DSC 0055

Students, parents, faculty and community members are encouraged to express their gratitude to area teachers by nominating one or more teachers for the 2020 Golden Apple Award.

Online nominations can be made at http://goldenappleofrockford.com/goldenapple_nominationform.asp. Paper forms are available in all area schools and participating community sites and can be submitted to Golden Apple Foundation’s office at 5050 E. State St., Rockford, IL 61108.

This year Golden Apple Foundation will award teachers of PreK – 5th grades. To be eligible the nominee must be a teacher in Winnebago or Boone county who teaches a group of students in a classroom on a regular basis. Nominations for the Golden Apple Teacher Awards will be accepted through October 21, 2019. 

For additional information or to display paper nomination forms at your business or organization, contact the Golden Apple Foundation office, at 815-226-4180 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PHOTO: Katherine Koehler is awarded the 2018 Golden Apple Award in her classroom at Ledgewood Elementary. Her students felt like they won too!


19 Sept GoldenApple McDonaldsTrayliner 091819 ForPrint 001


Golden Apple Foundation and McDonalds are celebrating the 2019 Golden Apple teachers with trayliners at 18 local McDonalds restaurants. McDonalds partners with Golden Apple Foundation to promote excellence in education throughout the year, including the the Golden Apple Breakfast that honors the Top 20 Finalists each February. McDonalds also offers McTeacher Nights as a way for an entire school or an organization within a school to raise funds.

Nominations are currently being accepted for PreK-5th grade teachers. Go online to nominate an outstanding teacher or visit a local school or library in Winnebago and Boone counties for a nomination form. It will only take a few minutes to recognize a teacher and it will make their day! Deadline to nominate is October 21, 2019.

Trayliners can be found at the following McDonalds locations: 3237 11th St Rockford, 4403 Harrison Avenue Rockford, 6995 E. Riverside Blvd. Rockford, 420 S. Perryville Rd. Rockford, 5195 Elevator Rd. Roscoe, 10101 N. 2nd St. Machesney Park, 2622 Charles St. Rockford, 6000 N 2nd St. Loves Park, 1441 Kishwaukee St. Rockford, 3710 Auburn St. Rockford, 3858 Northridge Dr. Rockford, 930 W Riverside Boulevard Rockford, 4623 State St. Rockford, 4365 11th St. Rockford, 314 N Mulford Rd Rockford, 1032 E. Sate St. Rockford, 1313 N. State St. Belvidere and 240 W. Chrysler Dr. Belvidere.

Golden Apple Foundation would like to thank KMK Media Group for creating the trayliner design. 

7trees 1

Golden Apple project grant applications are now available for the 2019-20 school year. This program gives teachers the opportunity to develop and implement educational projects that enhance the learning experience for their students. We have updated our grant application form to make it easier for you and we have increased our grants up to $2,500! The form includes fillable fields for your convenience and Rasmussen College has added a new Community Reinvestment Grant offering up to $2,500 to address a community need/problem.

Golden Apple annual grants range from $150 to $2,500 each. PreK - 12th grade teachers in Winnebago or Boone County Public or ISBE recognized non-public schools are encouraged to apply. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. on November 4, 2019. Click here for further details, including the application and a list of past recipients. Contact Jennifer Stark, Executive Director, at 815-226-4180 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.  Special thanks to our sponsors Andy's Books for Kids and Rasmussen College, who help to make this program possible.



On September 19, 100 community volunteers will deliver 6,000 fresh apples donated by Schnucks and thank you cards to teachers in over 150 Winnebago and Boone County Public and Non-Public Schools to thank them for the crucial work they do each day in the classroom with our children. The delicious apples are a symbol of all that is good in education and Golden Apple Foundation takes this opportunity to invite the community to recognize the important commitment made by teachers.  Sign up today at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2019-apple-for-the-teacher-day-by-golden-apple-foundation-of-rockford-sponsored-by-schnucks-tickets-66900425975.

