and supporting them in the process.”

Ashley Hogan: Emma Donnan Elementary School

Ashley Hogan

Ashley Hogan is a multilingual, sixth-year general education teacher at Emma Donnan Middle School. She graduated from Ball State University with dual Bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. She earned her Master’s in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University. 

Her inspiration to pursue an education career was inspired by her late grandmother, who taught for more than 25 years, and her father, a teacher and former school principal. Hogan strives to demonstrate to her students how they can overcome obstacles by sharing how she reached her goals, despite struggling in school with an IEP. 

She contributes to her students’ success through her fundamental beliefs in differentiated teaching and reflective teaching practices — promoting a more positive learning environment. 

Hogan said she will continue to go beyond the call of duty of a teacher in hopes of leaving an everlasting educational impression on her students and creating the next generation of exceptional learners from Indianapolis. 

Adelante Chief of Schools Matthew Rooney noted that over the past two years, Hogan has led her eighth-grade students to achieve what they didn’t think was possible. 

“As a proud teacher of color, she inspires our diverse population of students to be their best. And as a proud child of teachers, she carries the legacy of academic achievement wherever she goes. She is a consummate professional, an innovative leader, and Adelante Schools’ unanimous choice for IPS teacher of the year”

Linda Thomson: Shortridge High School

Linda Thomson

Linda Thomson is a Spanish teacher and World Languages Department lead at Shortridge

High School, an IB World school. She received her bachelor’s degree in Spanish education in 2012 from Ball State University. 

She currently teaches IB Spanish, Levels 3 and 4. She grew up learning both English and Spanish in a bilingual household, which inspired her to become a Spanish teacher and share her love for the language and culture with her students. 

Before coming to Shortridge, Thomson owned and operated a dance studio where she learned how to inspire students of all ages and levels to work together to achieve a common goal. 

While at Shortridge, she has coached the majorette dance team, led professional development sessions on educational technology in the classroom, and helped grow the world languages department.

“Linda is an engaging and empathetic teacher,” said Buffy Hoyt, assistant principal. “As an IB school, our world languages department is essential to our mission, so I believe Linda’s leadership and exceptional skill and enthusiasm for teaching and her subject matter make our whole school better.”

Antoinette Holmes: Step Ahead Academy

Antoinette Holmes

Antoinette Holmes has been teaching middle school English Language Arts at Step Ahead Academy since 2014. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University-Bloomington and two master’s degrees from Marian University: a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Master’s of Education with Building Administrative licensure. 

She serves as the head of the English department, is a mentor teacher, a building literacy lead, a Professional Learning Teacher Leader, and a data coach. Holmes previously served as the Evaluation Teacher Leader. 

One of her favorite roles is handling the school’s data, for which she earned the name, “The Data Queen.”

“Helping students find their worth and getting back on track is (my) WHY!” Holmes said.

Holmes is a firm believer that if teachers focus on building positive relationships with students, this will create positive outcomes. She also believes students learn best when they trust and respect their teachers.

“All of the students at Step Ahead respect and adore her along with the staff as well,” said Principal Angela Denman.” “She is always looking for ways to assist the administration and her colleagues to be the best version of themselves at all times.

Rita Long: Meredith Nicholson School 96

Rita Long

Rita Long received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Indiana University, Bloomington. She completed her student teaching at Francis Bellamy School 102, an IPS school; and Borestone Primary School in Stirling, Scotland. 

Long began her full-time teaching career in Indianapolis Public Schools in 1988 at the former Hazel Hart Hendricks School 37. In 1998, she moved to Brookside School 54 to teach kindergarten, then transferred to Meredith Nicholson School 96 in 1999 and taught kindergarten there for 15 years. 

In 2012, she earned her Master’s in Language Education, Second Language Acquisition from IUPUI, and began teaching English as a New Language in 2014 at Meredith Nicholson. 

Long has proudly taught in Indianapolis Public Schools for 35 years (her entire career), with 24 of those years at Meredith Nicholson. 

“Teaching is my life’s calling and I feel blessed to have helped so many students in her career,” she said. 

“Rita is not only a compassionate co-worker but a thoughtful and genuine teacher,” said Principal Lashonda Huff. “Rita has been the biggest support for other teachers and for all of the students. She always puts the students first and goes above and beyond to help! Rita is always willing to help classroom teachers and students! She works hard and puts kids first. She is always willing to help and you never hear her complain. She always makes sure to be in the location she is supposed to be in.”

Rebecca Hayden: Robert Lee Frost School 106

Rebecca Hayden

Rebecca Hayden has been a first-grade teacher at Robert Lee Frost School 106 for 22 years. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Purdue University in 1996, and a Master’s Degree in Language Education from Indiana University-Purdue University in 2006. 

At Robert Lee Frost, her primary responsibilities include planning and implementing engaging lessons for first-grade students of varying academic levels; communicating and meeting with parents; and collaborating with coworkers during professional learning community time and staff meetings. Hayden is a member of the Instructional Leadership Team and the Positive Discipline Team, in which she helps implement programs and helps make decisions for the school. 

Hayden is a member of the school’s Lighthouse Team, which works to teach the staff and students about the seven habits of highly effective people. The team also is working to help School 106 become an official Lighthouse School. Hayden sponsors many clubs and volunteers for family nights at school, including STEM Night, Literacy Night, and Math Night.

From AP Clark: “Mrs. Hayden is an excellent example of a master teacher,” said Jennifer Clark, assistant principal.  “She has worked at School 106 for 22 years and every year she works hard to provide rigorous and fun learning for her students. Mrs. Hayden is an amazing teacher, and we are extremely lucky that she teaches at School 106.”