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Get to Know Our Finalists: Meet Sylvia Landreth Get to Know Our Finalists: Meet Sylvia Landreth Get to Know Our 20 Finalists! Sylvia Landreth of Rockford... More detail
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 2010-2011 Golden Apple Award Recipients

Carol Davies1Carol L. Davies

Boylan Catholic High School-Rockford
AP Literature; Debate; Senior Comp
M.S. Ed. Psych-Northern Illinois University
B.A. English Education-University of Illinois

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Write the truest sentence that you know.” Carol Davies’ truest sentence is “I am thrilled to share my love of learning and my passion for language and literature with others.” Carol’s ability to illuminate literature for High School students is just the tip of the iceberg when describing her 40 years of teaching. Her love of learning and inquisitive nature enhances her classroom effectiveness. She has a way of creating learners who become their own advocates who think beyond the written words on the page.

To learn from Carol Davies is to master the basic skills and to be challenged to not just read for information or comprehension, but for understanding and for appreciation of the richness and power of the written word. “Mrs. Davies encompasses all the characteristics that make up an impactful teacher. Her intelligence captivates a classroom and her knowledge is intriguing.” says current student and nominator, Lucy Dieckhaus.

“To teach with Carol Davies is to be inspired.” says colleague and former student of Carol’s, Jessica Olsen. “After 40 years of teaching, her energy, enthusiasm, and desire for improvement have never waned.” Carol began a school wide poetry competition twelve years ago to convince students that writing poetry can be fun and rewarding. Today the entire English Department is involved in organizing and promoting the event. Carol has also been instrumental in coordinating an annual National Day of Writing celebration to raise awareness of the importance of writing in our lives. Student’s work is showcased in the National Writers’ Gallery. She started a debate club two years ago at the request of some students and has since created a Debate Class.

Carol’s mission has always been to provide classroom instruction and activities that prepare students to be educated citizens and life-long learners. Through the study of literature and language, she enriches the lives of young adults and promotes an awareness of what it is to be truly human.

It can be said that whatever Carol Davies touches, will most definitely turn to gold!

Carl HobbsCarl Hobbs

Business, Marketing Teacher
Belvidere High School
MS Business Ed – University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
Type 75 – Aurora University
BS Speech Communications – Eastern Illinois University

A “Super Star Teacher” is what his administrative team calls him, consistently demonstrating excellence inside and outside of the classroom, with students, and among his colleagues. From Belvidere High School, Carl Hobbs is touted as being an effective, hands-on, minds-on, progressive educator with extremely high standards for himself and his students, providing exemplary connections to and opportunities for all kinds of students and abilities.

His open-door classroom, structured business/finance classes, and student-centered lesson plans pave the path for a freedom to learn and apply knowledge in an ever-changing work environment. Carl’s passion as an educator ignited the desire for the DECA chapter to become a flagship program that students flock to join, now with over 100 members, who spend countless hours on business-related projects. DECA is an acronym for Distributive Education Clubs of America, a sixty-year old nonprofit that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in the fields of marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. Under Carl’s guidance, Belvidere holds five DECA state championships, has instigated 25 community service projects, provided numerous college scholarships, and raised almost $20,000 for charities.

Supporting his hands-on learning mission, Carl led the charge to build a school store, providing a means for students to take on all aspects of a realistic business. Income from the student store has funded technology, an embroidery machine, and hundreds of new apparel items. In partnership with Alpine Bank, Carl’s accounting students have summer jobs, and one later became a branch manager. As a student who almost “slipped through the cracks”, Carl responds to at-risk students in need of a success story by providing activities and group assignments, like on The Apprentice, that involve failure lessons, that to “fail forward” is one of the keys to success, and keys to a fuller life.

Carl has been awarded the Jack Wolf Teaching Excellence Award and invests numerous volunteer time in mentoring, SharePoint Pilot Program, Salvation Army, Haiti, the Rescue Mission, Belvideropoly, BucStock fundraiser, literacy project, March of Dimes, as a keynote speaker, and others.

