When districtwide educators, administrators and community partners gather inside the Indiana Historical Society’s Eli Lilly Hall on Monday, May 20, it will be a time of celebration and high anticipation.

The IPS Teacher of the Year Recognition Ceremony & Dinner, an invitation-only event, will culminate with the reveal of the educator who will hold the title of 2020 Teacher of the Year for the district. It’s a position they will serve during the 2019-20 school year.

But there’s a twist to this year’s dinner.

For the first time in the history of the program, the winner will be revealed at the dinner. In year’s past, winners were surprised at their school by the district’s superintendent — with the dinner held the following school year.

IPS officials decided it was time for a change.

“Teacher of the Year is one of our most popular signature events and we wanted to bring more excitement to it,” said Kristian Little Stricklen, the district’s chief communications and engagement officer.


“There are a lot of changes that happen when waiting to honor our teachers until the next school year. By honoring them when we do the announcement, we ensure the teachers are still in the buildings that recommended them.”


Principals at 51 IPS schools nominated a diverse group of educators as building-level teachers of the year. Using portfolio submissions, including nomination letters and supporting materials, those teachers were narrowed down to the Top 10 finalists by a selection committee.

As the anticipation continues to build, here’s your chance to meet the Top 10 finalists. (Teachers are listed in alphabetical order.)


Andrew Bartolacci

Physical Education Teacher, Grades K-8

George W. Julian School 57


A graduate of Michigan State University, Bartolacci is the physical education teacher and athletic director at George Julian. He utilizes physical education to help students learn healthy habits and participate in a variety of sports, as well as improve their self-esteem.


One such exercise happens during his middle school archery unit, where he has students write down all of the negative names they have been called on a sheet of paper. Once complete, each student takes that paper and uses it as their target.


“The names and actions that students write down are unbelievable and open everyone in the classrooms eyes to what others in the room deal with on a daily basis,” said Bartolacci. … “Shooting those hurtful words and actions signifies that (they) are not and never will be any of those things. I tell them that they are in control, not those people or their words. I tell them that those words do not define who we are, and only we can define who we are. As they shoot, tears are often wept, and anger is expressed. Students are comfortable in their feelings and they are there for each other in these moments.”



Julie Busch

Teacher, Grade 3

William McKinley School 39


A graduate of Hanover College, Busch uses a growth mindset as a foundation for learning to ensure all students succeed in school.


She also incorporates team-building exercises that develop into peer relationships, which “allow students of different backgrounds and levels to feel confident and excited about measuring their own growth. They are provided a community that encourages taking risks in their learning, and in turn creates a sense of ownership that inspires them to share their findings with classmates,” said Busch. “They are using each other as resources to reach new strategies.”


According to Bush, the opportunity to see her students engage with one another in learning each day is “one of the most exhilarating feelings that I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have at William McKinley.”



Rhuperdia Clay

Special Education Teacher, Grades K-6

Brookside School 54


Destigmatizing the learning experience for students in the special education setting is what Clay, a graduate of IUPUI, strives for daily. It also increases their self-efficacy skills.


One lesson that defines her goals as teacher, a unit she includes in her curriculum each year, focuses on influential African-Americans.


“The purpose of this lesson plan is to engage students in opportunities to receive instruction through culturally relevant pedagogy using universal design for learning to account for strengths and deficits of participants,” said Clay. … “By creating developmentally appropriate and differentiated lesson plans, barriers to obtainment will decrease and students are able to self-monitor progress.”



Ethan Hoffman

Math Teacher, Grades 9-11

Newcomer Program


For Hoffman, math isn’t just about numbers. He spends a good portion of the year teaching students about numerous topics in mathematics and the ways that they may be applied to real-world situations.


Of the topics they study, Hoffman’s favorite unit to teach focuses on linear functions “and the way they can model countless situations that we encounter in everyday life,” said the graduate of Michigan Technological University.


But Hoffman isn’t teaching just any group of students. The Newcomer Program serves immigrants and refugees who are new to the United States — many of whom are just beginning to learn English.


“Through mathematics, my students are able to see the incredible progress that they can make through a steady and consistent effort in English language learning,” he said. “As they learn about slope and rate of change, they are quickly able to see their potential annual growth if they commit to learning a set number of words each day or each week.”



