Alli Schmidt

Allison Schmidt of Huntley has taught second or third grade dual language at Washington STEM Academy in Belvidere for nine years. A staunch supporter of the dual language program, she constantly challenges others in her school and district to think outside the box and to consider a multi-language lens to approach education. As a leader, she has attended and given presentations about achievement, integration in a dual language classroom, calm corners and project-based learning at school, district, state and national levels. She gets to know her students’ interests, backgrounds, and families, and how best to encourage them to achieve success. Though relationship-building, Alli assures students that in her class, they’re safe. They know she will do anything she can for them. She aims to make lessons meaningful and interesting for her students, which, to her, means including them in choosing what resources they need on the walls, how to form the classroom furniture for lessons and the guidelines to which the class should hold each other accountable. A former Washington principal said, “when spending time in Alli’s classroom, it is apparent that the classroom is the children’s classroom; not one created just by the teacher.” Alli says she “empowers students to take ownership of their learning and clearly discuss their academic and behavioral goals.” By doing so, she sees a dramatic increase in the students’ motivation, understanding and commitment to learning. She draws in peers and family members to support and celebrate goal achievement. Alli developed an alternative style of homework because, “teaching at a STEM school and serving a population with lower socioeconomic status, [I] realized that homework might need to look different in order to engage students and fit the needs of each family.” Each month, students receive hands-on, interactive tasks and activities for each STEAM category: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Literacy and Math. They can involve all members of the family. There are tasks that don't require buying materials and tasks for students who have support in the home and can complete tasks with an adult or those who may be the one in charge and need to entertain younger siblings. “The activities are engaging, spark curiosity and help students extend learning and problem solving skills from the classroom into their homes."

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Golden Apple Foundation is pleased to announce the names of 20 teachers from Winnebago and Boone County who have been selected to move forward in the process for the 2020 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. These talented PreK - 5th grade teachers were chosen by a selection committee of community volunteers who had the difficult task of selecting only 20 teachers from a large group of worthy nominees.

Please join us in congratulating the following excellent teachers….

Kimberly Brace
Whitehead Elementary - Rockford
2nd Grade

Laura Brooks
Whitman Post Elementary - Rockton
3rd Grade

Karissa Dooley
Clark Elementary School - South Beloit

Nikki Gallentine
Prairie Hill Elementary School - South Beloit
4th Grade

Heather Geary
Whitehead Elementary - Rockford
4th Grade

Lori Granite
Rockford Christian - Rockford

Laura Greier
Nashold Early Childhood Center - Rockford
Early Childhood

Tui Harned
Nashold Early Childhood Center - Rockford
Early Childhood

Beth Hubner
All Saints Catholic Academy - Rockford
4th Grade

Angela Hulsey
West View Elementary - Rockford
1st Grade

Lisa Istad
Durand Elementary School - Durand
5th Grade

Rebecca Kallstrom
Fairview Early Childhood Center - Rockford
Early Childhood

Patricia Magallanes
Washington STEM Academy - Belvidere
4th Grade Dual Language

Heidi Milner
Ledgewood School - Roscoe

Danielle Peterson
Prairie Hill Elementary - South Beloit
Blended Pre-K

Tiffany Russey
Conklin Elementary - Rockford
2nd Grade

Mallori Sage
Whitehead Elementary - Rockford
3rd Grade

Allison Schmidt
Washington STEM Academy - Belvidere
3rd Grade Dual Language

Miranda Thompson
Donald C. Parker Center - Machesney Park

Jackie Weerda
Ledgewood School - Roscoe

These teachers will be observed in their classrooms by trained community volunteers on three separate occasions between Jan. 21 and Feb. 18, 2020. The next step in the selection process after observations is an interview. The process culminates with the selection of five teachers who will receive the prestigious Golden Apple Award in surprise classroom presentations featured by WTVO/FOX 39 and the Rockford Register Star.

Each Golden Apple award winning teacher will receive a cash award; a professional development stipend; a Rockford University Scholarship and a computer compliments of Entré Computer Solutions. In addition, they will be inducted into the Golden Apple Teacher Academy where, as members, they will work to increase public awareness of educational excellence in our schools, promote the profession of education and provide professional development training and mentoring to new and veteran teachers.

Golden Apple Foundation is celebrating its 24th year of taking positive steps to achieve improved education in Winnebago and Boone counties. The Annual Golden Apple Banquet recognizing Excellence in Education and honoring the Golden Apple finalists will be held Friday, April 24, 2020, at Giovanni's, and presented by Bergstrom Inc. Charitable Foundation.

Golden Apple Foundation inspires, recognizes and supports excellence in education in our community. For more information, contact Jennifer Stark at 815-226-4180 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Golden Apple Foundation celebrated the 2020 Golden Apple teacher nominees at the Nominee Reception, presented by Rockford Univeristy, on Nov. 19, 2019. Teachers, administrators and their supporters enjoyed delicious appetizers and socializing with 250 teachers, administrators and Golden Apple supporters.

The evening started out with a welcome by Dr. Eric Fulcomer and then Suzette Muck, 2018 Golden Apple finalist, gave an inspiring speech about her own experience as a finalist. She talked about her own self-reflection and introspection writing the portfolio and encouraged nominees to honor their nomination by taking the next step in the process and submitting a teacher portfolio. The portfolios are due at 5 p.m. on December 3, 2019. Portfolios may be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; faxed to 815-394-5014 or dropped off to the Golden Apple office located at Rockford University, Scarborough Hall, Room 9. (lower level) 

Teachers are encouraged to reach out to Golden Apple Foundation with any questions at 815-226-4180 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Special thanks to our presenting sponsor Rockford University, and to our booth sponsor, Meemic Insurance.

PHOTOS: Marquette Elementary Nominees celebrate! 

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During the past month, parents, students and community members submitted 1,261 nominations for 601 of their favorite primary level teachers who exemplify excellence in the classroom. Below are just a few of the comments about the PreK - 5th grade teachers in Winnebago and Boone counties nominated for the prestigious 2020 Golden Apple Teacher Awards:

"I think [she] should win because she taught us so much and made us way smarter than we already were. She taught us a lot of math patterns and I'm still learning a bunch." 

[She] is a true leader in our school with literacy instruction which is so critical for 1st grade students. She combines strong values and beliefs about what students need to learn with high expectations."

"[He] is a very nice teacher and cares about our grades a lot."

All nominees, regardless of eligibility, are encouraged to attend the Nominee Reception from 4:30-6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Regents Hall in Burpee Center at Rockford University. Nominees will enjoy socializing, appetizers and celebrating with other teachers. Special thanks to our Nominee Reception Sponsor, Rockford University. 

Click here for a full list of nominees.

Golden Apple Foundation inspires, celebrates and supports educational excellence in our community. To learn more about the foundation, visit our website at

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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 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!


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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. 

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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

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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.



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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.