Ticket flyer

Enjoy the fun and eat at Casey's, drop in and a volunteer will get your take-out meals ready for you or just relax and have an adult beverage or two! Dinner proceeds and celebrity bartender tips benefit GAF's programming in the 2019-2020 school year. Your $15 dinner ticket includes all this: pizza, pasta, salad and garlic bread! Our entertainment, er, bartenders include board member, Thomas Kress of Associated Bank; Dr. Ehren Jarrett, RPS205 Superintendent; board member, Dr. Michael Born of SwedishAmerican Hospital; board treasurer, Lori Diaz of Rockford Bank & Trust; Golden Apple Academy members, Rich Toppe and Cindy Adami; and board fund development chair, Sarilyn Neiber of Illinois Bank & Trust. Dinner tickets are available on the Golden Apple website or at the event. Open to the public, but of course, you must be 21 to consume adult beverages! Casey's Pub is located at 7307 N. Alpine Road in Loves Park. Golden Apple Foundation accepts secure, online donations. Transactions are processed by the PayTrace payment processing system. Contact Golden Apple: 815-226-4180 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.



Appetite for Education 2019 1

Thanks to the strong support of our dedicated Golden Apple supporters, the 2nd Annual Appetite for Education event to be held at 5:30 p.m. on September 28 at Abreo Restaurant located at 515 E. State Street, in Rockford, is SOLD OUT. Guests will enjoy a one-of-a-kind 6 course meal and wine pairing table-side with award-winning local chef Chef Paul Sletten. 

Tickets are $160 each or $300 per couple. Ticket price includes dinner, wine pairing with each course and a signature cocktail. Wine pairings will be available for purchase at the end of the evening, with 50% of the proceeds to benefit GAF. Call the Golden Apple office at 815-226-4180 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.with questions.

Cortese Kress

The 23rd Annual Excellence in Education Banquet is coming up on Friday, April 26, 2019 at Giovanni's.  Red Carpet begins at 5:30 with a cash bar cocktail hour. The program portion starts promptly at 6:28 p.m., followed by dinner. The deadline to register is April 12. To purchase your ticket or table, click here. (If it is after the deadline, check in at the office, we still may be able to accommodate your request.)

Golden Apple is proud to be celebrating our exceptional Top 20 teacher finalists, our 2019 Outstanding Principal, 2019 Jan Jones recipient, and  2019 Assistant Principal Program recipient. This year's 5 Golden Apple teacher award recipients are Candice Cortese of Hononegah, Jeremy Edwards of Belvidere High School, Amanda McCallister of Roosevelt CEC, Amanda Newmes of Belvidere North High School and Molly Priest of Eisenhower Middle School,

To learn more about our Top 20 teacher finalists, see our news feed on this website which includes a bio on each of these exceptional educators.

Cocktail attire is recommended. For more information about the Banquet, call the office at 815-226-4180 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.PHOTO: Candice Cortese is surprised with her Golden Apple in the classroom by Golden Apple sponsor, Thomas Kress, Market President of Associated Bank. 

