2024 Golden Apple Award Recipients, 2024 Golden Apple Finalists, Golden Apple News

Cara Wolfe

Cara Wolfe of Rockford has taught 8th grade ELA at Flinn Middle School the past 3 of her 9 years of teaching. She believes “setting ambitious expectations is central to student success.” Cara loves teaching and wants to create an inclusive environment in which students feel seen, heard, understood, valued and validated. A student nominator wrote she “is a daily source of joy for everyone around her.” Another said, “she’s the only reason why I actually like school.” Cara strives to “create an educational environment where not only do all students meet expectations, but consistently surpass them, ensuring a strong foundation for their academic journey.” Her students “collaboratively establish classroom rules, decide on consequences and determine how they prefer to approach assignments, whether independently or with a partner. Students are not only in charge of their learning but actively contribute to shaping the [classroom’s] cultural dynamics.” She collaborates regularly with fellow finalist Aubrey Barnett on lessons, and on the Origin Museum and Human Library projects, which highlight student diversity and voice. Cara says together, they “continue to cultivate an environment where innovation and teamwork flourish, setting the stage for continued success in education.”  Assistant Principal Cynthia Sims says Cara is “not just an exemplary teacher; she is a transformative force in the lives of students.” Cara created Flinn’s first family book club, “encouraging students, families and staff to develop and share the love of reading. [She] is consistently thinking about how to build the love of reading and learning both inside and outside of the classroom.” Aubrey shared that Cara “goes above and beyond to support any student in need. Her genuine concern for every student is reflected in the affection her students hold for her.” Several retired teachers observed Cara’s classes. One wrote she “is a conscientious teacher who’s very familiar with her students’ likes and dislikes and their individual methods of learning.” Another added, “she knows when and how to keep them on task.” A third noted “even the few [students] who were ‘redirected’ accepted correction well”!