2024 Golden Apple Finalists

Jeremy Toledo

Jeremy Toledo of Rockford teaches choir, guitar and drama at Harlem High School, where he’s been the past 3 of his 17 years teaching. “I am here to serve you and I am a resource and partner to help you achieve your goals.” Jeremy opened his essay with this statement and starts the first day of class with it. Students concur. One said, “Mr. Toledo is a dedicated, understanding, compassionate teacher who respects his students and challenges them to step out of their comfort zone and achieve their goals.  He goes out of his way to give students whatever resources they need, including [staying] after school.  I don’t know where I’d be without him. I certainly wouldn’t know my dream is to become a music educator like him.” A retired teacher observed that Jeremy did a “great job involving everyone, including students with ELL and severe social anxiety.” Beyond the classroom, Jeremy advises the music honor society, whose students are teaching instruments and directing a band in a school without a program. That school’s principal wrote that previously “music was thought of as just a class everyone had to take. [But] through his passion and expertise in teaching, [Jeremy] made music fun and exciting. The musical experiences [he] provides bring to life an interest or curiosity that might have otherwise stayed dormant.” His students attended Theatrefest for the first time, resulting in more than $200,000 in college tuition offers to those who auditioned. He’s added courses to the curriculum and a pit orchestra for productions, creating more opportunities for students. His music selections reflect student diversity: songs in other languages and songs supporting LGBTQ+ and BLM. One Hispanic student was so excited, she helped teach Spanish pronunciation and diction, making the performance even better. “I want every child to have the opportunity to show pride in themselves and have the confidence to share it. I want them to know they are important.” Fellow music department teacher – and finalist – Tim Perian shared that he appreciates Jeremy’s “calm presence during trips with students, performances gone awry and the stressful day-to-day of working in a high school.”