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.
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.