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Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!
Heather Plourde has been a teacher at Hononegah High School for 10 years. She teaches 10th-12th grade Health and 9th grade Physical Education. The nomination submitted by a fellow teacher said, “Mrs. Heather Plourde is an incredible teacher. I have had the pleasure to have her as a co-worker for eight years. In that time, I have been able to observe her in thousands of teaching situations. She is a force for change in the building and is always looking for ways to improve her teaching and the environment in the building for both students and staff. Mrs. Plourde frequently has a powerful positive effect on the students in her class and the entire school community. She will be there for students in crisis, struggling or as a mentor for a student that wishes to become an educator themselves. Mrs. Plourde is a dynamic teacher; she is creative and passionate about her profession. She has a desire to make the educational environment better and more effective for everyone.” Heather summed up one of goals by stating, “My passion for teaching drove me to provide [Health 2 course] to students to ensure they become productive health literate citizens and are able to contribute to their own family and community as adults. If my students end up living successful and fulfilling lives, I feel there is no greater measure of success as an educator.”

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Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!
Danielle Turner has been teaching for 11 years, but just one year with Belvidere High School, where she teaches ninth grade Health Education. In her portfolio, she says, “…commitment to my teaching is just as important as commitment to my students. The promise I bring to my classroom such as preparation of lessons and assignments, constructive comments on projects and tests, respect as individuals, and the willingness to get to know each and every one of my students in and outside of the classroom are just a few examples of how I show my pledge to my students on a daily basis. I want my students to know that I am approachable, that they feel comfortable coming to me with a question and knowing I will not judge them and that they can gain trust in me. By creating an inviting environment and positive rapport with my students, it has helped to motivate my students to want to learn instead of being forced to learn.” “My commitment to my students goes beyond the classroom, however, as I believe being involved in the school community is just as important.” “I do not do what I do for thanks or congratulations, but instead to see my students walk across the stage four years from now accomplishing things they did not think they could and going on to fulfill dreams we talked about as a freshman in my class. I do what I do to save students from following the wrong paths, to keep them from harming their bodies and from giving up on themselves. I am dedicated to fulfilling my job as an educator to never give up on any one of my students.”

Get to Know our 20 Finalists!
Kent Holden has been teaching at Maria Montessori Elementary for four years, though he has been a teacher for many years. On her nomination form, a female student shared, “He always finds a way to make learning new things fun. I was always engaged in his lessons. His classroom was welcoming and friendly. Mr. Holden deserves this award. Because of him, math is now my best and favorite subject.” Kent says that, while being nominated for the Golden Apple is an honor, it is even more special because he was nominated by past students. “Outside of my family, those I care about most in the world are my students. We work hard together. We help each other learn, and in the process, children begin emerging into young adults. I love being a key part of that process. Students show me their respect, and they have earned mine. My greatest reward is to see them excel. I am proud and grateful to have worked with so many wonderful, compassionate, and accomplished leaders. Their enthusiasm makes me eager to get to work each day.”

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Get to Know our 20 Finalists!
Sarah Schaefer is in her fourth year of teaching at Roosevelt Alternative High School, where she teaches 10th-12th grade Enviro 1 and 2; Earth 1 and 2; Biology 1 and 2; and Robotic Integrated Algebra-based Physics. One of her colleagues shared that, “Sarah has a great understanding that a teacher can never stop being a learner. She is constantly seeking out new information, both formally and from colleagues. She consistently reaches out for advice and new understanding to improve the educational experience for her students. She is always willing to learn new instructional strategies, and is consistently willing to do whatever it takes to ensure students grow in their learning.” Sarah says, “The first conversation I have with a student is asking them how they learn best. I become their student, because as a great educators, we must be willing to learn from our students to help them reach their full potential. My students recognize that they teach me as much as I am guiding their learning process through the content.” “Teachers … have the power to alter future generations by our ability to present content in a format which allows students to connect content to their life.” “In my classroom I stress that there are no mistakes but rather opportunities to learn.” 

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Get to Know our 20 Finalists!
Jeff Corn is in his 10th year of teaching at North Boone High School. He teaches Geometry (9-12), Honors Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus. He says, “Today, the word ‘teacher’ is so much more than showing someone how to do something. Of course I do teach, but I also coach, mentor, counsel, motivate and guide students, colleagues and parents.” “Becoming a teacher was one of the best decisions of my life, as it has not only helped me grow and prosper, but has allowed me to give back to society the things I have learned and created.” “I help shape the lives of students who will run this world one day. The hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions I make each day have small ripple effects in the lives of students and other teachers. I dedicate all my time and energy in helping students and colleagues become successful. The relationships I make with colleagues, parents and students define who I am.

 

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Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!
Julie Sorrentino Thomas is in her 10th year teaching at Harlem High School. She has only ever taught high school Spanish but has assisted with bilingual and ESL education throughout her career. Julie’s administrator and curriculum director shared, “While her instruction is dynamic, creative and fun, it is her ability to build relationships with her students that makes a real, lasting difference in her students’ lives. One such relationship with a former student led to that student’s also becoming a high school Spanish teacher. In a recommendation letter, this individual said, “In her class, I learned so much about Spanish, being a good person and being a fantastic teacher. Mrs. Thomas has had a very special impact on me because she not only was my Spanish teacher, but she was also the first person who helped me out of my comfort zone.

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Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!
Jared Young is in his fifth year teaching high school business at Belvidere North High School. Jared was nominated by an administrator, who stated, “If you want to know the quality of a teacher's abilities, simply observe their students. Mr. Young is a true leader in the sense that he realizes he is the facilitator of learning and that the students need to discover how to learn to find the answers. He makes his lessons relevant to their lives as well as provides ‘real world’ performance-based problems for students to solve.” “He is one of the first teachers that the administration seeks out when a new initiative is created because he has such a strong track record of success.” “In addition to all the extra commitments he has beyond the classroom, he still remains an outstanding educator and champion of his students.” “He gets it, he understands that although his content is important – it’s the life and leadership skills that he teaches that improve his students’ lives. He models what he believes and values in the classroom. You will find many students flocking to take his courses - there is a reason for that.” In Jared’s first year of teaching, another educator gave him a piece of advice that “immediately impacted the way [he] viewed [his] classroom.” The teacher explained to him, “It’s not about you anymore. You are not the most important person in your classroom. It is about what is best for the kids in your room. You will never go wrong if you ask yourself ‘what is best for my kids right now’”?

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Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!
Jennifer Keller is in her 13th year teaching at Harlem High School. She has always taught German at all levels. Her nominator told us, “Frau Keller is an amazing teacher. She works exceptionally hard to build relationships with her students. She cares not only about their success in her classroom but in all areas of their lives. Her classes are always learning in active ways, using the latest technology, and real world situations.” Keller says, “I treat my students like young adults. I talk about their goals in life, so that I can challenge them and keep them on track to reaching those goals. I never doubt their abilities. I am their biggest fan, and I do everything in my power to help them to see what I already know to be true. Once my students have been taken care of, then I can focus on content.”