Golden Apple Surprises Spring Grove Teacher with Prestigious Award for Excellence in Teaching

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10 Chicagoland teacher recipients to receive annual award

Golden Apple, a leading Illinois nonprofit committed to developing great teachers, today surprised Erica Barraza, a first grade general education teacher and instructional coach at Lotus Elementary School in Spring Grove, with the highly respected Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. The annual award, which recognizes and honors outstanding teachers for their role in building a stronger, better-educated society, was presented to Barraza in front of students, family and school leadership.

Created by founders Mike and Pat Koldyke, Golden Apple’s mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence in Illinois, especially in schools-of-need. The 2018 award recipients were selected from a record-setting number of nominations - more than 650 nominations, and represent Pre-K through 3rd grade teachers from the Chicagoland area. Fellow educators, students, parents and community members nominate teachers for the award each year.

About Erica Barraza
Erica believes that one of the most significant issues in education today is the critical need for social-emotional learning and character education. Over the past 10 years, she has seen a dramatic change in the way students interact with their peers and adults, which frequently includes physical aggression, dishonesty, and disrespect. She is passionate about teaching her students how to empathize with others, what compassion looks like, and how to understand and regulate their emotions. Her teaching often incorporates service-learning as a means to develop compassion and understanding. Having experienced a tumultuous and challenging childhood herself, Erica knows what it is like for students who are struggling. She believes that connecting and relating with children is the most valuable teaching tool. She dedicates herself to understanding each student’s circumstances and to addressing their unique educational needs. Erica was a previous finalist for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in 2011 and was named a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction that year.

“Golden Apple is proud to recognize this year’s award recipients for their exceptional accomplishments in the classroom,” said Alicia Winckler, Golden Apple president and CEO. “Each of the recipients is uniquely talented and epitomizes the dedication, skill and drive in the teaching profession that facilitates better futures for scores of young people.”

More information on each award recipient, as well as videos, photos and social media snapshots of the 2018 surprise visits, can be found at

Golden Apple’s selection committee is comprised of college and university professors, educational experts, administrators and former Golden Apple Award recipients who use industry and research-based professional standards to identify exemplary educators and school leaders. Members of the selection committee observed finalists’ classrooms, and also interviewed their colleagues, administrators, students and parents during the selection process.

Northwestern University provides each Golden Apple Award recipient with a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Each recipient also receives a $5,000 cash award. Award recipients become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, giving them a stronger voice and a larger stage from which to make a difference in education.

Golden Apple soon will be awarding the 2018 Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award, which honors an exceptional principal/head of school. All recipients will be featured on May 19 on a WTTW one-hour TV program and livestream marketed to local school communities. To view the livestream, visit

Nominations for the 2019 awards open during the week of March 26, and all are invited to nominate an exceptional educator from the Chicagoland area who teaches grades 9-12. For more information, visit

About Golden Apple
Founded in 1985, Golden Apple innovates teacher preparation and leadership to transform both the careers of teachers as well as the lives of students in Illinois. Its signature initiative, the Golden Apple Scholars Program, provides exceptional teacher preparation, resources and lifelong support to advance educational excellence for Illinois’ most underserved students in schools-of-need. Aspiring teachers/Scholars are recruited from the communities in which they return to serve -- with a passion for teaching and a drive to create positive change for young people in their communities. Scholars commit to teach at an Illinois school-of-need for five years after graduation. More than 1,000 Scholars currently are teaching across Illinois.

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Kellie Kennedy

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Kellie Kennedy
The Harbinger Group
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