Future of Teaching

This Center for Inquiry educator is Indianapolis Public Schools Teacher of the Year

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Alexandria Stewart, a middle school teacher at School 70, was named Indianapolis Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

In the auditorium of School 70 on Friday, hundreds of elementary and middle school students accomplished a Herculean challenge: They were quiet for more than 14 minutes.

In a hushed voice, music teacher Laura Bartolomeo led the students in their mission of surprising the Indianapolis Public Schools 2019 Teacher of the Year. Kids whispered. They wiggled. And they rose to their knees to peer out the window. But, mostly, they were silent until Bartolomeo released them.

“Let the cheering begin,” she said softly. And the room exploded in screaming and clapping.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Students at the Center for Inquiry at School 70 waited impatiently to surprise the teacher of the year.

At the center of the fanfare was Alexandria Stewart, a middle school teacher at the Center for Inquiry at School 70 who was chosen as the top teacher in the district. Over the next year, Stewart will represent teachers from across the district and share her teaching philosophy.

“Alex, the thing about you is that you see and you hear our students,” said Chris Collier, the principal at School 70. “The relationships that you have are above and beyond. And that’s what makes our students so successful.”

This is the fourth year in a row that a teacher from one of the Center for Inquiry magnet schools was chosen as district teacher of the year. Seats at the schools, which use the International Baccalaureate curriculum, are coveted by middle class and affluent families.

As teacher of the year, Collier said, Stewart will have a platform to advocate for issues that are important to her.

Stewart, who has been teaching for about 5 years, said that she has not yet chosen what issue she will focus on. But one topic that she said is important to her is the effect of childhood trauma on students.

“There is a lot on our plate when it comes to that,” she said. “We are not necessarily trained and qualified to help students the way that they need to be helped when they are struggling with those issues.”

Stewart volunteers with TeenWorks and Indy Urban Acres, organizations that are dedicated to serving high school students from low-income families. As a teacher at School 70, she helped develop the middle school program, creating class schedules, middle school expectations, and an advisory program.

Stewart said that she had not thought about becoming a teacher initially. But through volunteer work, she started building relationships with students. “I loved it, and I missed it when I wasn’t doing it,” she said.

Stewart, who was chosen from among 10 finalists, is also in the running for Indiana Teacher of the Year.

“This is an opportunity to cast a light on the committed and dedicated educators that we have across the district,” said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee.

Top teacher

Franklin educator is Tennessee’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year

Melissa Miller leads her students in a learning game at Franklin Elementary School in Franklin Special School District in Williamson County. Miller is Tennessee's 2018-19 Teacher of the Year.

A first-grade teacher in Franklin is Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Miller

Melissa Miller, who works at Franklin Elementary School, received the 2018-19 honor for excellence in the classroom Thursday evening during a banquet in Nashville.

A teacher for 19 years, she is National Board Certified, serves as a team leader and mentor at her school, and trains her colleagues on curriculum and technology in Franklin’s city school district in Williamson County, just south of Nashville. She will represent Tennessee in national competition and serve on several working groups with the state education department.

Miller was one of nine finalists statewide for the award, which has been presented to a Tennessee public school teacher most every year since 1960 as a way to promote respect and appreciation for the profession. The finalists were chosen based on scoring from a panel of educators; three regional winners were narrowed down following interviews.

In addition to Miller, who also won in Middle Tennessee, the state recognized Lori Farley, a media specialist at North City Elementary School in Athens City Schools, in East Tennessee. Michael Robinson, a high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in Germantown Municipal School District, was this year’s top teacher in West Tennessee.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen praised the finalists for leading their students to impressive academic gains and growth. She noted that “teachers are the single most important factor in improving students’ achievement.”

Last year’s statewide winner was Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher in Nashville who has since moved to a middle school in the same Franklin district as Miller.

You can learn more about Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year program here.


Have you thought about teaching? Colorado teachers union sells the profession in new videos

PHOTO: Colorado Education Association

There are a lot of factors contributing to a shortage of teachers in Colorado and around the nation. One of them — with potentially long-term consequences — is that far fewer people are enrolling in or graduating from teacher preparation programs. A recent poll found that more than half of respondents, citing low pay and lack of respect, would not want their children to become teachers.

Earlier this year, one middle school teacher told Chalkbeat the state should invest in public service announcements to promote the profession.

“We could use some resources in Colorado to highlight how attractive teaching is, for the intangibles,” said Mary Hulac, who teaches English in the Greeley-Evans district. “I tell my students every day, this is the best job.

“You learn every day as a teacher. I’m a language arts teacher. When we talk about themes, and I hear a story through another student’s perspective, it’s always exciting and new.”

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has brought some resources to help get that message out with a series of videos aimed at “up-and-coming professionals deciding on a career.” A spokesman declined to say how much the union was putting into the ad buy.

The theme of the ads is: “Change a life. Change the world.”

“Nowhere but in the education profession can a person have such a profound impact on the lives of students,” association President Amie Baca-Oehlert said in a press release. “We want to show that teaching is a wonderful and noble profession.”

As the union notes, “Opportunities to teach in Colorado are abundant.”

One of the ads features 2018 Colorado Teacher of the Year Christina Randle.

“Are you ready to be a positive role model for kids and have a direct impact on the future?” Randle asks.

Another features an education student who was inspired by her own teachers and a 20-year veteran talking about how much she loves her job.

How would you sell the teaching profession to someone considering their career options? Let us know at co.tips@chalkbeat.org.