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Purdue Polytechnic teacher brews passion and purpose

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — March’s Golden Apple Award winner gets kids out of the classroom with life-changing field trips and helps students “brew” a business to pay for those experiences.

WISH-TV is Indiana’s education station, and every month, News 8 honors outstanding teachers with the Golden Apple Award. The Golden Apple Award comes with a trophy, a $500 school supply shopping spree at Teachers’ Treasures, and a special video featuring students and staff.

The March 2023 winner is Mr. Dustin Homan. He is an educator at Purdue Polytechnic High School North in Indianapolis, where all teachers are called ‘coaches.’

Coach Homan started teaching in the middle of the pandemic to help kids. Now, his students say his coaching is changing lives.

At Purdue Polytechnic High School North, it’s not the buildings or the walls that make the school, it’s the students. And for a lot of those students, it’s Coach Homan.

“Dustin Homan is an outstanding teacher. Because of the ways he cares about his students,” Ethan Mackinnon said as he read the nomination letter he sent WISH-TV.

Mackinnon is a senior, a student of Coach Homan, and also serves as his Teacher’s Assistant. 

“He has shaped my life and changed my life because of his leadership skills,” Mackinnon said. “He really will go the extra mile just to make sure kids are learning well. That’s why I nominated him — he is truly one of the greatest teachers/coaches that I have really ever had the pleasure of experiencing a classroom with.”

Mackinnon says Homan has taught him about education and how to be a leader.

“He has a way of teaching that really makes kids want to learn. And I think that is probably the biggest thing — in my opinion — on what makes a great teacher is, do they give kids the desire to want to learn?”

Other students say that’s exactly what Homan does.

“He is very devoted and passionate about his job,” Cornelius Adeola, a senior, said.

“He makes you feel special because you are special to him. That’s how he feels about all of his students,” Jayden Barney, a junior, added.

“I really discovered, ‘Wow this guy is a great guy, he is really teaching us — really helping us,’” Jack Langlois, a junior, said. “It’s almost like he tricked us into learning, in a weird way.”

Homan’s tricks? Teaching world geography, government, and agriculture, by getting kids out of the classroom almost every week.

“He definitely takes it out of the classroom,” Adeola said. “With field trips and all that, he made himself pretty well-known.”

He often takes students to local farms, the statehouse, and to businesses in Indianapolis.

“He tries to get us engaged and involved,” Langlois explained. “I think he discovered a lot of us aren’t going to do well if we are told to just sit down, take notes, write things down. So, he tries to get us out there — like when we went to Washington D.C.”

In February, Homan took students to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., immersing them in education, using real life.

“Him being able to show that to us and it being eye-opening was just so amazing,” Barney added.

Plus, the students paid for the trip with money from a Coffee Cart business Homan helped the kids build.

“We wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for him. If he wasn’t trying to motivate us, to find something we are passionate about and get it done, we wouldn’t have done it,” Langlois said.

With Homan’s help, the students built the school’s Coffee Cart. They learned the chemistry behind the bean, brewed a PPHS Blend, and made the cart into a profitable business.

People can order the PPHS-branded coffee and pick it up at the high school. The coffee is also available for delivery, but only in Broad Ripple.

“They did everything. From physically building the coffee cart to creating the snacks, and creating the coffee. They even made their own brew that will forever be a part of Purdue Polytechnic High School North,” Dr. Keeanna Warren, the school’s associate executive director, told News 8’s Hanna Mordoh.

Warren, like Ethan Mackinnon, nominated Homan for the WISH-TV Golden Apple Award.

“He just has a light that shines and you see it the moment he walks into the room. He is positive, he is warm, he is kind,” Warren said.

Warren also hired Homan, not too long ago.

“Coach Homan actually came into education at the height of the pandemic. When a lot of educators were choosing to exit education, he came in, because he really understood the need for more high-quality educators and he really had the desire to have an incredible impact on the lives of children,” Warren said.

“He came at the time that he was needed the most, and at a time when educators are constantly leaving the classroom, he made the choice to be there for students. Every day, he comes in and puts 100% into everything he does.”

Before teaching, Homan worked for Purdue Extension with the 4-H Youth Program. He’s always had a place in his heart for helping kids — that’s also why he uses the real world so much in his teaching. The coffee cart business is a great example of that.

“He truly has that knack — if you will — a God-given talent,” Principal Richard Benberry said.

Benberry has been in education for a while and says people would never know this is Homan’s second career.

“Twenty-two years in education and I have been around numerous teachers. For somebody, this early, to have the knack for teaching and have that love and passion for this, is something that I think is truly a gift,” Benberry said.

Homan also gives his time before and after school. He helps coach cross country, makes time for every student, and is also the dad of three young boys.

“I think it just says how much he cares, and how much he cares about this future generation, that he is willing to make sacrifices for himself and his family to give us a better chance,” Jack Langlois said.

So, back to the Golden Apple Award.

“When I heard he won this award, I was thrilled, I was excited he would finally be recognized for the incredible educator he is and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award,” Dr. Warren said.

So, along with Homan’s wife and three kids, WISH-TV’s Hanna Mordoh surprised Homan at school with the trophy and a video from his students and fellow staff.

“This is just my passion. I mean, it is an honor to be at this school, to show up, and to be able to do these things. I don’t do it for this, but this is amazing, and thank you to WISH-TV for doing this for our teachers. They need this,” Homan said as he held back tears.

After watching the video messages from his students, Homan went on to say, “Growing up for me, education was my path to my dreams and achieving that. And I come to work every day because I don’t want any of these kids to experience any kind of barriers to that pathway to education.”

“I want them to see I am a person who has struggles and dreams just like they do. I want them to see I go home to a family and we have fun together. So, when I come to school, that is what I want this to feel like. To feel like a family.”

When asked if he wanted to share any lessons with others, Homan said, “I just want to say this to all the other teachers out there: I know it has been hard, and your students care about you, but just be there for them. Show up. Do what you say you are going to do. That’s all that matters.”

Coach Homan is proof that showing young people you care can brew passion and purpose and fill your cup along the way.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click this link.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.