This week, three CPS teachers received the premiere award for educators in the United States – the Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award.
Katherine Dube (TEAM Englewood High School), Liz Copper (Lindblom Math & Science Academy), and Scott Galson (Walter Payton College Prep) were among 10 Illinois winners to be selected from over 500 nominees from throughout the state.
“On behalf of the District, I congratulate these outstanding teachers on receiving this year’s Golden Apple Award,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “We could not be more proud of these teachers and the dedication they have shown to their students.”
The award recipients were not aware of their accomplishment until being notified with surprise visits to their classrooms.
“I was in total shock,” said Ms. Dube, a 9th-grade English teacher. “That’s the only way to describe it. And I thought the awards were given out later in May, so it took me by complete surprise.”
Receiving a Golden Apple Award is an extensive process. Nominees must write a series of essays, then have their teaching observed by former award recipients who will also interview their colleagues and students. Ms. Dube, who acts as the lead 9th grade teacher and Reading Department chair at TEAM Englewood, was described as someone who is willing to help wherever she is needed, and as a teacher who makes her students feel valued and respected in the classroom.
“I don’t just tell them what they need to learn,” she said. “I want them to see that by interacting creatively with literature and with each other, they can become their own subject experts.”
Fellow Golden Apple recipient Liz Copper, who has taught in CPS for 13 years, also believes in taking a collaborative approach to teaching.
“I don’t just talk at my students,” she said. “I use my knowledge to help them draw their own conclusions. That’s one of the most challenging things about teaching – breaking the information down enough for students to understand it, yet making sure to challenge them at the same time.”
An Environmental Science and Forensics teacher at Lindblom, Ms. Copper is known for her ability to apply scientific knowledge to real-life experiences that are of interest to her students.
“We do a lot of labs, and often study newsworthy events that have a scientific component to them,” she said. “That’s how I show my students that what they’re studying has a concrete place in the world.”
Scott Galson, who teaches honors-level Algebra and Statistics at Payton, also incorporates real-life examples into his lessons and is continuously amazed at the impact this has on his students.
“They get hooked on this real data thing,” he said. “Recently, we studied a Supreme Court case from 1977 that was based almost exclusively on statistical analysis. They couldn’t get enough of it.”
Galson, who has taught at Payton since 2003, tries to make his students see the beauty and elegance that exists within the language of mathematics.
“Obviously there’s a lot of practice that happens with math,” he said, “and that can be dry. But the practice makes much more sense to students when they understand what they’re learning and why.”
All three Golden Apple recipients will receive a $3,000 cash award, and will be given a spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. They will also become fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, which develops and supports programs for teachers to make them more effective in the classroom.
“One of the best things about this award is the reinforcement that as teachers, we do make a difference,” said Liz Copper. “It reminds everyone that teaching really is a great career for people to pursue.”