2022 Golden Apple Award Winners

Kelli Houghton

Kelli Houghton

Kelli Houghton of Roscoe started teaching at Willowbrook Middle School 20 years ago and never left! She wrote, “Middle school in itself is a show, watching kids step outside their comfort zones, witnessing a learning epiphany, watching a student make real life connections to literature, and more importantly raising kids to be kind quality citizens is what I get paid to do. I take pride in being a part of the teaching profession … but most importantly, I too, wake up inspired by others’ stories.” Principal Dr. Plourde says, “She has adapted well to the changes in education over her career. Kelli teaches advanced literature, regular level literature and RtI Tier 3 for students who are significantly behind grade level in their reading abilities. She excels at teaching all of them.” Of course, recent changes came because of COVID. Dr. Plourde shared, “As team leader, she helped direct the language arts department through the pandemic. 76% of our students met or exceeded expectations on the IAR reading test last spring, which is the same percentage we achieved before the pandemic.” A student nominator said, “being a teacher in a pandemic is hard, but she always keeps a smile on her face, hidden under her mask and never shows teaching is difficult.” Houghton says, “Students feed off of my tone and they respond accordingly,” so she tries to bring a smile and a positive attitude every day. People also rave about the atmosphere in Houghton’s classroom. Part of that is the “Literature Lounge” concept she developed five years ago. She thrifted seating options such as couches, chaise lounges and antique armchairs to accompany traditional desks. But it’s not just that. Another student confided that she hadn’t liked past English classes. She actually had come to dislike writing in general. But because of Houghton, she now enjoys writing as a hobby and is considering writing as a career prospect! She said Houghton “always considers her students not as children to be managed or numbers in a gradebook, but as real people with real potential to achieve greatness. She takes the time to learn about each individual, regardless of their grades.” Houghton partners with students’ parents to create goals for and support the students, and also collaborates with other teachers: brainstorming, taking risks and supporting each other. “Collaboration isn’t always pretty; the bigger the conflict the stronger the team.” “I wouldn’t be who I am today without a quality collaboration process.” Houghton also makes it a point to share literature by diverse authors since there is a significant lack of student diversity in this district (91% are Caucasian). She wrote, “I find it my obligation to expose young readers to various voices where they can independently think for themselves and empower them with their own choices.” “Together we readjust the lens of our own perspectives.” Past Golden Apple teacher (2015) Laurie Dixon, who also teaches at Willowbrook concluded, “Kelli is the colleague everyone wants, the friend everyone deserves, and the teacher every parent dreams their child will have.”