“The need for imagination, as a sense of truth, and as a feeling of responsibility – these are the three forces which are the very nerve of education.”

Rudolf Steiner

For driven educators in Indiana, this nerve is a muscle that flutters, flits, and flexes within any classroom that they happen upon, indoors or otherwise. The Education Champion Award strives to recognize these individuals who devote their time, expertise, and focus to supporting Indiana youth and championing education. Those who receive this honor are nominated by community members and are awarded $1,000 to use towards a project or program that will help their students. While we eagerly anticipate announcing the 2019 Champion, we reflect on all of the incredible educators we’ve honored so far.

Megan Thomas || 2018 Education Champion

Megan is a Social Worker at Cold Spring School in Indianapolis whose work with children extends beyond academics. Her deep-seated passion for youth development and genuine care of the students she sees made Megan a clear standout. Upon receiving the award, she invested the $1,000 into the creation of a sensory room. This room is designed to help kids work through their high energy or behavior issues with engaging, hands-on activities. Having a designated space for students to get one-on-one attention, calm anxieties, and get wiggles out is Megan’s way of keeping kids out of trouble and on track in the classroom.

Cassie Brooks || 2017 Education Champion

Cassie is a Health and Physical Education Teacher at Brownsburg Middle Schools, where she began her career in 2000. Though there was tough competition in 2017, Cassie was selected based on her commitment to engaging all students in health and wellness, regardless of their athletic ability. Cassie used the $1,000 award to launch a program that helps students create “grab n’ go” meals aimed at increasing access and reducing the stigma associated with food insecurity.

Rebecca Pfaffenberger || 2016 Education Champion

Rebecca, or Ms. P as she is affectionately called by her students, is a middle school math teacher at Rousseau McClellan Montessori School #91. The 2016 judges unanimously voted for Rebecca due to her dedication to bringing teamwork into focus so that each student can achieve success and experience education in and out of the classroom. Rebecca used the $1,000 award to offset the cost of field trips to Camp Tecumseh for her students to grow together and individually as they develop self-confidence, communication, and leadership skills.

Dustin Ecker || 2015 Education Champion

Dustin is a fourth-grade teacher at Grassy Creek Elementary School and was an easy choice for the committee to select as the 2015 Education Champion. Dustin’s creative, engaging approach to teaching and passion for stirring the excitement of science in the hearts of students shines through his work. With the $1,000 award, Dustin created an early Friday morning Science Club where nearly 30 4th grade students bounce, whirl, and reach and roll to science terms and reading comprehension exercises.

Aster Bekele || 2014 Education Champion

Aster is the Founder and Executive Director of the Felege Hiywot Center in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis. Aster’s unique life experiences lead her from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to the United States, a degree in chemistry and a 27-year career at Eli Lilly & Co., to founding a youth-led farm that helps feed the community. She used the $1,000 award to enhance programming at Felege Hiywot to further immerse students in their gardening skills, awareness of nature, commitment to environmental preservation, and ability to make nutritious food a reality.

Patrick Jones || 2013 Education Champion

Patrick was our very first Education Champion! School on Wheels presented this honor to Patrick for his tenacious academic ingenuity as Principal of Tindley Accelerated Schools. With the $1,000 award, he infused life into the Robotics Club at Tindley, and helped empower both teachers and students to tinker with new designs and functions. Patrick now serves as Senior Director of School Incubation for The Mind Trust, where his ingenuity continues to thrive as he supports the launch of high-quality schools in Indianapolis, and the development of local school leaders.

Passionate, engaging educators make the greatest impact in the lives of students with more barriers than most. Our 2019 Education Champion judges are currently reviewing the applications of amazing Indiana youth workers with at least five years of direct impact in service of K-12 kids. Stay tuned for the announcement April 18, 2019!