by Gregory Tejeda
Two science teachers at area high schools are among this year's 10 recipients of the Golden Apple award provided annually to reward excellence in teaching.
Both Curt Ehrenstrom of Mount Carmel College Prep and Jill Krysinski of Bloom High School were chosen from a field of 510 nominations and 215 applicants from Chicago-area teachers.
Officials with the Golden Apple Foundation, along with Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez and Bloom Township High School District 206 officials, presented Krysinski with her honor on Thursday.
They interrupted her morning class in which she was trying to explain a class project, having students come up with ideas for future use of a brownfield just south of the high school near the Skyline Restaurant, 1016 Dixie Highway.
Despite her honor, Krysinski said she does not consider herself better than any other Bloom High School teacher.
“I work with amazing teachers,” she said. “We all excel at our jobs.”
Gonzalez said her honor reflects well on Chicago Heights as a whole.
“It shows the quality of an education that one can get at our city’s high school,” he said.
Part of the prize for a Golden Apple recipient is a chance to take courses at Northwestern University in whatever subject area they desire.
Krysinski said she wants more information on how to deal with “social justice," as in the financial inequities between school districts in poorer communities and wealthier ones.
She cites the northern end of Bloom’s district, which abuts the wealthier Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233.
“There are some kids who, just because they live a block or two north of us, have so many more opportunities at school.”
Meanwhile, Ehrenstrom, who learned of his Golden Apple prize during ceremonies held Wednesday at the school in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, said he wants to use his prize to educate himself about online education, which he thinks is the future of teaching at the college level.
“We are a college prep school, so we should be preparing our students for this alternative as well,” he said.
Ehrenstrom said that while some subjects require a teacher’s physical presence, others might be offered online as a way of increasing the variety of classes that Mount Carmel students can consider.
“Because we have a small enrollment (just over 800 students), there are some subjects we just don’t have enough students to justify a physical course,” he said. “But with online options, we might be able to have one teacher handle two or three such courses at once.”
Jacob Gourley, a 2010 Golden Apple recipient who teaches at Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing, said he considers the experience a significant boost to his career.
His studies included a chance to visit Washington and see the U.S. Supreme Court, which allows him to give his students personal experiences in the course he teaches about the nation’s high court.
He also cited a course he teaches about the history of Chicago. During his fellowship, he learned many things about the city that he incorporates into the course.
“I read over a dozen books that I never would have had time to read if I had to do my job as well,” he said.
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