Al and Kathy Hubbard, Indianapolis philanthropists who have spent more than $200,000 honoring top teachers since 2013, are extending their Life-Changing Teacher Awards this year to principals and giving another $50,000 to the effort.
Since the awards inception in 2014, four Indianapolis Public Schools teachers per year were selected from among hundreds of nominations. Winning teachers received $25,000 each in honor of their career-long efforts to help and inspire students.
For the next round of awards, in addition to four more teacher winners, two IPS principals will be selected as Life-Changing Principal Award winners.
“This year, we want to add a whole new dimension—recognizing outstanding principals,” said Kathy Hubbard. “It takes a real visionary to retain and attract great teachers.”
Hubbard joined Indiana Pacers player and Broad Ripple High School graduate George Hill at the United Way in Indianapolis to announce the opening of the nomination period for this year’s award. The United Way administers the program. Nominations are due by Jan. 24 and can be made online at www.hubbardaward.org. Paper nomination forms are available through the public library. The award ceremony is in May.
The addition of principal awards is well-timed for IPS, which is just beginning a three-year push to empower principals with greater freedom to make decisions about staff, curriculum and more.
But the move toward increased independence for schools will put new pressure on principals to make good decisions that help schools succeed.
“Good leaders will attract the best teachers,” said IPS school board president Diane Arnold. “It is our goal as a district to get the right principals and the right teachers in schools and give those schools the autonomy to do what they need to do.”
The Hubbards said they were moved to honor IPS teachers after reading a newspaper column about an inspiring IPS teacher, Jamie Kalb, who helped turn around the life of one her most troubled students. She was the first winner.
The Hubbards then set out to find and honor more teachers with annual awards they have pledged to support financially for at least three years. Working with the United Way and their family foundation, they created a process to name 10 finalists, all of whom earn $1,000. Two principal finalists will also each receive $1,000 in addition to the winners.
In their first year, 231 IPS teachers were nominated for the award. This year, 151 teachers received nominations.
Hill, who has served as a spokesman for the awards from the start, said before he was a basketball star, he was a typical IPS student in need of the kind of guidance the award winners have been honored for.
“I was just a lonely kid growing up in project apartments,” he said. “I didn’t know what life had in store for me.”
In high school, he said, he fell behind in English and went to his teacher seeking a break. He hoped to work out a deal that would get him off the hook.
Instead, he got a mentor.
The teacher’s deal required Hill to meet up with her at a bagel shop over the summer to complete and go over assignments. Hill said their meetings boosted his learning and confidence as he munched on strawberry cream cheese bagels and sucked down orange juice.
“This is a teacher where it really it didn’t matter who I was. She never let up,” Hill said. “Take a moment and identify one of those teachers or principals in your life. Everyone can remember that one teacher who really shocked their mind and showed them they can be somebody.”
Chalkbeat Indiana is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.