ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Golden Apple Foundation recognizes excellence in teaching. Each year, the organization honors five educators with a ‘Golden Apple’ award. But this year, like everything else, the pandemic has forced some changes.

Nashold Preschool teacher Tui Harned remembers the day back in March when she found out she was a Golden Apple Award recipient. Right before the big surprise, she had a feeling something was up.

“Two of our specialists come in and they were just acting weird. They were trying to stall or move me to the other side of the room.” Harned said. “I just thought that it was a weird time for them to come in to meet with me about a student. But I went with it. And then all of a sudden everybody came in and it got crazy for a few minutes.”

Harned, known as Miss Tui to her students, says she’s especially excited by the honor because it gives her a chance to show what early childhood teaching is all about.

“It’s not just daycare. It’s not just babysitting. We actually have outcomes that we want for our students and we work really hard to try to improve all of their knowledge bases and connect things for them into the real world,” Harned explained.

Harned says she’s looking forward to seeing her students once school resumes. Her goal is to make her classroom as safe as possible.

“I will be wearing a mask and probably a shield as well. Students…they know what we expect from them at school so I think it won’t take long for them to get used to it. This is what I do at school,” she added.

Winning a Golden Apple Award during a pandemic hasn’t diminished the honor for Harned. In fact, she believes it will make the experience even more memorable.

“Somebody actually said, ‘It’s gonna follow you your whole life to your obituary.’ I’m like okay…I’m good with it,'” she concluded.

Harned, along with the other four Golden Apple recipients, will be recognized at the 24th Annual Excellence in Education banquet.


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