Golden Apple Surprises Lake View High School Teacher with Prestigious Award for Excellence in Teaching

10 Illinois teachers to receive annual award

CHICAGO (March 19, 2019) - Golden Apple, a leading Illinois nonprofit committed to recognizing exemplary educators and developing future educators, today surprised Erin Unander, a high school teacher at Lake View High School 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 Unander in front of students, family and school leadership.

Following a highly competitive process, the 2019 award recipients were selected from more than 550 nominations of high school teachers. For the first time in the history of the awards, the eligibility boundaries were expanded to include all of Illinois. The demand for recognition throughout the state was profound. As evidence, nominations for outstanding teachers and leaders were received from 71 Illinois counties.   

“The historic opportunity to bring the recognition of the Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching to all of the schools and teachers in Illinois is thrilling and we are delighted to honor Erin Unander this year,” said Alan Mather, President of Golden Apple.

The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching honors outstanding teachers for their roles in having lasting, positive effects on students’ lives and building stronger communities. Teacher finalists demonstrate -- in their teaching and results -- significant, positive impact on their students’ growth and learning. Fellow educators, students, parents and community members nominate teachers for the awards. Teachers may not self-nominate.

“We believe that recognizing exemplary educators helps to elevate the teaching profession to its rightful place of honor,” said Alicia Winckler, CEO of Golden Apple. “Golden Apple is inspired by the high standards set by these outstanding educators. The quality of their teaching and passion for supporting their students’ growth create an environment in which students are inspired to persevere and attain their dreams. Their work as educators is critical to realizing a better future and we are proud to recognize their valuable contributions.”

Award recipients are selected by master educators who understand and recognize instructional best practices and who utilize professional standards to evaluate exemplary teachers and school leaders. Members of the selection committee viewed video evidence of instruction and observed finalists’ teaching in-person in their classrooms - a comprehensive day which included direct observation of in-classroom teaching accompanied by interviewing finalists’ colleagues, school leaders, students, parents, and community members.

About Erin Unander
In her teaching, Unander places great emphasis on access and equity in math education. With a student body that is culturally and socioeconomically diverse, Unander strives to create lessons that are culturally relevant and unbiased. Her goal is to take every student from where s/he is to where s/he should be -- and that path is different for each of her students. Lake View High School Principal Paul Karafiol credits Unander with successfully turning around the school’s entire math department over the past three years. Math teachers and students are reaping the benefits of her hard work. For the first time in the school’s recent history, students are showing expected year-to-year gains in mathematics. Unander’s students say they love her enthusiasm, energy and the genuine interest that she has for what’s happening in their lives. They say she believes in them and challenges them to be better, even when they are doing well.

Videos, photos and social media snapshots of the 2019 award surprise visits, can be found at

The 2019 award recipients will be featured on a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) one-hour TV program. The livestream of the show taping will air on Golden Apple’s Facebook page on May 18, 2019 and the edited PBS broadcast will air on multiple future dates.

As a highly-valued component of this recognition, Northwestern University, Golden Apple’s partner for more than 30 years, generously provides a Spring Sabbatical to award recipients at no cost.

“In honoring and developing K-12 teachers, Northwestern University and the Golden Apple Foundation are committed to improving teaching, learning, and the lives of kids across the state of Illinois,”  said Timothy Dohrer, Ph.D., Director of the Master of Science in Education Program at Northwestern University’s School of Education & Social Policy.

In addition, each Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching recipient receives a $5,000 cash award. Award recipients also become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a community of educators who support current and future teachers and deepen the learning of students. An important part of a Fellows’ mission is to share their expertise and mentor Golden Apple Scholars, who are aspiring teachers with a desire to teach in Illinois’ schools-of-need.

The nomination period for the 2020 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching opens March 18, 2019. All are invited to nominate an exceptional 4th-8th grade Illinois teacher. More information about the awards nomination process can be found at

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.

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Media contact:
Eileen Rochford