2023 Golden Apple Award Finalists, 2023 Golden Apple Award Recipients

Crystal Ellis

Crystal Ellis of South Beloit has been at Stone Creek her whole 18-year career. She’s a Salvation Army Bell Ringer (who invites students and teachers to join her) and member of Delta Kappa Gamma, the South Beloit Athletic Booster Club, the South Beloit Library board and a local church. She’s also a teacher’s union officer and on school committees. Crystal mentors new third-grade teachers and told superintendent, Keli Freedlund, “They push me to do better”! Mentees, Jana Gabriele and Allison Staman praise how Crystal is always striving to “make our school a better place and thinking of ways to encourage and uplift her co-workers.” They say she “inspired us to be better teachers.” Crystal considers it her “responsibility to awaken, challenge and mentor student learning.” She loves using technology to do this, sharing it in instruction differentiation, virtual field trips and digital escape rooms. After a class read about a moose who went to trial, Crystal scheduled Judge Fabiano to give them a virtual tour of the Winnebago County Courthouse and to talk about court procedures. Cheery Snoopy decorations adorn Crystal’s room. Each student has the chance to be “Snoopy Star of the Week,” when he or she can bring pictures, medals, toys and meaningful items to share about family, traditions, goals, favorite foods and hobbies. The class asks about the child’s heritage and unique qualities. As they learn about each other, her students learn to respect diversity. Crystal collaborates with resource teachers, reading specialists and other third grade teachers to develop IEP goals, accommodations or strategies. Students feel valued as they see all “their teachers” on the same page, working together to increase student self-image and motivation, plus academic and social strengths. Observers of Crystal’s classes commented about her enthusiasm and positivity with every student, which resulted in an incredible amount of engagement and excitement about learning throughout the class. She also stressed kindness, manners and respect, which were also reflected in student behavior.