Annual Golden Apple Awards Finalists Announced

Awards recognize excellence in teaching and outstanding school leadership 

CHICAGO (February 8, 2018) - Golden Apple, a leading Illinois nonprofit committed to developing great teachers, today announced the finalists for the organization’s prestigious educator awards: the Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching and the Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award.

A record number of nominations for the 2018 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching were submitted this year, totaling more than 650 Pre-K through 3rd grade teachers from the Chicagoland area. Five percent of nominees were selected as finalists, for a total of 30 educators who will be considered for the award this spring. The 2018 finalists include the highest percentage of Chicago Public School teachers ever selected, many of whom are bilingual and teach in two languages to help English-language learners.

The Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award, presented in memory of Stanley C. Golder, a founding board member of Golden Apple, honors exemplary performance and excellence in school leadership of a Pre-K through 12th grade principal or head of school from the Chicagoland area. Seven school leaders were recognized as 2018 Golder finalists. Nominations nearly doubled from previous years.

“This year’s award finalists, selected through an anonymous process, represent accomplished educators who are embracing very complex assignments to enrich and advance the lives of students,” said Alicia Winckler, Golden Apple President and CEO. “These awards shine a bright light on the incredible work happening in our schools. On behalf of Golden Apple, we applaud the teacher and school leader finalists for their initiative, innovation, dedication and perseverance.”

Fellow educators, students, parents and community members nominate teachers and school leaders for the awards each year.

2018 Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award Finalists:

1. Kathryn Baal, Loyola Academy, Wilmette

2. Victor Iturralde, Solorio Academy High School, Chicago

3. Gregory Jones, Kenwood Academy High School, Chicago

4. Jason Patera, The Chicago Academy for the Arts, Chicago

5. Catherine Plocher, Augustus H. Burley School, Chicago

6. Stacy Stewart, Belmont-Cragin, Chicago

7. Jose M. Torres, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Aurora

2018 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching Award Finalists:

1. Julie Ahern, Andrew Cooke Magnet Elementary School, Waukegan

2. Erica Barraza, Lotus Elementary School, Spring Grove

3. Lisa Buchholz, Abraham Lincoln Elementary, Glen Ellyn

4. Lisset Carrasco, Grover Cleveland Elementary School, Chicago

5. Jodi Christoforou, Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary School, Arlington Heights

6. Nancy Cordova, Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts & Dual Language, Chicago

7. Meghan Dolan, John M. Palmer Elementary School, Chicago

8. Heather Duncan, South Shore Fine Arts Academy, Chicago

9. Jeri Faber, Ringwood School Primary Center, Ringwood

10. Gwendolyn Faulkner, McKenzie Elementary School, Wilmette

11. Ann Fehser, John Laidlaw Elementary School, Western Springs

12. Cheryl Frawley, Betsy Ross Elementary School, Forest Park

13. Maureen Gallagher, Arthur Dixon Elementary School, Chicago

14. Carrie Garrett, Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, Joliet

15. Michael Golub, Mary Gage Peterson Elementary, Chicago

16. Saskia Gorospe-Rombouts, Academy for Global Citizenship, Chicago

17. Melissa Halusek, Pleasantdale Elementary School, La Grange

18. Melissa Holland, Jordan Community Elementary School, Chicago

19. Rebecca Kelly, Arbor View Elementary School, Glen Ellyn

20. Alyssa Lipuma, Brook Park Elementary School, La Grange Park

21. Dawn Majer, Ardmore Elementary School, Villa Park

22. Xenia Martinez-Downs, Little Village Academy, Chicago

23. Kristin Mitchell, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School, Evanston

24. Caitlin Reusche, Suder Montessori Magnet School, Chicago

25. Megan Shore, Oakbrook Elementary, Wood Dale

26. Daneal Silvers, Edison Regional Gifted Center, Chicago

27. Anita Unzueta, Little Village Academy, Chicago

28. Lisa Washington Kuzel, The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Chicago

29. Brittany Williams, Brentano Math & Science Academy, Chicago

30. Kary Zarate, George B. Swift Specialty School, Chicago

The annual Celebration of Excellence in honor of the finalists will be held on Saturday, February 24 at the Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare. Event details and tickets are available at

Golden Apple’s selection committee is comprised of college and university professors, educational consultants, administrators and former Golden Apple Award recipients who use industry and research-based professional standards to identify exemplary educators and school leaders. The Excellence in Teaching Award finalists will experience a final round of review and classroom observations prior to the Awards’ announcement this spring. The selection committee also will conduct additional reviews and school site visits for the Golder finalists.

Northwestern University provides each Golden Apple Award recipient with a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Each recipient also receives a $5,000 cash award. 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. Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award recipients receive a cash award of $10,000 with $5,000 going toward the administrator’s professional development and $5,000 to the school for a project of the recipient’s choosing. All recipients will be featured on a WTTW one-hour TV program and livestream marketed to local school communities.

About Golden Apple

Founded in 1985, Golden Apple innovates teacher preparation and leadership to transform both the careers of teachers as well as the lives of students in Illinois. Its signature initiative, the Golden Apple Scholars Program, provides exceptional teacher preparation, resources and lifelong support to advance educational excellence for Illinois’ most underserved students in schools-of-need. Aspiring teachers/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. Scholars commit to teach at an Illinois school-of-need for five years after graduation. More than 1,000 Scholars currently are teaching across Illinois. Visit for more information.

Media contact:

Kellie Kennedy

AwardsTony Bosma