GLEN ELLYN – Abraham Lincoln Elementary School teacher Lisa Buchholz is not just loved by her students.
Buchholz, who teaches first grade, was one of 10 teachers from across the area to receive a Golden Apple award, which honors excellence in teaching.
During the surprise March 21 ceremony in her classroom, her students started singing, "We love Mrs. Buchholz," which made her smile.
"It's so sweet, and they're like my little buddies," she said.
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. Buchholz, who has worked for Glen Ellyn School District 41 for more than 20 years, said she is humbled by the honor.
"Teachers, I think, [we] beat ourselves up every day and think, 'Wow, I could have done this better or that better,' " she said. "This feels good to know that maybe you are on the right track. It's just like parenting; it is a real humbling job. It's good to get a little affirmation. There are definitely lots of people out there worthy of this award."
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. Becky Kelly, a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Community Consolidated School District 89's Arbor View Elementary School, was among 30 finalists for the award.
Every year since 1986, Golden Apple has chosen 10 outstanding teachers to receive the award.
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.
"She's so modest and dedicated," Kaila Buchholz said. "She's like everything you could ever want rolled into one person."
Her mother influenced her decision to want to become a teacher.
"She is everything I could ever aspire to be, not only as an educator, but also as a person," she said. "I truly think I've learned from one of the best teachers there is, and I think this award is so deserving... I've learned from her how to be a hard worker, and that your job just doesn't end when school ends at 3:30 p.m."
Lisa Buchholz's husband, Kurt Buchholz, a member of the District 41 school board, agreed.
"I can only say that I've never seen anybody that works as hard as she does. From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., she's doing school work all the time," he said. "It's incredible, that work ethic that she displays. It awes even her family, no doubt."