The Archdiocese of Indianapolis Office of Catholic Schools has named Bishop Chatard Physics and Chemistry teacher Amanda Horan its 2023 Saint Theodora Excellence in Education Award recipient. The award will be formally presented to Mrs. Horan by Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Brian Disney at a BCHS all- school Mass on February 2, 2023.
The highest archdiocesan honor awarded to Catholic educators; the Saint Theodora Excellence in Education Award is chosen annually from a pool of candidates nominated by archdiocesan school principals. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis comprises 68 schools employing over 2,000 teachers.
“Through her continued commitment to serve our students, families, faculty and staff, Mrs. Horan lives out our mission daily,” BCHS Principal John Hasty said. “Her personal commitment to faith, continuous learning, leadership, and service profoundly impacts our students and staff, inside and outside the classroom. We are proud to see her earn this well-deserved and distinguished honor.”
Mrs. Horan’s journey into education began with what she saw as a calling from God, followed by a leap of faith.
Prior to becoming a teacher, Mrs. Horan was a process automation engineer at Eli Lilly. At her home parish of St. Monica, she volunteered as a lector.
A man who had heard her speak at Mass approached her one day and made a simple comment that changed her life. “You must be a teacher with a voice like that,” he said.
That exact thought had been tugging at her heart.
“When that man asked if I was a teacher, if felt as though God were speaking directly to me, pointing me toward who I was meant to be. Twelve years into my teaching career, I am more certain than ever that God created me to be a teacher,” she said.
The chemical engineering graduate from Purdue University returned to IUPUI to pursue a Master of Science in Secondary Science Education degree. In August 2011, BCHS welcomed Mrs. Horan to its science department.
Today, Mrs. Horan teaches some of the most challenging science courses that Bishop Chatard offers, including AP Chemistry. While her students include some of the ‘best and brightest,’ she also considers it her mission to find those students who may struggle and help them to see and reach their potential.
“One of the greatest compliments that I receive from students every year is that they did not know that they loved science until they took my class,” she said. “When my students found out that I was nominated for this award, they were my biggest champions, convinced that I certainly deserved this award. Their confidence in me meant the world to me.”
In her sixth year of teaching AP Chemistry, Mrs. Horan averages 18 students per class and has an AP exam pass rate of 89 percent.
In a recommendation letter supporting his colleague’s nomination for this award, BCHS Physics and Engineering teacher Gary Pritts said that “what really makes Amanda Horan the best candidate for this award is how she inspires her students.”
Mr. Pritts used a recent Gospel reading to illustrate his point. The parable talked about how God is like the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to seek out the single lost sheep and rejoices upon finding it. “That is how Amanda treats her students,” he said.
“She has a special gift for finding sophomores who are taking academic chemistry, inspiring them to see their own gifts, and encouraging them to come back to her as AP Chemistry students their senior year. She loves her high-achieving AP students who score fives on that exam, but she especially rejoices at the student who is taking their first AP science class with her, fights all year to end up with a B, and scores a three on the exam.”
Mrs. Horan sees it as her job to believe in the potential of each of her students until each of them can believe in it themselves. She said that she cultivates a classroom environment that nurtures students while expecting them to give their personal best, creating an environment where young people can grow in their science knowledge and mature as young Christian adults.
“My students may not all continue on to study science or work in a STEM field, but they will all need to be able to interpret data, think critically, treat others with dignity and respect, and collaborate with a variety of people,” she said.
Joe Hansen, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Personnel and Policy Support for the Office of Catholic Schools, oversaw the award process for the archdiocese. He explained that nominees for the award were narrowed to several finalists, and Mrs. Horan was chosen as the 2023 award recipient after a panel interview process.
“It was an honor to watch Mrs. Horan in action when I served at Bishop Chatard High School. She was named the Saint Theodora Excellence in Education Award winner because she represents the best in Catholic education and is a model of faith in action, professionalism, and high expectations,” Mr. Hansen said. “To be named the top educator in the entire Archdiocese of Indianapolis is a tribute to her dedication and love of students.”
Members of the school community are invited to join Dr. Disney, BCHS faculty and staff, and the 700-member student body at the all-school Mass February 2, 2023, at 9 a.m. to recognize and congratulate Mrs. Horan as the 2023 Saint Theodora Excellence in Education Award recipient.