“The evening the award was announced was one I will never forget,” Daphne Draa, an art teacher at IPS Center for Inquiry School 2, remembered. And how could she forget it? After all, she had just been handed a prize check for $25,000 because her students found her to be such a positive influence in their lives that they nominated her to win the 2016 Hubbard Life-Changing Educator Award. That’s not something you see every day.
For countless students, Draa is more than a teacher. She is a mentor who teaches her students the resilience to “fail fabulously” and how to move their creative thinking across all subject areas. She strives to instill in her students how art provokes change and allows her students the opportunity to advocate for what they really care about. One of her students concluded, “She deserves this award more than anyone I know.”
Parent Judith Cebula couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. “Thanks to this teacher, my daughter Elizabeth takes risks, sets goals and believes that her voice matters,” Cebula said. And Elizabeth herself was endlessly grateful for Draa’s mentorship, both academically and emotionally. She recalls a specific project she worked on with Draa, and the amount of personal time the teacher invested to help her. The project, on the woman who helped make the Indiana Dunes a national park, went on to win the Unsung Heroes Award from the Lowell Milken Center, but as Elizabeth said, “What was even more important was the great student-teacher bond we formed.”
Another student, Michelle, is now a teacher in IPS, and she attributes that to the incredible support she has received from Draa since being a 4th grader in her classroom. Draa helped her find her love for teaching and supported her in each step of achieving her professional goals.
While recognition is certainly a perk, it was never a driving factor in Draa’s career choice. “It was a calling,” she said. “I consider my ability to teach and build relationships with young people my greatest gift. It is as mysterious and unexplainable as Van Gogh's brush strokes or Michael Jordan's dunks. While I cannot explain it, I cherish and nurture my gift daily.”
And on the evening of the 2016 Hubbard Life-Changing Educator Awards, as her loyal supporters banded together to honor her, in true Ms. Draa fashion, she only thought of them. “Sitting around my table were a few of the most important people in my life: my mom, my husband, three students and a very supportive parent of one of the students. As the video rolled and my name danced across the stage, I was overcome with pride, not for myself, but for the people at my table,” Draa said. “I thought of the amazing things each one has and will accomplish, and I was filled with gratitude to be part of their journey. The night was also bittersweet; my dad – my loudest and most faithful cheerleader – passed weeks before the announcement. As I accepted the award, my heart filled with the lesson of love that is his legacy.”
Do you have a life-changing IPS educator in your life? Nominate them for a 2017 Hubbard Life-Changing Educator Award today at hubbardaward.org!