CHICAGO - Katherine Dube is the teacher students turn to when they need help and support. Among her colleagues, she’s known as the educator who invents creative ways to keep those fickle and energetic freshmen interested in literature.
And although Dube, 37, works with students that often come to her classroom years behind in their reading and writing skills, she puts in the extra time and effort to bring them up to grade level, according to Matthew Dodd Heller, principal at Team Englewood Community Academy High School.
“She still pushes them to be at the expected freshman high school level, while working on the skills to build them up,” Heller said. “She challenges them.”
This morning, Dube became the first of 10 local teachers awarded with a 2013 Golden Apple Award. Each year, the awards spotlight teachers who are particularly effective in the classroom and who have the results to prove it.
Dube was surprised in her classroom — in front of her students — by a visit from Gov. Pat Quinn, who officially presented her with the award.
She stood wearing a bewildered expression and grin as school administrators, officials from the Golden Apple organization and the media crowded into her room and her students applauded to congratulate her.
“We work really hard in the district and in this school in particular to make sure (students) are on track … so that they can be everything they want to be,” she said. “Our school motto is ‘opportunity,’ and that’s what we’re trying to do — provide opportunities for these students every single day so they can have the futures they want to have.”
For 28 years, the Golden Apple has put the spotlight on top teachers in the Chicago region, giving them $3,000 and the opportunity to study for free at Northwestern University for six months. But Monday’s visit was especially meaningful because it highlighted a teacher at a school in a poor and crime-ridden community.
The award also comes at a time when a number of schools in Englewood have been targeted for closing and marked as low performing.
The award, and the attention that comes with it, demonstrates that there are educators in public, neighborhood schools who are effective and accomplished, said Dominic Belmonte, the President and CEO of Golden Apple.
“It’s great to be in a community like Englewood where kids really deserve to have the type of teachers that are available in other neighborhoods,” Belmonte said. “This is a teacher that is excellent not only in the school but also in the community. It’s great to highlight her talent.”
Dube was the only teacher honored on Monday. Five more will receive awards on Tuesday and the remaining four on Wednesday.
Dube teaches freshman English at her school and has worked there for four years. Before moving to Chicago, she lectured at the University of New Hampshire. There she came in contact with high school students through a workshop and became curious about teaching that group, she said.
When she got the chance to teach freshman English, she saw it as an opportunity to instill a passion for language and literature in students before they decided the topics were not for them.
One way she makes her lessons engaging: When teaching Shakespeare, she has her students search the text for insulting language and then use the defunct words in class, she said.