Molly Priest

Rockford native, Molly Priest has been teaching for 14 years. For the past nine years, she’s been teaching sixth grade general and environmental science at Eisenhower Middle School, a school she attended in her youth. A student nominator said, “Mrs. Priest is an amazing teacher. She makes learning fun. When you are in her classroom, you feel like you are cared for and safe. She always encourages her students to develop their learning. She is more than a teacher; Mrs. Priest is also a friend, a philosopher and a guide to the students.” Principal Jeff Carlson knows that many students consider her a favorite teacher. He says that it is not just because of her caring relationship with them, but also because of her creative lessons which engage each and every student. “It’s not uncommon to see her standing on a table to demonstrate a topic or to utilize any number of creative strategies to help students remember the objectives she wants them to obtain.” Her efforts do get results. In 2017, she was recognized by both WZOK and WREX-13 with Teacher of the Week awards. In 2018, more than 70-percent of her students met or exceeded their fall to spring MAP goals and in one of her classes, 92-percent of her students met or exceeded their fall to spring MAP goals. Molly lets her students know that mistakes are OK. “My learners have also discovered that wrong answers often lead to great classroom discussions where students are allowed the opportunity to teach one another.” She’s also “honest with students about the mistakes I have made, and I try to model the process in which one can analyze and learn from their mishaps.” Molly genuinely cares about her students. In 2016, when she was diagnosed with cancer, she learned how much they also care about her. Upon her return to class after treatment, she found a giant ribbon covering her wall. The ribbon contained letters from every student and on her desk were pictures and letters of encouragement. Another student who nominated Molly, said, “She puts a smile on my face. She made me love science and is very good at teaching even through difficult times. She really has been through a lot but always manages to find happiness to teach her students.” Molly says, “Alongside my family and friends, my students helped me get through the darkest days of my life and for that I will always be grateful.” Molly encourages goal-setting and positive thinking. Her students reflect on their progress and she brainstorms with them to find ways to achieve their learning goals. They develop confidence and take pride in their achievements. “No matter where a student starts, they are capable of growth.” She enjoys working with progressive, supportive staff and administrators, as well as a diverse student body. “We celebrate and respect our differences, all the while finding ways to connect to one another, as we all have the same goal: to be academically, socially and emotionally prepared for the future.” Susie Lynch, an EMS parent and Booster Club President considers Molly, “a once in a lifetime teacher, the teacher you always dream of, hope your child will have for inspiration, for involvement and for instilling a love of learning.” Molly, in concluding her portfolio shared that she wants her students to love and value learning as much as she does. “I am hopeful that I am making a positive difference in the lives of my students and our Rockford community. My ultimate goal is for my students to be proud to say they grew up in Rockford too!”

Sheila Morrall

Sheila Morrall of Poplar Grove has been teaching in the Belvidere School District for 23 years, 16 at Belvidere South Middle School, where she teaches Spanish to students in 6th-8th grades. Assistant Principal, Linda Colson, says that Sheila’s “excitement and enthusiasm for learning is contagious not only for her students, but also for her colleagues. She finds ways to make her lessons engaging and memorable for the students.” In fact, one day, Colson saw the students in Sheila’s class singing a song in Spanish to help with vocabulary retention. She also shared that Sheila “builds relationships with her students and it is evident she cares about the whole child. In her classroom, students come first and content comes second.” Sheila agrees. “It is not the teaching of my topic that changes things, it is the connections and the relationships that are built that teach our youth how to be productive citizens in our world.” Sheila has been training, translating and teaching on mission trips to Belize for the past five years. Cathy Dulgar of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Belvidere has been on those trips and sees the impact Sheila makes. “This is a teacher that takes her gifts and talents to make a difference in the lives of those she meets along her path.” Sheila’s students come from various socio-economic backgrounds. They are of varying ethnicities. Some have medical issues or language barriers. But she says, “regardless of our personal differences, we learn together and help each other grow and strive in my classroom. I love that each person is unique and has talents and abilities that no one else has.” Sheila knows that as her students and their individual needs change, her teaching style has had to change as well. She sets high expectations but helps her students set plans to accomplish their goals. And the students join her in assessing and reassessing their work, formally and informally. Sheila says that classroom technology changes the dynamic of the room. “Students become leaders through their technology strengths as they teach everyone in the classroom, including me, new things that they are finding. They have a ‘can do’ attitude and know that if they can’t, it is just ‘not yet.’” Despite any challenges the profession of teaching may present, Sheila has seen so many rewards that keep her motivated to keep learning, keep teaching and keep watching her students succeed. 