Ann Reynolds1Dr. Ann E. Reynolds

Hononegah Community High School-Rockton


Ed.D Teacher Leadership-Walden University

M.S. P.E.-Northern Illinois University

B.S. P.E.-Rockford College

Dedicated to improving the quality of life of her students, Dr. Ann Reynolds’ students and parents frequently refer to her “Health” class as the “Life” class. With that same dedication, Ann has made a few simple commitments in her career: not to judge her students, to create a comfortable and interesting environment, and to convey useable and effective techniques to be employed by her students for their entire lives. She greets her students daily with enthusiasm towards her subject matter, teaching techniques to relieve the stress levels and improving their lives. The ambience of her classroom is stimulating and promotes positive reinforcement.

Dr. Ann Reynolds is one of the best in her field. She has been professionally recognized and has received many honors. In 2009, she was a finalist for the Golden Apple Award. In 2008, she received the Award of Merit from the Illinois State Board of education. In 2007, she was recognized as Hononegah’s Teacher of the Year. The American Alliance for Health and Physical Education Recreation and Dance and it’s Illinois contingent recognized her as the Health Teacher of the Year in 2004 and 2005. Students and staff nominated her to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers from 2002 to present. In 2004, she received the Ecolab and Vision Award.

Also committed to the community around her, Ann has volunteered for the Red Cross for the past 25 years as the CPR and First Aid Instructor. She is an instructor at Rock Valley College in Continuing Education. Ann facilitates presentations on topics such as: alternative medicine, stress camp, migraine camp, food and fitness camp, etc., and has offered her expertise at Northern Illinois University, Beloit College, Stout University, Menominee, WI. and others.

As a parent of one of her students expressed, Ann is “more than an accumulation of degrees, awards, nominations and projects. She represents the best in education. From her excellent communication skills to her model for classroom technique and management, Dr. Reynolds excels. She has enthusiasm that is contagious to the students, staff, parents and community.”

IMG 0030Rissa Spangler

Eisenhower Middle School-Rockford

Special Education

M.A.T.-Rockford College

B.S. Psychology-Rockford College

Rissa Spangler knows about the “feeling of victory in the classroom and in life”. For her students’ parents, Rissa bridges the mystery gap of special children by providing a safe place for them as well as frequent communications through calls and weekly newsletters. She believes in her students and tells them so daily as she celebrates their gifts, which she helps them find and share. Her students “have cognitive and physical delays that they must learn to look past to help each other gain self-confidence,” she says. “They believe they are smart. . . Everyone has value and brings a different perspective to each assignment.” She watches her students come out of their shells to set and meet goals, learn to read, be verbal and interact with each other. She adds innovation to her teaching through humor, empowerment, and inspiration.

Rissa steps out to be a voice and an advocate for her students, writing her own curriculum, creating an IEP for each student, and with her open door policy, welcomes anyone to visit her classroom to help dispel myths about disabilities. She challenges others to compare her curriculum with the general education curriculum, emphasizing her high expectations, encouragement, and care for each other as constants in her self-contained classroom, where she teaches all the core classes.

Every year, Rissa’s students celebrate global diversity in their study of “Traditions of the World” by researching a country and its customs. The school body is invited to visit and learn from this project and its goal of understanding differences.

Not to limit her involvement to her teaching field, Rissa shares her warmth and leadership by running the school store, heading the Renaissance program spearheading fundraisers, volunteers to coach 7th grade girls’ basketball, chaperones Friday Friendzies, as well as community efforts at her church, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, and Easter Seals. At home, Rissa is a foster care parent. Her mission of “victory over differences” shines through in her tremendous impact on students, their parents, and the whole school community and beyond.

Bradd Stott1Bradley C. Stott

Keith Country Day School-Rockford

History; U.S. Government; World Religions

M.A. Education-Benedictine University

B.A. History-University of Utah

In graduate school, Brad Stott began building a website that he continues to use every day to enhance the educational experience of his students. Dr. Ronald C. Lee, Jr., Head of Middle and Upper School at Keith Country Day School, praises Brad’s outstanding qualities and accomplishments as a teacher. “A key to Brad’s success in the classroom has been his embrace of a view of education that emphasizes the creative use of technology to promote student learning”, says Lee. Brad has modeled best practices in the use of technology, including a teacher-driven website – www. – that contains PowerPoint lectures, review games, and other class-related materials. Finding fun and creative ways to use Smart Board and Windows Movie Maker technologies in the classroom over the years has brought about the expansion of his website to 200 separate web pages and 600 separate files.

