Transformational Educator Award

Celebration of
transformational leaders

Launched in 2012, the Celebration ofTransformational Leaders event is one of theSchool’s signature events that annually honors andcelebrates early career alumni who havedistinguished themselves as educators through theirextraordinary work in urban schools as teachers,school leaders, and school counselors. Up to three award recipients are honored each year and recipients receive a $1,000 cash award to support their work. The annual event also features a nationally-recognized speaker who offers a unique perspective about education and social justice issues in urban contexts. Past speaks include Tavis Smiley, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Claudio Sanchez.

2017-2018 Recipients

Todd Hawks

Todd HawksIPS - Therapeutic Programs Coordinator

Todd Hawks was appointed as coordinator of therapeutic programs for Indianapolis Public Schools in 2017. Prior to this, he served as the Founding Principal of Tindley Genesis Academy, a music-focused accelerated elementary. In nine years with Tindley Accelerated Schools, Todd also served as the Choral Director, the network’s Director of Music and Founding Principal of Tindley Renaissance Academy. Mr. Hawks, in 2012, was named the Tindley Teacher of the Year.

Brandon Currie

Brandon CurrieIUPUI Men’s Jaguar Tennis - Head Coach

Brandon Currie completed a Doctorate at IUPUI in Urban Education Studies in Fall of 2015. Brandon Currie was named Summit League Coach of the Year in 2015, as he directed the IUPUI Men’s Jaguar Tennis team to five straight Summit League Tournament appearances. Dr. Currie is the owner of the West Indy Racquet Club. He will publish his first book, titled “Deuce Point” which focuses on mental toughness on and off the tennis course. Dr. Currie currently teaches an IUPUI counseling course while also conducting research for the IUPUI School of Education.

Tommy Wells

Tommy WellsEastwood Middle School - Counselor

Tommy Wells currently calls Eastwood Middle School in Washington Township home. Tommy Wells notes that his biggest contribution this year is co-leading Cultural Responsiveness training at his building. Mr. Wells completed his M.S.Ed. in Counseling/Counselor Education from IUPUI’s School of Education in 2013, and before then in 2011, earned B.A. in Psychology and a B. M. in Vocal Performance from Northwestern University. Always eager to pursue the next level of education, Mr. Wells is currently working toward his Doctor of Education in K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy at Vanderbilt University.

2015-2016 Recipients

Erika Radford

Erika RadfordSkiles Test Elementary School - Principal
Urban Principalship Program, 2012

Has called Lawrence Township home for the past fifteen years. Erika Radford earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education with a reading endorsement from Ball State University in 2001. She began her career as a fourth grade teacher at Harrison Hill Elementary School in Lawrence Township. She taught first and second grade and co-taught in a multiage setting. Ms. Radford became a certified reading recovery teacher and was an instructional coach with an emphasis on Inquiry Based Learning. Her administrative career began in 2011 as she became the Assistant Principal at Skiles Test STEM Elementary School.

Under her leadership, Skiles Test was confirmed to be a STEM Certified School by the State of Indiana. The school received a grant from Roche and the American Heart Association after creating a teaching garden and serving students over 1,250 pounds of freshly grown produce from a student tended garden. Ms. Radford completed her graduate work through the Urban Principalship Program at IUPUI in 2012. She a member of the Indiana Association of School Principals and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

She is currently in her fourth year serving as Principal at Skiles Test Elementary School and believes in guiding her students towards their success, and giving them the tools they need to achieve their dreams.

Natalie Stewart

Natalie StewartHarrison Hill Elementary School - Principal
Urban Principalship Program, 2012

A passionate educator who has spent her career in education serving Lawrence Township. Natalie Stewart completed her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at IUPUI. She began at Harrison Hill Elementary School and has nine years of classroom experience, teaching first, second and third grade. After leaving the classroom, Ms. Stewart studied the Project Approach/Project Based Learning and became an instructional coach for five years. In that role, she worked with students and teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Ms. Stewart completed the Urban Principalship Master’s Program at IUPUI. She then began her career in administration at Sunnyside Elementary as an Assistant Principal. The following year Ms. Stewart returned to Harrison Hill Elementary School, as Principal and has continued into her fourth year.

In 2014 Harrison Hill was granted a Student Success Grant from the United Way for $436,000. This grant, now in its second year, has transformed the school into a community school with wrap around services, after school, evening and summer programming for students. The school currently has a B rating from the Indiana Department of Education.

2014 Recipients

Mariam Shaheed Carson

Mariam Shaheed CarsonM.S. Educational Leadership and
Urban Principalship Program, 2007

Mariam Shaheed Carson was a member ofthe first cohort of the School’s UrbanPrincipalship Program and went on to earnher master’s in educational leadership andbuilding level administrator license in 2007.Ms. Carson served as principal of SnacksCrossing Elementary School in Pike Townshipuntil 2014, when she was the first educatorfrom Indiana to receive an EducationEntrepreneur Fellowship by the Mind Trust.She will use the $250,000 fellowship to launcha K-8 Spanish immersion charter schoolserving high poverty communities inIndianapolis.


