Alumni Awards

Celebration of
Transformational Leaders

Launched in 2012, the Transformational Leader Award was one of the School’s signature awards to acknowledge early career alumni who had distinguished themselves as educators through their extraordinary work in urban schools as teachers, school leaders, and school counselors.

In 2022 the IU School of Education at IUPUI expanded the award criteria to highlight the contributions of seasoned alumni educators, school leaders, counselors, researchers, and early career alumni. The new award title and updated criteria are listed below:

The Transformational Alumni Award

Recipient personifies the best of the IU School of Education at IUPUI. The alumni recipient leads a life of excellence, advocacy, and service to empower youth and/or adult learners in urban schools or in support of urban schools.

Nominations are accepted from fellow alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the IU School of Education at IUPUI. The nominator is encouraged to provide all pertinent information to inform the selection committee. Nominations are due annually by April 1st.

The School of Educaton Alumni Awards are recognized at the IUPUI Alumni Leaders Dinner. Theevent is hosted to acknowledge the Maynard K. Hine Award recipients.

For more information about the IUPUI Alumni Leaders Dinner, go to Maynard K. Hine Award.

Erin Cassity Photo
Erin Cassity
M.S. in Education, 1994


Erin Cassity is a proud alumna of the IU School of Education at IUPUI (SoE).  She earned her Master of Science degree in Education in 1994. Erin was an employee of the University for 43 years. As Director of the Curriculum Resource Center, she worked passionately with SoE student organizations - Kappa Delta Pi and Education Student Advisory Council. Over the years, Erin interacted with thousands of students, educators and alumni, providing them with inspiration, academic support and classroom materials for their lesson plans.  

Erin joyfully led and participated in School and campus wide initiatives. She organized SoE student teams for Regatta from 2013-2018, 2021 and 2022, and served as SoE Scholarship Committee Co-chair circa 2009-2015. Erin helped hundreds of students obtain funds to complete their college education.  Erin consistently supported students with her time, ability, and financial resources. 

In 2015, Erin Cassity along with her colleague and friend Jackie Whitney established the Cassity Whitney Classroom Startup Legacy scholarship. The scholarship was envisioned to help graduating seniors in the School of Education with classroom start-up expenses; to help them create a culturally diverse and welcoming classroom reflecting their own teaching philosophies. Thanks to Erin and Jackie, the scholarship does what it was envisioned to do, additionally it creates a perpetual reminder of the School’s and IUPUI’s support for alumni endeavors.   

Erin Cassity has been a great supporter of the IU School of Education at IUPUI and has represented the School well throughout her career. Erin retired as the Career Consultant with the School of Education in 2022. 

Martha Johanson Photo

Martha Johanson


Martha Johanson is an alumnus of the IU School of Education at IUPUI (SoE).  She earned her Master of Science degree- Counseling/Counselor Education in 1995. Throughout her career, Martha has been a passionate disability and mental health consultant, working hard to develop the potential of the disabled and underserved. As a teacher, counselor, administrator and community leader, her understanding of this population's needs, practical focus, flexibility, energy, and empathy- have all been keys to her success. 

Martha has been a true professional throughout her career of teaching, educational administration, counseling, and disability consulting- always willing to spend the one-on-one time to have discussion with a colleague, students or client in need. She also spends considerable time and effort to thoroughly research the topics which she presents to professionals, parents and persons with disabilities. 

As a lifelong learner and pursuer of self-improvement, Martha constantly pursues new ways to strengthen her mission for those with special needs. The deeper knowledge and innovative techniques that she gained through her graduate work at IUPUI and the graduate degree in Rehabilitation Counseling that she received from University of Kentucky in May 2019 have given her a solid foundation and confidence to fulfill her mission to bring hope, self-worth and better lives for those with disabilities. She is not the student that keeps knowledge to herself or simply shares it with academic colleagues, but one who uses it to brighten the day of those who may be losing hope. 

Finally, Martha effectively balances her role as a mother of a special needs child with the energy needed to serve the greater disabilities communities. 

 Todd Hawks Image

Todd Hawks
IPS - 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 photo

Brandon Currie
IUPUI 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 IU School of Education at IUPUI.

Tommy Wells Photo

Tommy Wells
Eastwood 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, as of 2018, has been working towards his Doctor of Education in K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy at Vanderbilt University.

Erika Radford photo

Erika Radford
Skiles Test Elementary School - Principal
Urban Principalship Program, 2012


Erika Radford has called Lawrence Township home for the past fifteen years. She has 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 is a member of the Indiana Association of School Principals and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

She served as Principal at Skiles Test Elementary School for 7 years and is continuing her professional development at SPARK Learning Lab.