Amending his technology focus, Brad heads Keith’s Technology Committee and helps the Technology Oversight Team. He serves as Chair of the History department, is Head Golf Coach, and supervises the Table Tennis Club and middle school Golf Club. He serves on the faculty Grant Oversight Committee, teaches a before-school study skills course to 9th graders and advises the year-long 10th grade and senior projects at Keith. In the community, he has coached twice for Indian Trails Conference Golf Champions.

Brad’s dedication to his profession has earned him recognition over the years. The Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) presented him with the Teacher Recognition Award, and he received the Teacher Website Excellence Award. Brad has been given the Rockford Rotary Teacher Certificate of Appreciation Award, has been nominated to Golden Apple several times, and twice was awarded the Keith Senior Class Recognition Award.

Believing that best teachers make a commitment to the future and to others, Brad left the business world to play a key role in living out his mission to teach that solving the most vexing world problems is based solely in education. He hopes his teaching legacy follows the Abraham Lincoln quotation, “I want it said of me by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow”.

Trey Fisk lgTrey Fisk

Physics & Algebra
Rockford Lutheran Junior and Senior High School
Teaching Experience: 15 Years

B.A. Physical Science-Concordia University Chicago
M.A. Educational Astronomy-University of Illinois Springfield

Who could find physics anything less than fascinating when your teacher electrocutes a cake to demonstrate alternating current? Or lets you shoot water balloons across a football field at him?

Trey Fisk has captivated math and science students at Rockford Lutheran for four years, inspiring some to pursue college degrees in these fields. He helped add a second year of AP-level physics to the curriculum, often spends weekends at school helping students prepare for exams, works with students before and after class ... and finds time to coach the boys' and girls' cross country team and the boys' track team. Not to mention keeping up with workshops and conferences.

During the winter, Trey took his students to Saturday morning physics lectures at FermiLab in Batavia. His classroom lights are powered by ten solar panels; a classroom computer allows students to analyze this solar energy data. He also has a 72-inch SMART Board in the classroom so students can tap into web resources.

Jane Austin, curriculum consultant at Lutheran, asked Trey's Algebra II class to rate him, on a one to ten scale. A student exclaimed: "Mr. Fisk is a twelve and a half!"

Says parent Deborah Burger: "He is teaching more than just the class; he is teaching students the love of learning."

Megan Forsythe lgMegan Forsythe

7th and 8th Grade Mathematics
Prairie Hill School-South Beloit
Teaching Experience: 7 Years

B.S.-Education-University of Illinois
M. Ed.Curriculum & Instruction-National-Louis University

Megan Forsythe never planned to be a middle-school math teacher. But three years into business studies at the University of Illinois, Megan decided to switch to education, and a math specialty fit her finance, accounting and economics credits. So math teacher it was.

Since then, Megan has grown passionate about math and loves to spread her enthusiasm to her students. She livens up lessons by doing headstands (to demonstrate reciprocal properties), singing math jingles she has created, and playing math games. She uses a math webpage, similar to MySpace, and has "Math" request friends; all of her students signed up.

"She knows if she just stands there and talks to us we will only get half of what she is saying, but if she is singing, dancing, and making us part of math, we will get 100 percent out of it," says eighth-grader Becky Dal Santo.

"From her very first day right up through today, Megan has created a universe in her classroom where all things are possible for those willing to believe in themselves," says Prairie Hill Principal Michael Michowski. "In my time here at Prairie Hill, Megan Forsythe is the finest example of teaching excellence it has been my privilege to work alongside."

