Building Better Teachers

One of these 10 finalists will be Indianapolis Public Schools Teacher of the Year

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
Ten Indianapolis Public Schools teachers were named finalists for district teacher of the year.

Indianapolis Public Schools named 10 finalists for the 2018 Teacher of the Year award.

The finalists come from elementary and high schools across the district. The newest educator among the candidates has been teaching for four years, while the most experienced has taught for more than thirty years.

The winning teacher, who will be announced Monday, will be a candidate for Indiana Teacher of the Year. Micah Nelson, a teacher at Center for Inquiry at School 2, was named IPS Teacher of the Year in 2016.

It’s one of two prestigious recognitions for IPS teachers this week: The winners of the Hubbard Life-Changing Teacher Awards, who will receive $25,000 each, will be named at a ceremony today. In fact, Genevieve McLeish-Petty, who teaches English at Northwest Community High School, is a finalist for both awards.

“These teachers embody leadership and dedication to the classroom,” said Deputy Superintendent Wanda Legrand in a statement.  “We are grateful for their passion for teaching and a desire to make a difference in our IPS students.”

Here are the finalists:

Megan Hayes
Fifth-grade teacher at School 99 with seven years teaching experience.

Theresa Mandery
Third-grade teacher at School 54 with 18 years teaching experience.

David Baldock
Kindergarten teacher at Center for Inquiry School 2 with four years teaching experience.

Kathleen Rauth
Media specialist at Center for Inquiry School 27 with 30 years teaching experience.

Julie Beaty
Fourth-grade teacher at School 34 with 13 years teaching experience.

Suzanne Dennis
Fifth-grade teacher at School 96 with 32 years teaching experience.

Genevieve McLeish-Petty
English teacher at Northwest Community High School with 17 years teaching experience.

Melissa Mullins
First-grade teacher at School 58 with 16 years teaching experience.

Carrie Reiberg
Theater teacher at Shortridge High School with 14 years teaching experience.

Melissa Scherle Collins
Second-grade teacher at School 14 with 13 years teaching experience.

Update (June 1, 2017): This story has been updated because the district rescheduled the teacher of the year announcement to Monday.

race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.

Half-priced homes

Detroit teachers and school employees are about to get a major perk: Discount houses

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is announcing an educator discount that will allow employees of all Detroit schools to buy houses from the Land Bank at 50 percent off.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is getting ready this morning to announce a major effort to lure teachers and other school employees to the city of Detroit: Offering them half-priced homes.

According to a press release that’s expected to be released at an event this morning, the mayor plans to announce that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter or parochial schools — will now get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

“Teachers and educators are vital to the city’s future,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the release. “It’s critical to give our school employees, from teachers to custodial staff, the opportunity to live in the communities they teach in.”

If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city.

For city schools, the discounts give administrators another perk to offer prospective employees. District and charter schools in Detroit face severe teacher shortages that have created large class sizes and put many children in classrooms without fully qualified teachers.

Detroit’s new schools superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has said he’s determined to make sure the hundreds of teacher vacancies that affected city schools last year are addressed by the start of classes in September.

In the press release, he’s quoted praising the discount program. “There is an opportunity and need to provide innovative solutions to recruit and retain teachers to work with our children in Detroit.”

The Detroit Land Bank Authority Educator Discount Program will be announced at an event scheduled for 10:45 this morning in front of a Land Bank house in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood.

The Land Bank currently auctions three homes per day through its website, with bidding starting at $1,000.