Amy Wackerly stood near the back of the auditorium at Indianapolis Public School 2 as the sound of young voices singing Bruno Mars’s song “Count on Me” echoed through the hallways.
She had no idea she was about to be the center of attention at the school’s regular community meeting Friday morning.
As the kids sang the lyrics — “You can count on me like 1-2-3- I’ll be there” — in walked Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, flowers in hand: Wackerly was the district’s teacher of the year.
Kids sitting Indian-style on the floor and teachers who had been standing along all four walls whispering about what was coming exploded into cheers. About 400 people were packed into the auditorium.
As Wackerly made her way from the back of the room, she stopped, hugging her husband and two teenage daughters who had stepped into the room as part of the surprise.
“I am purely honored,” Wackerly said to the crowd. “I am surrounded by wonderful students, parents, teachers and administrators throughout the entire IPS district.”
School 2 is a Center for Inquiry magnet school, part of a network of three IPS schools that adapt the inquiry method of teaching science — asking students to consider a problem and experiment to try to solve it — to all subjects. Wackerly teaches third grade and has been at the school for 15 years. This isn’t the first time she’s been honored for her teaching, though. She was named School 2’s teacher of the year in 2002.
Cosette Beeler, 9, dressed in a white polo with long blonde hair and colorful braces, said her favorite part about Wackerly’s class is how she opens up during literature groups.
“I like how she reads to us and I like how she expresses her feelings,” Beeler said with a serious tone.
Her classmate, Metta Judkins, 9, is trying to get the most of her last few days with Wackerly. School ends on Tuesday.
“It’s really fun,” Judkins said. “She has a great sense of humor.”
Somehow, Judkins knows what she learned this year will matter to her in the future.
“A lot of the skills she teaches us are helpful in our lives,” Judkins said, giggling and twirling her hair with her finger.
To win the award, principals at each school nominate teachers of the year, who each create a portfolio of their work. A team selected by IPS then chooses the district’s teacher of the year.
Principal Andrea Hunley said Wackerly contributes a lot to the school and the education field, often training student teachers as well as teachers around the country and the world. Last summer, she showed teachers in China what inquiry teaching looks like.
But still, most of Wackerly’s joy comes from inside her classroom on North New Jersey Street.
“It’s an enthusiastic atmosphere,” she said. “Watching young minds inquire and work hard and discover is what brings me in every day.”