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Mr. Gary Wetzel Named ICSS Teacher of the Year

Mr. Wetzel, pictured here, award in hand, with Ms. Heather Campbell, ICSS Board Member (current Social Studies teacher at Franklin Central High School, Indianapolis)

Mr. Wetzel and George Srour (co-founder and Chief Dreamer of Indianapolis-based nonprofit Building Tomorrow, Inc.). Srour served as the keynote speaker of the 2021 ICSS Conference.


Mr. Gary Wetzel Named ICSS Teacher of the Year

December 1, 2021 by Herron-Riverside High School

Sending a BIG congratulations to our own Mr. Gary Wetzel for being recognized as the ICSS (Indiana Council for the Social Studies) Distinguished Teacher for 2021! This is a HUGE honor and we are so proud of Mr. Wetzel and thankful for the amazing work he does day in and day out for our scholars! He truly embodies our core values in everything he does.

In the words of our Head of School Katie Dorsey, "This honor is so well-deserved, and I am not at all surprised that Gary has been recognized for his efforts not only in the classroom but also in our community and beyond.  Personally, I have known Gary to be an incredibly resourceful, trustworthy, driven educator willing to step in and step up wherever needed.  With us since before day 1, his influence is seen and felt all over Riverside.  He is always looking for ways to connect our students and school to the community and to provide our students with life-changing opportunities to expand their horizons."

Gary Wetzel enjoyed a successful experience at Herron High School until he was tapped to assist in opening Riverside High School, helping to develop the social studies program as well as school policies, beginning with an incoming class of freshmen and expanding the program to a four-year high school experience.  He currently teaches AP US Government and Politics, Economics, and US Government and supports his school's international exchange and travel programs, library initiative, and was named an Indianapolis Food Justice Champion for his work in eliminating food deserts and providing students with access to community gardens and healthy food.

Gary has coached several sports and helped develop a variety of new clubs based on student interests.  He has developed award-winning online project-based learning Economics curriculum. He has been instrumental in implementing the Speak Truth to Power lessons in programming at his school. This human rights education program “combines storytelling and interactive learning to provide the next generation with the knowledge they will need to create change and advance human rights.”  Gary is committed to this cause, most recently working with his government students to create an inclusive mural depicting human rights pioneers Wangari Maathai and John Lewis on the walls of his school that challenged students from the local area to join in this important work.

Gary has worked diligently as an active member of the Indianapolis Sister Cities Teacher and Student Outreach Committee (TASOC).  He has served as an event coordinator for the national award winning TASOC Conference in 2020 and also served on the Planning Committee of the Indiana Sister Cities Symposium in 2020 and 2021. His students are often seen volunteering at international festivals and events across the city.

Through his career in Indianapolis schools Gary has travelled with his students on seven international exchanges, most recently to Taiwan in February 2020.  Gary strives to make these trips possible for any interested students, regardless of their ability to pay.  These travels are life changing for his students.  Gary is an inspiration to others through his enthusiasm, his devotion to his students, his established record of academic success, and his efforts to empower his students to actively engage with the world and discover their roles in it. It is for these reasons that we recognize Gary as the ICSS Distinguished Teacher for 2021.  Congratulations, Gary.