2023 Golden Apple Award Finalists

Kelli Blank

A past nominee, Kelli Blank is now being observed in her Kindergarten class at Harlem District’s Donald C. Parker Center as a Golden Apple Finalist. The Rockford resident has taught 17 of her 19 years as a teacher in this Machesney Park school. She was nominated by the parents of several students, one of whom told us that her daughter loves her and loves going to school every day! Kelli wrote in her essay, “young minds amaze me every single day. I am honored to be a part of each and every one of my students’ lives.” Kelli constantly assesses student needs as well as her own abilities and potential. She went back to school for her Master of Science in Literacy Education degree because she wanted to provide a solid foundation of learning for her students just learning to read. This year, she started coursework to pursue a Master of Science in Educational Administration. Even in Kindergarten, the differences in students’ abilities and backgrounds are evident. Kelli groups students by ability for certain activities, adjusting groups as they change. She also sends letters to their families each school year to learn about their cultures and traditions, bringing in family members to speak about different celebrations. Families are offered many ways to support their students such as take-home activities and chaperone opportunities. In a letter of recommendation, school librarian Meghan Hembrough shared that Kelli’s joining the team at Parker was “the breath of fresh air we did not know we needed. Through her efforts, the first-grade team developed thematic learning celebrations at the end of each literacy unit. Though Kelli and I have both moved on to different positions, the learning celebrations continue.” Meghan added, “she is judicious and wise, able to guide people along in their own learning rather than simply telling.” Observers of Kelli’s classroom have commented about the structure and engagement there. One wrote, “I cannot picture a more productive group of kindergarten students.”