Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching Finalists Announced

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

Golden Apple, the leading Illinois nonprofit committed to preparing, honoring and supporting educators who advance educational opportunities for students, on Tuesday announced the 2021 finalists for the prestigious Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching.  A highly competitive award process resulted in the selection of 32 Pre-K-3rd grade finalists — just 4.5 percent of a record-setting 708 nominations received from 67 counties in Illinois.  The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching honor outstanding teachers for having lasting, positive effects on students’ lives and school communities. Among this year’s finalists are:

Amy Castaneda, Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez Elementary School, Little Village (Grades K-2, Visual Arts) — During the spring, Castaneda delivered packets of art supplies on an ice-cream type cart to her students so that they could continue their artwork while remote learning. She followed that up in September by personally packing 332 art boxes for her students that included hand-made sketch books, bags of paper mosaics, bags of pony beads, bags of crayons, etc. to make sure that their remote experience was as close to a classroom experience as possible. Castaneda also founded “Beyond the Ball,” a community-based nonprofit that promotes positive civic engagement by leveraging the power of sport and play to reclaim underutilized space in the community.

Olga Contreras, Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, Little Village (2nd Grade, All Subjects) — After immigrating to the United States, Contreras worked in California fields and then in Chicago factories to help support her family. At her son’s school, she saw firsthand how compassionate teaching changes lives, motivating her to pursue a career in education. As a result, she became a teacher assistant and then a teacher, and now serves as a bilingual educator at a school in which 44 percent of the students are English Language Learners. Leaning on her own life experience, Contreras creates a learning environment for her students that gives them the confidence to share their experiences with others, while connecting these experiences with classroom curriculum to provide the strongest possible instruction.

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