Award recognizes outstanding instruction, passion and dedication in the classroom
CHICAGO (April 11, 2016) - Golden Apple, a leading nonprofit committed to celebrating and developing great teachers with the ability and passion to make life-changing differences in the lives of students, today surprised three local teachers with the prestigious 2016 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The awards recognize and honor outstanding teachers for their role in building a stronger, better-educated society. The recipients were selected from a pool of more than 400 nominations, and represent 9th-12th grade teachers throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Recipients are nominated by their students, community members/parents and colleagues who have directly engaged with them and benefitted from their talent and passion.
The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching recipients surprised on April 11 were:
Mr. Jeff Grant, A.P. biology, anatomy and physiology teacher at Downers Grove North High School in Downers Grove (DePauw University and Aurora University)
Grant always is looking to push the boundaries on new methods for students to experience science. He is a curricular leader, and restarted the Anatomy and Physiology classes at the school, after they didn’t exist for 22 years. Reported as a defining moment in their high school science career, students visit a local hospital to view cadavers as part of Grant’s class. He is also a leader among his peers. For the past five years, he has organized science meetings at 7 a.m. where teachers gather to discuss concepts, activities and inter-disciplinary ideas. Although he has an extensive scientific background, he has partnered with the Morton Arboretum to bring a world-class researcher to his classroom to help students understand the research process. Grant pushes his students beyond the classroom and textbook to learn about real science.
Mr. Todd Katz, honors biology and AP environmental science teacher at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago (Illinois Institute of Technology and Illinois State University)
Many describe Katz as an inspiration for his devotion to the environment, biology, and his students and colleagues. He is known for always bringing new learning to his school, which, as one example, has come in the form of building the school greenhouse. As part of this project, he works with Eco Club students to tend to the plants and herbs, which are then supplied to local companies that produce gourmet chocolate and perfume. He shares his ecologically minded views with students so that they can understand and appreciate the importance of preserving and conserving the environment. He is focused on providing a quality learning experience for all students that is fun, engaging and full of content-rich material – all in an effort to help students become involved and invested in their education.
Mrs. Debra Thomas, special education-math, science, consumer economicsat Rich East High School in Park Forest (University of Illinois and Governors State University)
Thomas is an exceptional advocate for her special education students, and works diligently to make sure that social and education silos do not exist for them. Specifically, she integrates students in general population classes, as well as after school clubs like chess, pom poms, art and computer technology (which she leads). Thomas makes it very clear to her students that she has great expectations for them to be productive members of society upon graduation. She rewards students for asking questions, challenging an idea or sharing insights during class. Thomas’ classes are described as “living learning labs,” because she creates a safe and inviting environment where students experience an adventure on their journey to self discovery and subject analysis. As an example of the time and money she invests in her students, every year Thomas organizes a spring dance for students and their families that recognizes seniors who have completed their academic study, and those who have aged out of the young adult program.
Additional information and photos of award recipients can be found on social media (#teachgolden):
As part of the awards selection process, distinguished retired teachers, college/university professors, administrators, and former Golden Apple Award recipients served on Golden Apple’s selection committee. Committee members applied research-based professional standards to identify teachers who exemplify the highest standards and practices of the teaching profession. The selection process included classroom observations of the finalists and interviews with colleagues, administrators, students, and parents.
"Research has shown that teachers set the course for student success and have the greatest effect on student learning," said Dominic Belmonte, president and CEO of Golden Apple. "Through their dedication, resourcefulness, inspiration, and genuine caring demeanor, this year’s award recipients have created meaningful learning experiences that have changed their student’s lives. On behalf of Golden Apple, we salute the 2016 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching recipients.”
For more than 30 years, Golden Apple has recognized outstanding teachers throughout Illinois each year. Created by founders Mike and Pat Koldyke, Golden Apple’s mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher excellence in Illinois. Each Golden Apple Award recipient receives a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Each recipient also receives a $5,000 cash award. Perhaps most importantly, award recipients become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, giving them a stronger voice and a larger stage from which to make a difference in education within Illinois and nationally.
Golden Apple award recipients play a critical role in furthering the programs of Golden Apple, particularly as members of the faculty who help prepare the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois program’s aspiring teachers to serve in high-need schools. The Scholars program provides extensive preparation, advising and financial support to aspiring teachers in college and mentorship throughout their early years of teaching. Golden Apple recruits for the program from the same communities and schools-of-need where Scholars will teach. Eighty percent of Scholars who enter the profession remain full-time teachers beyond their program commitment of five years, despite the challenging environments in which they work. The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Leadership program strengthens the ecosystem of excellent educators who are committed to advancing the field through coaching, collaboration and inspiration of future teachers.
Golden Apple also soon will be awarding the recipient of the 2016 Stanley C. Golder Award, which honors an exceptional principal/head of school.
The 2016 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Leadership recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony on May 20 at WTTW/Channel 11 Studios in Chicago. The dynamic program will highlight the incredible work of the recipients and all they do to transform teachers and teaching, enriching both students and teachers lives. The event will be live streamed, and include live interviews with former students and guests of the award recipients. WTTW will broadcast the awards in a one-hour television program following the event. Check goldenapple.org/awards for updated information on the broadcast dates.
Nominations for the 2017 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching will open in mid-April. The 2017 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching will honor teachers in grades 4-8, and in 2018 the award will spotlight Pre-K-3rd grade educators. Teachers who are eligible for nomination must be full-time classroom teachers at public or non-public schools within Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry or Will counties. The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching concentrate on specific grade levels each year.
About Golden Apple
2016 marks Golden Apple’s 31st year of innovating teacher preparation and leadership to transform both the careers of teachers as well as the lives of students in Illinois. Many of our Golden Apple Award recipients choose to give back by participating as instructors, academic coaches, and mentors in both our aspiring teachers program (i.e., “The Golden Apple Scholars”) and our professional development program (i.e., “The Golden Apple STEM Institute”).
Because the critical contributor to student achievement is the quality of the teacher in the classroom, Golden Apple provides exceptional teacher preparation for teachers at all stages of their careers. Our focus is on advancing educational excellence for Illinois’ most under-served students. Scholars are recruited from the communities in which they return to serve - with a passion for teaching and a drive to create positive change for young people in their communities. We enhance their college education with exemplary advanced teacher preparation, game-changing resources and lifelong support, and, they, in turn, stay in teaching for five or more years.
Golden Apple is comprised of recognized superior educators, including Golden Apple Award recipients and finalists, leading a passionate team of devoted staff with technical and program expertise, as well as a connected and committed board of directors charged with overseeing our strategic vision. Visit http://www.goldenapple.org for more information.