Golden Apple Surprises Three 2016 Award Recipients on April 13 for Exceptional Teaching, Improving Students’ Lives
Award recognizes outstanding instruction, passion and dedication in the classroom
CHICAGO (April 13, 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 13 were:
Mr. Danny Gray, entrepreneurship teacher at Thornwood High School in South Holland (Chicago State University)
Gray works with many students with discipline and behavioral challenges, and uses empathy and reassurance to build relationships with them. “I instruct and engage my students by always putting myself in their shoes,” he says. During the last two years, Gray also has led student teams as part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship national championship in New York. One of the teams won the national championship, which included a $25,000 grand prize to start their own business, and an opportunity to meet President Obama at the White House. In addition, he leads a group called “A Few Good Men,” where he provides positive mentoring and guidance to young men who otherwise do not have any. The group started with four students, and with Gray’s leadership, now more than 125 young men participate. Due to Gray’s high expectations, faith in and support of students, many now are attending college and following their dreams.
Mr. Leo Park, beginning, intermediate, concert and chamber strings teacher at Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago (VanderCook College of Music and DePaul University)
In Park’s work as a teacher and conductor, he makes magic happen. He works with students who have no prior musical training and cultivates a mindset that results in world-class performances. Alternatively, he also works with students who have substantial training and teaches them the power of orchestra collaboration, how to listen and respond to peers, and how to practice to achieve higher levels of achievement. He has profoundly influenced the school community. He works with students during summer vacation, holiday breaks, before and after school and on working retreats to help growing young musicians. He reviews hours of individual student performance via video to provide feedback on their strengths and opportunities. As a snapshot of his community involvement, Park founded a nonprofit that leads music immersion days at local elementary schools.
Mr. Pankaj Sharma, U.S. history, government, civics, modern African and Latin American history teacher at Niles North High School in Skokie (Washington University in St. Louis)
Understanding that history can feel distant and predictable, Sharma uses primary sources and discussion to imagine what the people during those times would have felt as events unfolded. He has a genuine enthusiasm for history and an authentic concern for his students, which is apparent in his classroom. Students engage in passionate discussions, with reflection and analysis of historical and contemporary topics. Sharma creates an atmosphere of respect for issues, each other and themselves. Whether in a mock presidential debate or an essay on a historically based movie, students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of real life issues. When students fail to complete work to expectations, they are held accountable, but given a second chance to succeed. He also has built a culture around humanitarianism and social justice efforts. He runs the WHO (We Help Others) group as a community service and activism club for students, along with organizing an annual student dance marathon that has raised more than $87,000 for a selected local charity.
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.