ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Hundreds of stateline teachers were honored for their commitment to local students Tuesday night.
The group is one step closer to learning who will be selected as Golden Apple finalists.
“I love getting the teachers together and celebrating them for their excellence,” said Jennifer Stark, Executive Director of the Golden Apple Foundation. “It’s great to see them having a good time outside the classroom.”
Over 400 teachers in Winnebago and Boone Counties have been nominated for the Golden Apple Award. While the reception is the first step, they must now submit essays and letters of recommendations as to why they deserve the award.
Twenty finalists will then be recognized in April of 2022, which will then be narrowed down to five Golden Apple teachers.
Golden Apple organizers said that after a year filled with challenges in 2020, it is vital to celebrate these educators.
“It is more important than ever to recognize our hard-working teachers who rise to the occasion, no matter if, last year they were virtual, maybe they were both, and so it’s more important than ever to recognize for always meeting the students where they are,” Stark said.
Teachers said that it means a lot to them to be recognized for their dedication while in their classroom.
“It was really rewarding. I got nominated by a fellow colleague, so it was really cool to be recognized by a fellow teacher, and just a community of working with other teachers, is rewarding to just know you’re helping the fellow teachers,” said Johnny Lammersfeld, a band/choir teacher at North Boone Middle School.
Lammersfeld said that he has a passion for music, and teaching it to students.
“I really like teaching music, because I think in music you become a better person, you learn teamwork and how to express yourself, and just how to think outside of the box,” Lammersfeld said. “I love seeing my students grow through music, just because they’re really playing something they enjoy, and we all have a good time just learning.”
After the pandemic shifted the way educators teach, Lammersfeld said that being nominated for an award is giving him even more motivation.
“We’re all humans, just like anyone else, so being cheered on and being recognized in the community really gives you more fuel to come into the classroom with more of a work ethic, and ready to keep going,” Lammersfeld said.
Mark Luthin, a retired science teacher who taught at Belvidere North High School, received a Golden Apple in 2007. He is now a part of the Teacher Academy, and he said that now more than ever, teachers should be celebrated.
“Teachers every single day, a pandemic or not, are in their classroom and they’re working their tails off on behalf of their students, doing as best they can for their students,” Luthin said.