Golden Apple Foundation is pleased to honor Ms. Melissa Yuska, principal at Windsor Elementary School in the Harlem School District, as the 16th Golden Apple Outstanding Principal sponsored by McDonald’s Corporation. Hired as principal on June 24, 2019, Melissa previously served as the assistant principal at Windsor and Olson Park Elementary Schools for two years. Before that, she was a supervisor of special education in the Rockford School District for three years and a teacher for 10 years before moving into her administrative roles. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a B.S. in Communicative Disorders and an M.S. in Education.

Melissa asks staff what they need to “be the best educators we can be,” then works with professional development specialists to make sure P.D. is designed to meet the needs. That goes for all staff, not just teachers. “She has worked with district bus drivers to provide training on helping some of our neediest students. She makes it clear that every person who works with our students is important, and, as such, they deserve the support and direction to further their skills.” Another teacher wrote, “She frequently shares … that without the relationships with our students, we will not see their achievement and success.” Yuska’s relationship building skills are solid. Students see her all over the school daily: in hallways, lunchroom, playgrounds and classrooms. She knows their names. And when they see her, they smile and ask for hugs, high fives and fist bumps. This does not mean she doesn’t hold them to high standards, though! In a nomination letter, we learned she “wants our lowest performing students to make as much progress as possible and she wants the higher performing students to be pushed to learn even more.” Dr. Terrell Yarbrough, Superintendent, commented, "In my first year as superintendent, I have been impressed with Melissa's ability to lead her building through a very difficult year. Despite staff shortages, she found a way for Windsor Elementary School to still provide a culture of support and care to students, often times subbing in classrooms herself to make it work. Melissa is very deserving of this award!"

Yuska received an award and $1,500 to be used in her school. She will be further recognized at the Golden Apple Excellence in Education banquet on April 22, 2022.