Education is one of the fundamental pillars of our society, shaping the minds and futures of generations of students. Recognizing the vital role that educators play in this process, the Golden Apple Awards were established in Illinois to honor outstanding teachers and their invaluable contributions. Additionally, May 7 is National Teachers Day, making this time of the year the perfect opportunity to celebrate the educators and teachers in our communities.

The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching was established in 1986 by Mike and Pat Koldyke through the Golden Apple Foundation. This distinguished accolade is awarded annually to exceptional teachers and school leaders in Illinois who exhibit excellence in teaching and educational leadership. The mission of the Golden Apple Foundation goes beyond mere recognition – it aims to inspire, develop and support teacher excellence in Illinois, especially in schools of need.

Each year, the Golden Apple Awards recognize outstanding teachers across multiple grade levels. Teachers are selected through a rigorous evaluation process, including nominations and referrals, detailed applications, observations, and interviews. The award offers a platform for winners, known as Golden Apple Fellows, to participate in an ongoing professional development program that further enriches their teaching skills and educational philosophies.

The recipients for the 2024 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Leadership include Christina Beck, who teaches at West Side Primary School in Harrisburg; Alicia Carlisle, a teacher at Turner Drew Language Academy in Chicago; Precious Allen, who teaches at Betty Shabazz Academy in Chicago; Olga Nuñez-Johnson, a teacher at Thomas J. Waters School in Chicago; Lisa Bucciarelli-Carlos, a teacher at Plainfield Elementary School in Des Plaines; and Alyssa Milano, who teaches at Central Elementary School in Plainfield.

National Teacher Day, which is a part of National Teacher Appreciation Week, is celebrated annually. This day is dedicated to appreciating teachers and recognizing their lasting contributions to education and society. The origin of National Teacher Day dates back to 1953 when Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day to acknowledge the importance of teachers. However, it wasn’t officially established until 1985, when the National Parent Teacher Association designated the first full week of May as Teacher Appreciation Week.

The Golden Apple Awards and National Teacher Day underscore the central role that education plays in societal growth and individual development. These recognitions highlight the passion, commitment and innovation that educators bring to their classrooms every day. These initiatives cultivate a culture that values and supports educators and recognizes the lasting impact of their dedication on future generations.