ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Welsh Elementary Kindergarten teacher Tiffany Russey thought it was just a normal day back in March.

“So I’m just going about my regular day and my principal was not supposed to be in the building so I was not expecting to see her walk through my door. And when I realized what was going on, I just lost it. I just lost it,” Russey explained.

It was truly a surprise when she found out she was a Golden Apple recipient. Her loved ones helped make the surprise even sweeter. Through lots of hugs and tears of joy, Tiffany accepted her award.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. Just to grow up and be a teacher. Nothing else,” she said.

Looking back on that day nearly five months ago, Tiffany says she’s still just as honored today.

“Like I said in my sobbing speech that my husband constantly makes fun of me,” Russey said. “It’s just really nice to be recognized for working hard and giving your all to your career and just having people say, ‘Hey, we appreciate you.”

Tiffany’s expecting big changes heading back to school this fall.

“I’m going to kindergarten. I’m going down a grade so I know their attention spans are not as good so it’s gonna be on me to keep them engaged and keep it fun and I want to give them the best experience that I can no matter what the situation in my classroom is,” she explained.

Tiffany admits the Golden Apple evaluation process wasn’t easy, likening it to an extended job interview. She says the honor makes her want to be a better educator.

“I kind of feel that extra pressure, especially with the Golden Apple attached to my name. That I have to give it 150% all the time,” Russey said.

Tiffany hopes her achievement motivates others.

“Showing my kids that if you put in the hard work and if you’re dedicated to whatever you want to do you can do it. You can do it,” she concluded.


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