Golden Apple Surprises Wilmette Teacher Gwendolyn Faulkner With Prestigious Award For Excellence In Teaching

CHICAGO (March 22, 2018) - Golden Apple, a leading Illinois nonprofit committed to developing great teachers, today surprised Gwendolyn Faulkner, a second grade teacher at McKenzie Elementary School in Wilmette, 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 Faulkner 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 Gwendolyn Faulkner

Gwen’s classroom is engineered to be a student-centered, flexible learning environment. Her students tweet daily about their classroom activities through the class Twitter feed, which she started several years ago as a means for parents to stay informed about what their children were doing at school. They take turns serving as class reporters to capture and caption the day’s significant moments. This year, students also began delivering “on-air” reports via video clips of their presentations during non-fiction reading and writing units. Parents of Gwen’s students share with her that this communications channel helps them to have more fruitful conversations with their children about school. At the end of the school year, the class will review the Twitter feed to reflect on and appreciate how much they have learned and grown. Student empowerment is core to Gwen’s teaching. This year, through a partnership with Together We Rise, she helped her students tackle concerns they had shared about the lack of personal integrity, kindness, and diversity in the discourse surrounding the recent presidential election. The service-learning project led by her students helped raise funds to purchase suitcases for children in foster care. The effort helped her students feel empowered to take action to help others and fostered their personal awareness and empathy. Gwen says the lifeblood of her classroom is love and laughter. As a result of her achievement in the classroom, she was recognized with a teacher tribute from The Alliance for Early Childhood Education, Beyond Pencils and Gluesticks Grants.

“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