2024 Golden Apple Finalists

Aubrey Barnett

Aubrey Barnett of Rockford teaches 8th grade English Language Arts at Flinn Middle School in Rockford. She’s taught here the past 3 of her 8 years of teaching. One of her goals is to raise the scores of every student in her classroom whose score on the “belongingness” scale from 1-5 was below a 3. She strives daily to “craft spaces, lessons, and relationships centered on connection and meaning-making.” One way she tries to elevate connection and inclusion is by leading the Human Library Project, in which students “become books” and tell their stories to community members. In 2013, Aubrey took a hiatus from the classroom to pursue a master’s degree in clinical counseling. She wanted to learn how to better support “adolescents facing trauma, anxiety, depression and more.” She worked in behavioral health hospitals and gained more perspective into adolescents facing trauma, anxiety and depression and how to support them. She re-entered the classroom with new insights and socio-emotional management skills. In her essay, Aubrey wrote that her aim “is to curate enriching learning opportunities that resonate with both hearts and minds, constructing neural pathways for sustained achievement.” Aubrey is clearly supportive of the teens in her class, from rainbow and “all are welcome” signs in the room to her respect of diverse answers to her questions about the topic at hand. One observer noted that, “she shows genuine excitement when her students can articulate and explain their insights about the book. She also skillfully and stealthily prompts them to go beyond their perceptions – to dig deeper.” Aubrey says that collaboration is “intrinsic to my professional identity and growth.” One of her peers who collaborates with her regularly on planning and teaching at Flinn shared that “in addition to her excellence in the classroom, Aubrey played a pivotal role in elevating our school’s academic standing. Through her dedication and strategic efforts, she spearheaded initiatives that resulted in a significant improvement in our school’s report card rating.”