Golden Apple Surprises Chicago Teacher Heather Duncan With Prestigious Award For Excellence In Teaching

CHICAGO (March 19, 2018) - Golden Apple, a leading Illinois nonprofit committed to developing great teachers, today surprised Heather Duncan, a Pre-K teacher at South Shore Fine Arts Academy in Chicago, with the highly respected Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. The annual award, which recognizes and honors outstanding teachers for their role in building a stronger, better-educated society, was presented to Duncan in front of students, family and school leadership.

Created by founders Mike and Pat Koldyke, Golden Apple’s mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence in Illinois, especially in schools-of-need. The 2018 award recipients were selected from a record-setting number of nominations - more than 650 nominations, and represent Pre-K through 3rd grade teachers from the Chicagoland area. Fellow educators, students, parents and community members nominate teachers for the award each year.

About Heather Duncan

Heather believes it is critical to expose students to the world beyond their daily experience through art, theater, music, and books. She is keenly aware that research has demonstrated children with an understanding of other cultures fare better in school and life than those who only know their own stories. With this in mind, she seeks to create rich cultural experiences for her students. She believes that “whole” people learn better. Relationship building through social-emotional learning, learning through authenticity and remaining true to oneself are core elements of her approach to teaching. She emphasizes positive conflict resolution and identifying and managing emotions as the foundation for her learners to coexist productively. The development of a student’s independence and self-reliance is a primary goal of Heather’s teaching. She is known in her school for her efforts to connect with families of her students and the local community. Heather earned National Board Certification and currently is working on her Ph.D. As a result of her achievement in the classroom, other educational organizations also recognized her with accolades, including the America Achieves National Fellowship For Teachers And Principals Cohort 3, the Danielson Framework for Teaching Early Childhood adaptation team and the Chicago Foundation For Education Action Research Leadership Institute (ARLI) Fellow.

“Golden Apple is proud to recognize this year’s award recipients for their exceptional accomplishments in the classroom,” said Alicia Winckler, Golden Apple president and CEO. “Each of the recipients is uniquely talented and epitomizes the dedication, skill and drive in the teaching profession that facilitates better futures for scores of young people.”

More information on each award recipient, as well as videos, photos and social media snapshots of the 2018 surprise visits, can be found at

Golden Apple’s selection committee is comprised of college and university professors, educational experts, administrators and former Golden Apple Award recipients who use industry and research-based professional standards to identify exemplary educators and school leaders. Members of the selection committee observed finalists’ classrooms, and also interviewed their colleagues, administrators, students and parents during the selection process.

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.

Golden Apple soon will be awarding the 2018 Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award, which honors an exceptional principal/head of school. All recipients will be featured on May 19 on a WTTW one-hour TV program and livestream marketed to local school communities. To view the livestream, visit

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