Mike Manke1

“Mr. Manke = pure dedication. He's the first teacher to arrive and the last teacher to leave. You'll see him at all kinds of MS science events and working with kids after school. After the academic clubs are complete, Mr. Manke works at many of the athletics events held at school for both the middle and the high school. However, it is not just the time he puts in. Mr. Manke makes connections with his students. He is able to connect to kids that many others before him could not do. To top it all off, his students learn a TON about science from him”! Clearly this parent who nominated Mike Manke had a child who valued the time spent in his class! Manke, of Machesney Park, has 39 years of teaching experience. He’s in his 13th year at Rockford Christian Middle School, where he teaches 7th grade physical science. When he started teaching there, the school did not offer any science extracurriculars. Now there are middle and high school robotics teams, middle and high school science olympiad teams, a rocketry club and a high school competitive team. These teams compete at local, state, national, and international competitions, under Manke’s guidance. He is the science department chair, director of the Rockford Christian Science Olympiad Invitation; Coordinator for Science Extracurricular Robotics Teams, Science Olympiad Teams, Rocketry Team and Science Club and much more. Stephen Postma, chief Technologist and Innovation Leader with Sysmex America Inc. in Mundelein, has worked with Manke for 17 years to help guide the development, creation and execution of innovative educational programs. He pointed out that Manke led students to many achievements, such as the Middle School Innovation program’s second place finish in the WORLD in 2013. Also in 2013, he helped a team write and obtain a U.S. Patent for an invention. But of course, his primary focus is on his students and their growth. He realizes that each student is unique in how they process and learn, so he varies his class presentations and incorporates lab work, homework and projects into his classes in addition to tests. Lab time is often his best time to check in with each student to see how they are doing, academically and personally. “It gives me another opportunity to let them know that I care not only about if they did their work, but about them as a person.” Sometimes personal issues must be addressed with the whole class. “I never want to face my students again with tears in my eyes, telling them they will never see a classmate again because of a senseless act of violence.” But by Manke’s sharing his grief, his students could see how important they are to him. They felt safe to join him as they started to heal together. Manke strives to let each student know how unique and special they are. He is a lifelong learner, always searching for ways to teach and motivate more effectively. Principal Drew Popejoy commented, “Mike does an amazing job helping kids discover the amazing world of science.” And he loves it. Manke says, “With every new day, I look forward to watching my students marvel at the science of their world, from the Milky Way Galaxy with its trillion stars, to the effects of model rockets launched on Earth as they dream those secret dreams of reaching distant places. I am humbled at the privilege of teaching these youth. It is an honor to enable them to see the beauty of their world and everything beyond its great vastness.” 


Amanda Newmes of Roscoe has taught high school science in the Belvidere school district for 17 years, the past 10 at Belvidere North. Though she had initially planned to be a doctor, she came to the conclusion that medical school was not for her and set an appointment with an advisor to guide her to a different path. To her surprise, he told her that he was glad her previous plan didn’t work out! But he went a step further by telling her, “You have a gift of communicating with people. You help others before you help yourself. Your talent would not be used in the medical field; you need to be a teacher.” After teaching a lesson at the advisor’s son’s school, she knew he was right. David Carson, assistant superintendent of Belvidere Community Unit School District 100 says, “Amanda is a bold teacher who seeks to deeply transform each of her students as well as the system in which she teaches. I have seen her not only talk about desired changes in education with her colleagues, but live and model the changes we should make to provide a high quality education for all of our students.” Areas in which Amanda has been at the front of innovation in the school and the district include flexible seating, blended learning classes and standards-based grading. Amanda says, “Just scraping by is not an option in my class. I will push each student to challenge themselves and find the confidence to try something new.” She encourages student ownership, which results in better student engagement. An example of how she helps students discover their passions and ways to act on them comes from her biology class. Each student was asked to write down something they had always wanted to build, study or create. She meets with each student individually to guide them to the resources they need to accomplish the project they desire, then they take it from there. She is more a facilitator than the focus in her classes. By design. “I do not want to grade 30 of the same project. But how powerful is it for students to see inspired, passion-filled projects that are student choice? Students do not want vanilla ice cream every day they come to class. That gets old and redundant. Instead, I try to provide the 31 flavors and let them choose the toppings to mix up learning so that it is exciting and students do not even notice that they are learning.“ A former student who nominated Amanda shared: “She instills the love of learning in each and every one of her students, and pushes them to achieve whatever goal they want in life. I now work professionally in the medical field and I know this would not be possible without her help.” Another student shared a three-page letter of recommendation for Amanda, full of examples of how she supports and encourages her students in and out of the classroom. “She is doing great things for the community, the school district and the life of her students. You can see that in her work, her projects, her achievements, and in her family. But mostly, you can see it in her students.” To Amanda, “it is [her] students who continuously provide me with passion, motivation, and energy to make each day an epic day”!