Lynn Marie Graczyk lgLynn Marie Graczyk

Sophomore and Junior English
Jefferson High School-Rockford
Teaching Experience: 12 Years

B.A. - English-Northern Illinois University
B.A. - Journalism-Northern Illinois University
M. Ed. Curriculum & Instruction/Education-National-Louis University
National Board Certification

Lynn Graczyk knows what it's like to be a student in her class. For three semesters, she did every assignment she asked her students to do-plus allowed them to critique her work. "It was a definite eye-opener," says Lynn of the experiment, done for her master's degree. Once, Lynn told her students to write two pages of autobiography in 20 minutes; when they protested, she dismissed their complaints-until she tried the task herself, and could manage only one page.

"It is astounding to have seen the guts it took to let herself be a student with her students," says G. Thomas Fox, professor at National-Louis University, adding he had never seen a "more courageous project."

A National Board Certified teacher since 2007, Lynn ties her lessons to students' lives. Before reading Julius Caesar, her students discussed trust in relationships. After a student grumbled about reading "these old plays," another replied: "Caesar's friends hurt him. That stuff still happens." Lynn had been successful once again in making classic literature relevant.

Bradley Peters, associate English professor at NIU, says Lynn's rapport with her students is "superb," adding: "Her success comes from the high quality of her planning, the considerable time she invests, and her intense dedication to young people."

We also know that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree since Lynn's mother, Ann, is a Golden Apple Teacher from 2002!

Jessica Lindvall-Powell lgJessica Lindvall-Powell

7th Grade Mathematics and Pre-Algebra
Roscoe Middle School
Teaching Experience: 8 Years

B.S.-Elementary Education-Northern Illinois University
M.S. Ed.- Education Administration- Northern Illinois University

Jessica Lindvall-Powell comes from a long line of gifted teachers, including two grandmothers and her mother, Becky, a 2002 Golden Apple recipient. Like them, she feels a passion to work with children.

"Most people, upon hearing I teach seventh grade, just wince and shake their heads," says Jessica. "But I have always known this is where I belong." She enjoys guiding middle-schoolers through the transition from childhood to young adulthood, and along the way, making math fun for them.

To do this, she appeals to kinesthetic and spatial learning styles. Students form the coordinate grid and graph equations by physically moving along the y-axis. She also brings in manipulatives for students to work with.

Jessica's rewards come in witnessing the "ah ha!" moments-when students say they understand a subject for the first time, thanks to her teaching. She also has welcomed special education students into her classroom. "She never talked to me like I was stupid," says Tyler Young, now in eighth grade. "I started to like math more in her class." Thanks to Jessicas praise and interest, Tyler made the honor roll and is planning to go to college.

Says Tyler: "I think every kid needs a teacher like Mrs. Powell who sees the kid you can be, and helps you get there."

Penny Spears lgPenny Spears

6th Grade Mathematics
Belvidere Central Middle School
Teaching Experience: 6 Years

A.A. - Rock Valley College
B.S. Elementary Education  Rockford College
M.A. Education/Teaching/Leadership  St. Xavier College

Penny Spears is committed to getting to know the student behind the grade and the parent behind the child. She is intentional about knowing the facts inside each student's life. She invites families into the educational process by conducting student led conferences each fall where the students present a portfolio of their own work.

Student Cole Dunlap says Ms. Spears helped him through a tough time. "She figured out different ways to tell me I was being disruptive or acting out without embarrassing me in front of the other kids," says Cole. "She could have given up on me, but she didn't."

With 27 percent of the students in her district coming from Spanish-speaking families, Penny set up a bilingual webpage. She also provides access to computers before and after school for those without Internet access.

She captures student attention by telling stories about her cats, singing Beyonce's "To the Left" when moving decimal places, and hosting a baseball-themed "World Series" class competition to study fractions and percentages.

Penny believes math and reading skills are linked, and has worked school-wide to improve vocabulary. Principal Harry Gries says Penny's students' math ISAT scores are up markedly. He often sees former students drop by to give a hug to the woman who not only taught them math but also how to be successful in life.

