INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — This month our WISH-TV Golden Apple Award team sorted through dozens of nominations from students, parents, and school staff to find out next award winner. Our winning teacher is Mrs. Brandi Taziyah, art teacher at Indianapolis Public Schools 48 Louis B. Russell Elementary School.
Mrs. Taziyah stood out not just as a fantastic studio artist with a sharp eye for detail, but because she is a walking success story who, as she says, sees herself in her students. Her mother, Renee Smith, explained that Taziyah grew up in Indianapolis Public Schools and graduated from IPS as a 21st Century Scholar. It’s a state-funded scholarship program for bright young students committed to college. Students must sign up for it in 7th grade and remain committed to college until graduation. The payoff is a full tuition scholarship to an in-state school.
Her principal, Arthur Hinton, told us Mrs. Taziyah is an excellent voice to encourage students to reach for college.
“She’s chosen to stay,” Hinton said. “Somebody like her can really talk to students about the impact that this (scholarship) has on your life.”
Smith says Taziyah went to IUPUI’s Herron School of Art and decided her passion remained with her fellow IPS students, so she returned to teach art to elementary students. She is now married with four children of her own but cares for her “school babies” with a passion that knows no standard work hours.
“She could go teach anywhere but she wants to stay at IPS because that’s how she came up, through IPS, and that’s how she wants to give back to the community. What better way?” said Smith.
“The art is unbelievable. The things she gets kids to do,” said Kathleen Potter, a 3rd grade teacher at IPS 48 and a friend of Mrs. Taziyah’s. “She compliments kids. Even those who almost never get a compliment. She always has something wonderful to say.”
“She inspired me to like drawing,” said Rose Barnett, a 4th grader. “She’s happy to see us.”
Her coworkers explained Mrs. Taziyah isn’t an art therapist, but she uses art therapy to reach kids in a variety of situations.
“I’ve witnessed when we’ve had some kids not in the mood to be at school and shes pulled them in her room and by the time they come out they’re ready to go,” said James Williams, behavior adjustment facilitator at IPS 48.
When we surprised Mrs. Taziyah in-class with cameras rolling, her family in tow, and a huge check, she was overwhelmed.
“No, this is crazy,” said Mrs. Taziyah, eyes filling with tears, seeing the crowd entering her classroom. “I never win anything, I really don’t. And I work really hard!” she said to loud applause from her students.
Bailey Wood from Bailey & Wood Financial Group presented Mrs. Taziyah with a $500 check and thanked her for her hard work educating and loving students.
“I am them,” said Mrs. Taziyah, smiling at her students, “and in the fourth grade, we had a hard life. So I always knew that one day (another student ) was going to be like, a Brandi, and someone that needed my help. I just want to help kids.”
Watch the nomination video for Mrs. Brandi Taziyah below.
Congratulations to Mrs. Taziyah, February’s Golden Apple Winner!
To meet this school year’s other winning teachers, click here for their stories. To nominate a fantastic teacher in your life, tell us why they deserve next month’s Golden Apple Award.