Brain Hoover

Music Teacher, Grades K-8

Center for Inquiry School 2


Brian Hoover’s music room is one of CFI 2 Principal Andrea Hunley’s favorites places visit. It’s also a favorite for his students, but not just because of the music they get to learn and make.


Hoover uses the universal language of music to empower student voice. He believes that when students get to choose what they learn and how they will express their understanding, they take ownership of their education and beautiful things happen.


“Given the license to choose, students become strongly engaged in their learning, and it is usually not long before they latch onto an idea and begin collaborating with peers,” said Hoover, a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington.


Bethany Jackson

Social Studies Teacher, Grade 7

Henry W. Longfellow Medial/STEM Middle School 28


The Citadel graduate loves to travel, and as a social studies teacher she’s fascinated with exploring a new land and experiencing all elements of its culture.


“This passion is something that I look to pass along to every student who enters my door. However, working with students who come from low-income families, travel is not always possible,” said Jackson.


Looking to combat that challenge, Jackson is always seeking ways to bring these new lands to her students without having them ever leave the city. Using money received from the College Football Foundation Big Ten Grant, Jackson gives students the gift of travel through virtual reality (VR).


“VR systems (are) able to transport students to another world, one most would never have the opportunity to visit on their own,” said Jackson.



Sabbath McKiernan-Allen

Teacher, Grade 3

Thomas Gregg Neighborhood School


McKiernan-Allen attended IPS schools as a student and considers herself lucky to have had that experience. As an IPS student, she said teachers gave her a sense of belonging — something she works to instill in her own pupils.


She wants her scholars to not only become lifelong learners, but to also understand how they fit in the community and the world.


“One way I ensure that education transcends the classroom is by giving students whys. Every lesson I try to explain to the students what we are doing, why we are doing it, and why it is important for them to have this particular skill not only in school but in their wider lives,” said McKiernan-Allen, a graduate of Samford University. “This helps the students realize that learning does not stop at school.”


She also helps students make connections between learning in school and learning in the wider community.


“My beliefs about teaching are to listen more than I speak, to watch more than I do, and to learn more than I teach,” said McKiernan-Allen. “Teaching should be guided, but the majority of the work should be done by students.”



Allison Powell

Teacher, Grade 4

Center for Inquiry School 70


Powell, a graduate of Purdue University, understands that education cannot remain stagnant — that it requires evolution. It’s one of the aspects that she prides herself on.


“Curriculum is never set in stone. It needs to continue to evolve as our students, school and our world changes,” said Powell. “I continue to reflect on and develop my teaching methods and curriculum — keeping expectations high, connections present, and the child at the center. I believe that our school and my classroom have a caring and respectful culture because our units contain learning that promotes empathy, collaboration and diversity.”




Lori Schneider

Teacher, Developmental Pre-K

Anna Brochhausen School 88


As an educator serving preschoolers who are challenged developmentally and in other areas, Schneider creates units that give her students time to access their education in the least-restrictive environment possible.


“Ensuring the education of my students transcends the classroom is imperative as the students I serve are challenged with delayed development in speech/language, social/emotional skills, cognitive and physical skills,” said Schneider, a graduate of Indiana State University. “Capitalizing on all opportunities ensures that the gaps close so that they have equitable access to their education.”


To accomplish this, she has designed quarterly Parent and Preschooler Fellowship Workshops, which extend to family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as siblings, in an attempt to extend support for our young students.


“The workshops are content-specific. Attention is given to introducing parents to ways to support learning at home and in the community,” said Schneider.



Christina Shaul

Teacher, Grades 5 and 6

Theodore Potter School 74


As a teacher in a Spanish Immersion school, Shaul works to create units and lessons that are challenging but achievable. She believes that relevant learning and active engagement are essential and ignites thinking on the part of her students.


“My content lessons blend student talents and interests that also stimulate student engagement,” said Shaul, a Ball State University graduate.


She has implemented numerous strategies to increase student achievement such as, differentiated instruction, guided reading, reading strategies, co-teaching, active learning and interdisciplinary teaching.


“I incorporate social studies into my reading units, so students have a better understanding and can make connections,” said Shaul. “I am a strong believer in promoting student engagement and incorporate this by having students work with their peers, connect to the real world, promote student choice, work with technology, utilize anchor charts, and graphic organizers.”