Shannon Anderson

Kindergarten, Prairie Hill School, Prairie Hill School District 133, South Beloit, IL

B.S. Elementary Education-Rockford College
M. Ed.Curriculum & Instruction-National-Louis University

Taking scared, anxious, five-year-old children in August and giving them the gift of reading and writing . . . can only be done by a singer,” writes Michael Michowski, Principal at Prairie Hill School. “Shannon Anderson is the voice of unlimited patience.” She teaches “the beginning song of life [and] is the ideal shepherd for these children to cross the bridge onto first grade and beyond.”

Shannon didn't have life-long dreams of being a professional teacher. She spent eighteen years teaching her own four children and as a lead therapist for the Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP) before she was hooked. “The sheer joy [the children] experienced when they were successful became my addiction,” she says. So at age 31, Shannon went to college, graduating Summa Cum Laude, then on to earn her M.Ed. After being hired fulltime, she relentlessly continued additional instruction including American Sign Language.

A combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modes is the foundation for Shannon’s teaching concepts. Her Master’s thesis on the benefits of classroom amplification systems to students with auditory processing deficits led to a school-wide purchase of amplification systems. To increase readiness of new kindergarteners, she created the Kindergarten Summer Intervention Program, KSIP. She often requests students with special needs. “Children generally live up to what is expected of them,” says Shannon about her classroom climate of nurturing, low risk, and high expectations.

Including the whole family and pets in her web communications, Shannon touts “it takes a village to raise a child”. Parents are encouraged to visit any time, to take ownership of their child’s learning, and to learn some songs that help the process. Superintendent Ted Rehl writes, “Quite simply, she is pure magic.”

“Teaching is the air I breathe, . . .the sun that guides me, . . the water that carries me to places I’ve dreamed possible, . . . the fire that keeps me warm, lights [my] way and burns brighter every year.” Shannon Anderson

cms-ErikkaColettaErikka Coletta

3rd Grade, Ledgewood School, Kinnikinnick School District 131, Roscoe, IL
A.S. Rock Valley College

B.S. Child Development-Rockford College

M.A.T. Instructional Strategies-Rockford College

Donning scarf, glasses, and a British accent, Erikka transforms into Martha the Math Wizard for her third graders, who also enjoy a “hunk-a, hunk-a fun” Elvis-voiced Dr. Science who leads them through exciting experiments. Role-playing is part of Social Studies too, as Erikka hones her acting skills and encourages participation from her students.

Recently, her class at Ledgewood Elementary School in Roscoe learned the importance of “setting” in a narrative story by creating an almost life-sized boxcar, complete with mural and supplies needed to create scenes from the book The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Erikka encourages language fluency with her students through repeated readings and partner poems. As master creator of special events, she contacted Starbucks to sponsor her “Poetry Slam” where the school library becomes a coffee shop and students become beatnik poets, memorizing and presenting poetry for the day. “If students have a reason to engage in learning, they will jump at the opportunity,” writes Erikka.

Lured by her love for children and the energy of a classroom she visited, Erikka left her high-paying business career to engage in the journey of positive experiences for the success of children. She returned to graduate school, and now on top of mothering young triplets, she engages her days with “all of her children”. She asks the “Supply Fairy” to deliver necessary items to some of her needier students, knowing that there are bigger issues than tests and curriculum. “Our students ARE our curriculum,” she says.

“There is no greater responsibility than molding a child into whom they are going to be.”

cms-AmyConklin2Amy Conklin

2ndGrade, Windsor Elementary School, Harlem School District 122, Loves Park, IL

B.S.-Mass Communications-Illinois State University
B.S.-Elementary Education-Illinois State University
M.S.Ed.-University of Colorado and Northern Illinois University

Amy Conklin always knew she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. She was deeply inspired by many teachers she had as a child and that instilled a deep sense of the type of teacher she wanted to be one day. Amy’s passion for teaching rests on four tenets; use humor, make each child feel special, be creative, and set the bar high for students.

Amy was teaching in the same school district as Columbine High School when tragedy occurred and it changed the way she taught. She recognizes that she may be the one adult who spends the most time with a student in a day. She takes that responsibility seriously and recognizes that she serves as a role model. She believes that she must provide not only the best academic instruction, but she must also teach respect, responsibility, character, and create an environment that is fun and structured.

