GLEN ELLYN – Two Glen Ellyn teachers are finalists for the prestigious Golden Apple Award, which honors excellence in teaching.
Lisa Buchholz, a first-grade teacher at Glen Ellyn School District 41's Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, and Becky Kelly, a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Community Consolidated School District 89's Arbor View Elementary School, are among 30 finalists for the award. Every year since 1986, Golden Apple has chosen 10 outstanding teachers to receive the award.
There were 650 preschool through third-grade teachers nominated this year – a record number of nominations for the Golden Apple program – and fewer than 5 percent were selected to be finalists. Buccholz, who has worked for the district for more than 20 years, said she is humbled by the honor.
"I was surprised," Buccholz said. "It's like you're being rewarded for something that you love to do anyway. It almost feels like it's not a job."
The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching were the idea of Golden Apple founder Martin J. Koldyke, who felt excellent teachers did not receive adequate recognition for their contributions to building a stronger, better-educated society, according to the Golden Apple website.
Buchholz and Kelly, along with the other Golden Apple finalists and the seven pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school leaders who are finalists for the Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award, will be honored during a celebration Feb. 24 at the Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O'Hare at 5550 N. River Road in Rosemont.
More information is available by going to goldenapple.org.
Teaching runs in Buchholz's family. Her daughter, Kaila, is a first-grade student-teacher at Community Unit School District 200's Pleasant Hill Elementary School.
"It's kind of fun because we can plan together, and we're kind of teaching some of the same stuff right now, so it's kind of fun," Buchholz said.
Kelly teaches in a specialized academic classroom at Arbor View Elementary School. A year ago, Kelly helped the district open a specialized academic classroom for preschool and kindergarten students at Arbor View.
Now in her ninth year with Commmunity Consolidated School District 89, Kelly said she knew she wanted to be a teacher ever since she was in the first grade.
"I always really liked helping kids," Kelly said. "I always wanted to work with kids, and I always really liked school, so I always kind of knew that I would work as a teacher at a school."
The students in her class have a variety of challenges, from cognitive impairments to physical disabilities.
"It just feels so much more rewarding when they accomplish something," Kelly said. "We celebrate even the smallest things in our room on a daily basis. It just kind of puts things in perspective. It could be as something as small as taking their first steps or learning to eat with a spoon or saying their first words. I know how much harder it is for them and how much more work goes into them having to learn to do those things, so it just feels that much more successful."
Golden Apple recipients will receive induction into the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, recognition on a WTTW one-hour TV program and live stream marketed to local school communities, a paid spring quarter sabbatical at Northwestern University in Evanston and a $5,000 cash award.
"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," Golden Apple President and CEO Alicia Winckler said in a news release from the organization. "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."