2023 Golden Apple Award Finalists

Kimberlee Malmberg

Kimberlee Malmberg of Rockford has spent her 30-year career in her “dream job,” teaching third grade at Washington Elementary. In her essay, Kimber wrote, “Many people might think my students can’t be successful because of trauma and circumstances they endure. This is the reason I believe they must be successful!” Years ago, she had a student come with the attitude that school didn’t matter. He didn’t feel that he’d graduate anyway. She knew, though it wouldn’t be easy, she had to show him unconditional love, set high expectations and “help change how [he] viewed himself as a learner and as a person.” She saw him recently at Guilford and he ran to give her a hug and a smile. As she was leaving, he said, “Two more years until I graduate; you’ll be there, right”? No doubt, she will. Sometimes students’ families are reluctant to support public education, having been disappointed by their own experience. Kimber’s determined to give their children better. She visits students’ homes before school starts, even offering to join in math games she sends home. When aspiring teachers join Kimber’s classroom, they learn from her, but she enjoys hearing what’s being taught in universities now. She says, “We should never be too old to learn or try something new.” When readying students for new activities, Kimber asks, “Ready to Listen?” They tell her, “Ready to Learn!” She tells them learning can be difficult. “If we aren’t struggling, we probably aren’t learning as much as we can. I give my students lots of opportunities to struggle and come to the learning on their own.” When students achieve goals they set, classmates celebrate, like the family they’ve become. A classroom observer noted the tremendous respect students have for her, each other and their learning environment. Past assistant principal and Golden Apple Academy member, Katherine Trotter recommended Kimber, writing, “She’s not only committed to her students but also her school. Kimber is the first to volunteer for any event or committee, or to help with pick-up. She spreads a positive light … and sees the best in everyone. She’s a phenomenal educator and an inspiration.”