INDIANAPOLIS – Members of the Mt. Vernon community came together in downtown Indianapolis for the Mt. Vernon Education Foundation’s Seventh Annual Black and Gold Gala on April 6 – raising more than $170,000 and handing out teacher and staff of the year awards.

With Rafael Sanchez as the host for the evening, nearly 350 guests gathered to show support for MVCSC and honor those who were nominated and the winners for Teacher of the Year and Staff of the Year – Kelsey Rusk and Tonya Brown.

Rusk is a first-grade teacher at Fortville Elementary and has been teaching first grade for six of her nine years at Fortville Elementary. In total, she has taught for 11 years.

Rusk said she was very surprised and humbled when she heard her name announced for the Teacher of the Year Award.

“I pride myself on building relationships with students, families and staff members,” said Rusk when asked what she believed helped her win the award. “I am in constant communication with my students’ families whether it’s a phone call home, email or handwritten note. I try to make learning fun with my loud chants, upbeat demeanor and tying what we are learning to my students and their interests. I pride myself in my classroom management with high expectations for all my students.”

The winner for Staff of the Year went to Tonya Brown, Behavior Tech at Mt. Comfort Elementary. Brown has been working as a behavior tech for the school for five years and said she was honored to be recognized by her colleagues at MVCSC.

“I was completely shocked to have won for the corporation because I work among so many talented people who want the best for the children in our schools,” Brown said.

Before landing the role as behavior tech, Brown said she has also worked different positions over her 22 years with MVCSC, once in the cafeteria, a janitor and as a special education classroom assistant.

With the Teacher and Staff of the Year Award was also the Ryan Fry Excellence in Education Award, a $2,500 check from MVEF donors Kevin and Jill Prefontaine, which was created in 2018 in memory of Jill’s brother, Ryan.

Rusk said she booked tickets to go see the Magic Kingdom at Disney World with her husband and daughter.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to make memories than experiencing Disney World through our daughter’s eyes,” Rusk said.

Brown is using some of the money for a personal vacation and some going towards the B.U.C.S. store, a positive behavior club to help students with social and emotional development.

Those nominated for teacher and staff of the year included Liz Jenkins, Mt. Comfort Elementary; Beth Thomas, Fortville Elementary; Abby Kern and Trudy Cole, McCordsville Elementary; Michelle Dunahee and Cathy Womack, Mt. Vernon Middle School; Laura Hannah and Kelly Fleming, Mt. Vernon High School; and Krista Weber and Tori Wisker, Mt. Vernon Administration Building.

Each nominee received a $500 check.

With the $170,000 raised from the evening’s festivities, the Mt. Vernon Education Board of Directors shared on their Facebook that those funds will go toward enhancing the learning experience for their approximately 4,700 students, supporting programs and initiatives.

“It is such an honor, blessing, and encouragement to me personally to be recognized by MCE and the corporation,” Brown said. “This whole event has been such a great experience for me and my family. I believe God has placed me in a job I love, with teachers and administrators that help me help our children succeed.”

 Winners and nominees gather on stage for the Mt. Vernon Education Foundation’s Seventh Annual Black and Gold Gala. Provided photo