Natalie Stewart photo

Natalie Stewart
Harrison 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.

Mariam Shaheed Carson photo

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


Mariam Shaheed Carson was a member of the first cohort of the School’s Urban Principalship Program and went on to earn her master’s in educational leadership and building level administrator license in 2007. Ms. Carson served as principal of Snacks Crossing Elementary School in Pike Township until 2014, when she was the first educator from Indiana to receive an Education Entrepreneur Fellowship by the Mind Trust. She will use the $250,000 fellowship to launch a K-8 Spanish immersion charter school serving high poverty communities in Indianapolis.

Prior to this award, Ms. Carson was recognized for her work through a number of additional awards. In 2013, she was one of three school leaders to receive the United Way’s competitive Student Success Grant totaling $242,000 to implement innovative practices to support students and teachers at Snacks Crossing Elementary.

In 2006, she received a Science Education Fellowship from Purdue University and served as a People to People Delegate to South Africa that same year. She was also named a National Educator by the Milken Family Foundation in 2004.

Sherman Woodard

Sherman Woodard
M.S. Counseling and Counselor Education, 2000


Sherman Woodard currently serves in Wayne Township as the Director of Student Services at Ben Davis High School. In 2007, Mr. Woodard launched the Giant Kings program to facilitate the identity, academic, social, and career development of young African American males.

This program has helped develop a critical mass of African American male leaders and, in turn, created a positive impact on the entire school system.

April Williams photo

April Williams
B.S. Elementary Education, 2008


After earning her bachelor’s in elementary education from IUPUI, April Williams taught 4th and 5th grade at North Wayne Elementary in Wayne Township. She cultivated a habit of reading all the time in her students. As a result, over 85% of her students passed ISTEP, far exceeding achievement of other classes.

Ms. Williams is a member of the Young Leaders in Urban Education, a group of African American and minority teachers that shares best practices, develops curriculum, and mentors pre-service minority teachers.

Jake Allen photo

Jake Allen
Urban Principalship Program, 1999


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

As principal, Jake and his staff have implemented a classroom framework that maximizes instruction, keeps a clear focus on state standards, and places the learning and assessment of all students at the forefront of instructional practice.

Paul Hadley is the first school in the district to implement a 1:1 laptop program—providing a large number of students with their first access to a computer in their home environment. The administration team and all staff members have worked together diligently to foster a safe school environment and a culture of high expectations.

Ann Mennonno photo

Ann Mennonno
B.S. in Elementary Education, 1999


Ann Mennonno has been an educator for fifteen years. She is a member of many professional organizations including the National Council of Teachers of English, Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, and Indiana Teachers of Writing. Ann has presented at district, state, national, and international conferences in the areas of language arts and science. She is a district and state level science lead teacher. Ann serves as the president of the Hearts in Education Teacher Outreach program which takes groups of teachers to Honduras where they work in rural schools in the country.

Ann traveled to China in summer of 2013 as a part of the First Elementary International Conference. Two Chinese schools, one in Beijing and the other in Cheng Du, replicated her classroom in their buildings. Ann was able to model inquiry-based teaching and the integration of subject areas.

She has been named the Indianapolis Public School Teacher of the Year two times—in 2004 and 2013 and received the Hubbard Life-Changing Teacher award in 2015.

Rocco (Rocky) Valadez photo

Rocco (Rocky) Valadez
Urban Principalship Program, 2008


Rocky Valadez started his career as an art teacher at Lawrence Central High School in 2001. His leadership potential was tapped in 2005 as Mr. Valadez assumed department chair duties. He then decided to pursue a more active role in educational leadership through IUPUI’s Urban Principal Program, successfully completing the program in the summer of 2008. Soon after he was named assistant principal at Fall Creek Valley Middle School in Lawrence Township.

After three years at Fall Creek Valley, Rocky became the principal of the freshman school at Lawrence North High School. Rocky then accepted the position as principal of 

Brandon Warren photo

Brandon Warren
B.S. in Elementary Education, 2009


Brandon Warren accepted his first teaching position at Chapel Glen Elementary School in the spring of 2009, three months prior to graduating from IUPUI. Since then, Brandon has demonstrated initiative and dedication to the profession by participating in the Leaders for Urban Education 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 Association of Teacher Educators.

Due to Brandon's success with effectively integrating culturally relevant curriculum in his fourth grade classroom and raising student achievement, fellow teachers often consult with him when problem solving difficult situations. For the past 7 years, Brandon has served as a 5th grade teacher at Phalen Leadership Academies.