Prior to this award, Ms. Carsonwas recognized for her work through anumber of additional awards. In 2013, shewas one of three school leaders to receive theUnited Way’s competitive Student SuccessGrant totaling $242,000 to implementinnovative practices to support students andteachers at Snacks Crossing Elementary.

In2006, she received a Science Education Fellowship from Purdue University andserved as a People to People Delegate toSouth Africa that same year. She was alsonamed a National Educator by the MilkenFamily Foundation in 2004.

Sherman Woodard

Sherman WoodardM.S. Counseling and Counselor Education, 2000

Sherman Woodard currently serves in WayneTownship as the Director of Student Servicesat Ben Davis High School. In 2007, Mr.Woodard launched the Giant Kings programto facilitate the identity, academic, social, andcareer development of young AfricanAmerican males.

This program has helpeddevelop a critical mass of African Americanmale leaders and, in turn, created a positiveimpact on the entire school system.  Mr.Woodard is currently working on his doctoratein IUPUI’s Urban Education Studies program.

April Williams

April WilliamsB.S. Elementary Education, 2008

After earning her bachelor’s in elementaryeducation from IUPUI, April Williams taught4th and 5th grade at North Wayne Elementaryin Wayne Township. She cultivated a habit ofreading all the time in her students. As aresult, over 85% of her students passedISTEP, far exceeding achievement of otherclasses. Ms. Williams is a member of theYoung Leaders in Urban Education, a groupof African American and minority teachers thatshares best practices, develops curriculum,and mentors pre-service minority teachers.

She currently teaches 3rd grade at Phalen Leadership Academy.

2013 Recipients

Jake Allen

Jake AllenUrban Principalship Program, 1999

Jake Allen currently serves as principal of Paul Hadley Middle School.After a brief professional career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, hecompleted the Transition to Teaching program in 2003 and beganteaching in the Mooresville Schools system then completed the UrbanPrincipalship Program at IUPUI in 2009.

As principal, Jake and his staffhave implemented a classroom framework that maximizes instruction,keeps a clear focus on state standards, and places the learning andassessment of all students at the forefront of instructional practice. PaulHadley is the first school in the district to implement a 1:1 laptopprogramproviding a large number of students with their first access toa computer in their home environment. The administration team and allstaff members have worked together diligently to foster a safe schoolenvironment and a culture of high expectations.

Ann Mennonno

Ann MennonnoB.S. in Elementary Education, 1999

Ann Mennonno has been an educator for fifteen years.  She is amember of many professional organizations including the NationalCouncil of Teachers of English, Hoosier Association of ScienceTeachers, and Indiana Teachers of Writing. Ann has presented atdistrict, state, national, and international conferences in the areas oflanguage arts and science. She is a district and state level science leadteacher.  Ann serves as the president of the Hearts in Education TeacherOutreach program which takes groups of teachers to Honduras wherethey work in rural schools in the country.

Ann traveled to China this pastsummer as a part of the First Elementary International Conference. TwoChinese schools, one in Beijing and the other in Cheng Du, replicatedher classroom in their buildings.  Ann was able to model inquiry basedteaching and the integration of subject areas. She has been named theIndianapolis Public School Teacher of the Year two timesin 2004 and2013 and received the Hubbard Life-Changing Teacher award in 2015.

2012 Recipients

Rocco (Rocky) Valadez

Rocco (Rocky) ValadezUrban Principalship Program, 2008

Rocky Valadez started his career as an art teacher at LawrenceCentral High School in 2001. His leadership potential was tappedin 2005 as Mr. Valadez assumed department chair duties. He thendecided to pursue a more active role in educational leadershipthrough IUPUIs Urban Principal Program, successfullycompleting the program in the summer of 2008. Soon after he wasnamed assistant principal at Fall Creek Valley Middle School inLawrence Township.

After three years at Fall Creek Valley, Rockybecame the principal of the freshman school at Lawrence NorthHigh School. This past summer, Rocky was recommended andapproved as principal of Lawrence Central High School.  

Brandon Warren

Brandon WarrenB.S. in Elementary Education, 2009

Brandon Warren accepted his first teaching position at Chapel GlenElementary School in the spring of 2009, three months prior to graduatingfrom IUPUI. Since then, Brandon has demonstrated initiative anddedication to the profession by participating in the Leaders for UrbanEducation group sponsored by the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers.He has presented about this work at local and national conferences,including the National Council of Teachers of English and the Associationof Teacher Educators.  

Due to Brandons success with effectivelyintegrating culturally relevant curriculum in his fourth grade classroom andraising student achievement, fellow teachers often consult with him whenproblem solving difficult situations.

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