Tiffany Russey of Rockford is in her second year of teaching second grade at Rockford’s Conklin Elementary. She has seven years of teaching experience, though according to her mother, she has wanted to become a teacher since she was three years old! She says her daughter “knows that education is freedom and it is her passion to pass that on to her students.” Tiffany says, “it’s not just about learning outcomes for me. I am in the business of creating lovers of learning.” Tiffany knows how important family support and diversity representation can be to a student’s confidence and success. She also knows first-hand that families come in all different forms and sizes, so sometimes family members can’t attend scheduled parent-teacher conferences. To accommodate them and encourage open communication about achievements and issues, she uses ClassDojo and student portfolios or will find alternate times to meet with them. By working together, parents and teachers can better boost positive learning outcomes. She emphasizes that “it isn’t just my job to teach learning outcomes, I am in the business of cultivating thinkers, motivators and innovators.” To be world changers, she tells students, “you have to know the world,” so she teaches them about the world and its many cultures and people. “When we incorporate a variety of perspectives into our own teaching and offer students new ways of looking at their discipline, we prepare our students for the diverse work force.” Tiffany cites the book, Bossypants by comedienne Tina Fey, as an inspiration. She uses the “Rules of Improv,” saying “yes” and “yes, and” as well as considering mistakes just opportunities. She adds, “I feel that these principles are relevant to teaching because as teachers, we are often handed a situation and asked to react to what develops, much like a sketch comic.” “Yes, and” is a way to answer student questions, but to go a step further, asking students to expand on their responses. She encourages questions, discussions and even challenges to history. After she shared a picture of the Founding Fathers during a lesson about the Constitution, a student asked why there weren’t any people who looked like her. A conversation ensued about what her classmates would do if re-writing the Constitution now to include different people so that everyone’s voices would be represented. Tiffany also wants students to feel seen and respected. The student who nominated her for the Golden Apple award clearly feels seen and respected. She wrote that this teacher “believes that we can do anything”!