Social and emotional wellness in schools is now a national issue, and today Indianapolis Public Schools picked a mental health advocate as Teacher of the Year.
Superintendent Lewis Ferebee surprised middle school teacher Alexandria Stewart at The Center for Inquiry School 70 during her math class Friday morning. She was then taken to the gymnasium for a celebration with students, teachers and district leadership.
Stewart has been a teacher for nearly five years and started at CFI in 2016. She is an advocate for training teachers to help students with mental health issues.
“Childhood trauma and how it’s becoming a mental health concern,” Stewart said. “I think there’s a lot on our plate when it comes to that and were not necessarily trained and qualified to help students the way that they need to be helped when they’re struggling with those issues.”
Stewart’s family learned the news on Thursday and were invited to the school to take part in the surprise. Stewart’s cousin, Jesi Friedly, 27, was there when Stewart learned she in the top 10.
“She came in and she goes, 'Guys don’t get too excited, but I am in the top 10 for Teacher for the Year,'” Friedly said. “Of course we were pumped and she goes, ‘Stop, stop I’m not going to win, so you need to calm yourselves,’ but we couldn’t. We were so excited for her.”
Stewart also volunteers with TeenWorks and Indy Urban Acres, which prepare high school students from low-income families for college and jobs.
To select the district’s top teacher, each IPS principal was invited to nominate their building’s top educator for consideration. The selection committee reviewed each nominee’s portfolio, which included the candidate’s teaching philosophy, professional accomplishments, and instructional practices.
Stewart is now in the running to be Teacher of the Year for the state of Indiana.