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IFT members harvest half of the 2018 Golden Apples

3/27/2018
As a non-profit organization that works to develop, support, and recognize teacher excellence, Golden Apple annually awards 10 outstanding Illinois educators the prestigious “Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.” This year, the IFT is proud to announce that our members have won half of the awards statewide!

Outstanding IFT educators who have been named 2018 Golden Apple fellows are:
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Meghan Dolan, Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1

Third Grade Teacher John M. Palmer Elementary School, Chicago

Meghan Dolan believes the positive relationships she builds with her students are vital to her teaching success. Her teaching includes activities that allow her to interact with every student so that she may learn as much as possible about their progress and needs. In her classroom, Dolan emphasizes the importance of character-building, giving back to communities, kindness and problem-solving. She strives to help her students become positive role models. She is known in the school community for being inclusive of students of all abilities and currently co-teaches with a special educator in reading and math. Helping her students set and achieve personal goals, as well as the importance of hard work, are central elements of her teaching philosophy. Creativity is evident in all of Dolan’s instruction, including the elaborate themes she creates for her classroom each year. She has earned other accolades, including a nomination for Teacher of the Year (at the district level in Iowa) and Gold Star Teacher of the Year, and has received three grants.
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Heather Duncan, Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1
Pre-K Teacher South Shore Fine Arts Academy, Chicago

Heather Duncan believes it is critical to expose students to the world beyond their daily experience through art, theater, music, and books. She is keenly aware that research has demonstrated children with an understanding of other cultures fare better in school and life than those who only know their own stories. With this in mind, she seeks to create rich cultural experiences for her students. She believes that “whole” people learn better. Relationship building through social-emotional learning, learning through authenticity and remaining true to oneself are core elements of her approach to teaching. She emphasizes positive conflict resolution and identifying and managing emotions as the foundation for her learners to coexist productively. The development of a student’s independence and self-reliance is a primary goal of Duncan’s teaching. She is known in her school for her efforts to connect with families of her students and the local community. Heather earned National Board Certification and currently is working on her Ph.D. As a result of her achievements, Duncan has also been recognized by the America Achieves National Fellowship For Teachers And Principals Cohort 3, the Danielson Framework for Teaching Early Childhood adaptation team, and the Chicago Foundation For Education Action Research Leadership Institute (ARLI).
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Carrie Garrett, AFT Local 604
General Education Inclusion Teacher Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, Joliet

Carrie Garrett’s teaching starts with leading her students to find and understand their own identity through discussions about their family rules, rituals and traditions, and an examination of differing cultures and ethnicities. By introducing varying experiences, her students begin to understand cultural diversity. Garrett believes that success today requires the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively with people from many different backgrounds and experiences, so she fosters those critical skills through interactive activities that her students often direct. She believes all children are intelligent, creative, and unique and delights in helping them discover their special abilities. Getting to know her students inside and out of the classroom is essential to Garrett, so she spends many afternoons and evenings attending her students’ activities and sporting events. As a result of her achievement in the classroom, she has also been recognized with the District Star Award.
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Daneal Silvers, Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1
Kindergarten Teacher Edison Regional Gifted Center, Chicago

Daneal Silvers believes families are a child’s first teacher. Before the start of every school year, she asks families to complete a brief survey she created to learn about each student’s home life, interests, strengths, and needs. From the responses, she establishes monthly thematic units that connect to her students’ interests and backgrounds. Each unit focuses on an essential question that asks her students to think deeply about a big idea, such as peacefulness, empathy, stamina, grit, and exploration. The unit themes and corresponding big ideas also drive classroom activities and instruction. Silver enjoys designing both the physical and intellectual environments in which her students can learn best, and she demonstrates to her young students that their voices matter and they can and should make a difference. For her accomplishments, Silver’s was also previously named a Chicago Bulls Teacher of the Month.
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Anita Unzueta, Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1
Second Grade Bilingual Teacher Little Village Academy, Chicago

Anita Unzueta feels it is her responsibility to walk into school each morning with a positive attitude and open mind. She believes in the power of setting high expectations and big goals and holds her students accountable for working hard every day. Because her students face daily challenges like gang violence, poverty, and crime, Unzueta understands the importance of providing a safe and secure school environment. She believes that education is most effective when families are involved in student learning and activities, and her effort to develop relationships with parents has helped her to understand the emotional needs of her students better. Unzueta facilitates workshops to help parents promote a home culture of trust and communication, and she helps families find the support they need from school and community resources. She is a tireless advocate for her students’ success, and her students experience a positive learning culture in which they feel appreciated, respected, and loved each day. Unzueta is a graduate of the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program, which provides intensive preparation and mentoring to aspiring teachers who commit to teaching in an Illinois school-of-need for five years.
CONGRATULATIONS to these incredible IFT educators!

View the complete list of award winners on the Golden Apple website. All Golden Apple winners will be honored at an awards ceremony in Chicago on May 19; the event will be broadcast on WTTW Channel 11 (Chicago).

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