Chicago Sun-Times, The Southtown Star
By Terrance Peacock
Family, friends, fellow teachers and school district board members filled the music room at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School in Harvey on Wednesday to celebrate one teacher who has touched many students’ lives and present him with an award that shows him that his work is not overlooked.
In front of a crowd of about 200 people, Roosevelt Griffin received the Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching. Griffin was one out of 10 fourth- to eighth-grade teachers to receive the award throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.
The Golden Apple Award recognizes and honors outstanding teachers for their contributions to building a stronger, better-educated citizenry. Along with the award, Griffin will receive a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University and a $3,000 cash award.
Born and raised in Harvey and a former student at Brooks, Griffin has been the music director there since 2004, after graduating from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in music performance and receiving an Illinois Teaching Certificate in instrumental music.
Griffin said receiving the Golden Apple Award gives him the opportunity to represent every student that he is able to teach in the classroom.
“I realize the award has nothing to do with me,” Roosevelt said. “It’s really to bring attention to the students and to the parents who work their tails off.”
Griffin said he realizes residents of Harvey may receive negative criticism and he hopes this award can bring positivity to the community.
“My goal is to stand tall and say, ‘Look, I’m a product of Harvey, and this is our goal in life, to make a difference in the world, to give back and to serve,’ ” Griffin said.
John Chomiak, chief financial officer of the Golden Apple Foundation said the Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching has been passed out for over 25 years and this year there were more than 600 nominations.
Out of those 600 nominations, about 300 filled out the application, Chomiak said. From there, volunteers studied the applications and decided who were the 30 best, then traveled to the schools and observed the teachers. From there, the Golden Apple Foundation narrowed the field from 30 to 10.
Stacey Bolton, a board member of the Golden Apple Foundation, said what made Griffin stand out as a front-runner to receive the award not only was the fact that his band is rated one of the top bands in the state yearly but also the fact that he makes a difference with the students.
“He’s imparting not just musical wisdom, knowledge and instruction, he’s also imparting things like self-esteem and those intangibles that kids need these days,” Bolton said. “He’s respected by his colleagues, he’s respected within the industry of teachers in music throughout the state, and most importantly, he’s loved by his kids.”
Griffin said he wouldn’t mind if his students don’t pursue music after taking his class, but he said he teaches so his students can use music as an avenue.
“I tell the students, ‘Your responsibility is not to play a couple of notes but to be your best so you can inspire someone else,’ ” Griffin said.
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