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Golden Apple project grant applications are now available for the 2018-19 school year. This program gives teachers the opportunity to develop and implement educational projects that enhance the learning experience for their students. 

The annual grants range from $150 to $1,500 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 5, 2018. Click here for further details, including the applicationcriteria 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.  

PHOTO: 2017-18 Grant recipients: Standing (L-R) Ashley Smith, Tiffany Aurand, Kristin Schmidt, Jeff Powell (Board Chair), Meg Hodges (Andy's Books for Kids) Laua Benkovich and Anne Hart. Front (L-R) Meghan Hembrough, Amy Maier, Suzette Muck, Carrie Norder-Pagan and Cindy Maten.


Join Golden Apple and eat pancakes for a good cause! Shortstacks for a Tall Cause will take place from 8-10 a.m. on Saturday, June 30 at Applebee's located at 2126 Gateway Center Drive in Belvidere. (near Wal-Mart)  Purchase your $5 ticket in advance or at the door. $4 of every ticket supports Golden Apple programming. Hope to see you there! Contact GAF at 815-226-4180 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.


Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!

Sylvia Landreth of Rockford has 16 years of experience teaching dual language. This is her fourth year at Fairview Early Childhood Center. With parents who didn’t speak English, she was playing the teacher role from an early age, helping siblings with homework and translating for her mom during school conferences. Her journey to a formal teaching degree was not a direct one, however. She served as an aide in Head Start and church preschool classrooms, then took mail-order courses for state licensure to run an in-home daycare. After moving to Rockford and sending her third of four children off to school, Sylvia realized she missed working with children. She found a job at La Voz Latina, helping new moms understand the development of their children. Her training through the agency motivated her to begin degree coursework. She started a job with the school district, working with young moms and their children, and then moved into a family support and screener position for the preschool program. Sylvia’s original plan upon graduating was to be a resource teacher for a few years, but she quickly fell in love with being a classroom teacher. The parent of one of her students shared that while her kids learned a lot from Sylvia, she also learned from her. She learned how to support her children’s learning processes and to never give up on them. On the autism spectrum disorder, with a speech delay and an auditory process disorder, this woman’s son was challenged yet supported every day in class. “Under Mrs. Sylvia’s guidance, my son started putting words together and finally he was able to ask for things that he wanted or needed.” Sylvia says that her teaching and community work experience and her formal education have taught her that “all children can learn and they have different ways to acquire knowledge. With the planning of each lesson and classroom station, I strive to provide the kind of environment and activities that engage their learning and their wonder.”  And every day before meals, the class recites a poem by Mexican songwriter Jose Luis Orozco. Sylvia says it reflects how she sees each child: “In this great big beautiful world, I am unique, I am special, full of love and intelligence.” 


The 22nd Annual Excellence in Education Banquet is coming up on Friday, April 27, 2018 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 13. 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 2018 Outstanding Principal Amber Miller, 2018 Jan Jones recipient Officer Eric Thurmond, Asst Principal Program recipient Linda Colson. This year's 5 Golden Apple teacher award recipients are Rachel Huetson of Nelson Elementary, Katherine Koehler of Ledgewood Elementary, Gabriela Nunuz-Reagan of Seth Whitman Elementary, Ashley Schwabero of Prairie Hill Elementary and Lance Tuula of Whitman Post Elementary.

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.




RPS Classroom pic

Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!

Fort Zackary III of Rockford, a teacher for 21 years, was initially an urban studies and planning major in college. He didn’t think he had the patience to teach. However, a teacher strike landed him in a kindergarten classroom for a week, which he describes as “the most rewarding experience of my life to that point.” A year and a half later, he had his own kindergarten classroom.” Fort has primarily taught Kindergarten, but he’s also taught fourth grade. This is his first year as a Kindergarten teacher at Carlson Elementary. Taren Turner, Ellis Elementary principal, commented that, “it is not the duration of years in the field alone that makes him stellar. Rather, his natural character, compassion, and professional evolvement over time, which have greatly impacted students, families, and school staff, are what make Mr. Zackary unparalleled.” His teaching experience has ranged from “the incredibly affluent to homelessly poor, suburban to hardcore urban, all white to all black, all English speakers to years where I was the only English speaker and everything in between.” At each school, Fort has advocated for, collaborated with and coached new, veteran and student teachers as well as students. The parent of one student wrote that her child was well behaved but quiet and shy. “Mr. Zackary was just what the doctor ordered! He not only helped him come out of his shell, he now excels as a student and a person. I can only thank Mr. Z for that.” Fort has done much reflecting and changing since being named a Golden Apple finalist 10 years ago. Sensing impending burnout, he rededicated himself to teaching by attending conferences and implementing what he learned. He added technological tools to better reach students and their families. He listened to Golden Apple Academy mentors. He brought the fun back into his lessons. And he changed schools. He says, “while I miss being the champion for so many underprivileged children, I have saved myself from burnout and can continue teaching and shaping young lives for the better.”