Amy has created a stimulating yet organized classroom that challenges each student to excel. She goes out of her way to differentiate materials and instruction to meet each student’s individual academic needs. Amy encourages her students to think outside the box and she intentionally makes connections between what is learned in the classroom and the real world. She has initiated Classroom Service Learning Projects such as “Stencil-a-Drain” to raise awareness about the hazards of polluting the Rock River, and recycling aluminum cans to raise money for a charity chosen by her students.

Amy is a dedicated teacher to her students, an educational leader and mentor to the new teachers. “As a mentor, she helps mentees perfect the craft of creating the state-aligned lessons in addition to understanding how to strike the balance between producing high quality lessons in the classroom and working on making solid family connections.” says, Veronica Vazquez, Principal at Windsor Elementary School

CindyAdami1Cindy Adami

2nd Grade, Brookview Elementary School-Rockford School District 205

B.S. Elementary Education/Reading-Illinois State University
M.Ed. Elementary Education-National Louis University

Cindy Adami is ceaseless in her energy. In her thirty years of teaching middle and elementary students, Cindy has exhibited her passion for wanting “to make a difference in a child’s life” for a long-lasting impact. Parents, volunteers, student teachers, former students and other staff members get involved with her students and their school. During reading time, five or six volunteers can be seen one-on-one with her students. And that’s why Cindy is active with the PTO. You can find her serving hamburgers at a fundraiser and putting in time at Turkey Bingo, Fun Fair, and Monster Mash. And that’s why each student receives a “memory book” of personal photos at the end of the school year.

Armed with her degree in reading, Cindy raises money to support the Family Literacy Night – to encourage families to read together, to dialog and learn together. Her students participate in literature circles and book clubs. Expanding the curriculum requirements, Cindy charges each lesson with a spark that ignites curiosity in her students. Her second graders study ocean animals, listening to whale echoes, performing in plays, writing a book, singing ocean songs, and determining what floats and sinks. And they learn 100 new words a week!

Always seeking more opportunities, Cindy helped revise Rockford District’s Math pacing guide, wrote grants to fund cutting edge classroom technology, chaired the Volunteer Appreciation Night, mentors rookie teachers, travels to study other school programs, and volunteers for numerous community initiatives.

A colleague says that Cindy has a tireless spirit, never giving up on an underachiever. Cindy stays “focused on the prize - instilling a love for life-long learning in her students and loving the ‘work.’” Her legacy lives on with her daughter just entering the teaching world, now continuing three generations of family teachers.

cms-PattyCrowPatty Crow

Pre-K-Kindergarten-Maria Montessori School, Rockford School District 205

B.S. Elementary Education – Northern Illinois University
M.S. Ed. Early Childhood Education-Northern Illinois University

“Patty truly believes that all children can learn and have the right to be educated in an environment that is psychologically and physically safe as well as cognitively challenging,” says Susan Haney-Bauer, the Principal at Maria Montessori School. Patty Crow focuses on teaching the ‘whole’ child, meeting the emotional, physical, cognitive and social needs of each student. She does not believe in the concept of “one size fits all”, instead, she caters a child’s work to their own individual learning level.

Her focus is to make her students lifelong learners through exploration and experimentation. She encourages them to ask questions and find their own answers, showing them how to learn throughout their lives. She rewards students who master an activity by providing them with the privilege of learning a new one. Learning new and more in-depth material is an intrinsic incentive for her students.

Patty feels that it is imperative to involve the families of her students in order to facilitate the education of the ‘whole child’. Getting parents involved at the entry level of Montessori education helps keep them involved throughout their child’s tenure at the school. Michelle Marcomb, the parent of one of her students is amazed by the love Patty Crow shows for her students and is excited to be involved in her child’s education.

Patty’s passion is improving the quality of life for children through their success in school. Her most recent contribution to the “whole student” is her commitment to implementing the “Food is Elementary Program”, teaching the importance of incorporating healthier and freshly grown food into the student’s diets. Patty Crow is an educator who for 32 years has been willing to go above and beyond for each child she encounters.


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