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Two Local Educators Up for Excellence in Teaching & Leadership Award

Golden Apple
UTHS students with their teacher & Golden Apple winner, Heather Monson, last spring.

Nearly a year after a United Township High School Teacher won an award for excellence, two more local teachers are finalists.

This week, the President of the Golden Apple Foundation, Alan Mather, joined UT's Heather Monson, to visit their classes and learn more about them.

Credit Michelle O'Neill / WVIK News
Alan Mather, President of Golden Apple

Mather says the main factor in selecting the winners is how the teachers engage their students. He and Monson will talk with the finalists' teachers, co-workers, principals, and superintendents. 

Over the past several years, he says Illinois has been suffering from a shortage of teachers.

Last fall, Golden Apple says more than 1,800 teaching positions were unfilled, 400 more than the previous year.

In addition over the last ten years, education college enrollment decreased 50%.

The budget impasse during the Rauner years made the teacher shortage worse, especially in rural communities. Mather says many school districts were forced to eliminate teaching positions because of the lack of state funds. But now if they can afford it, the districts can't find teachers to hire. 

Golden Apple's Scholars program offers tuition assistance and other resources to college students who commit to working in rural communities and under-served urban districts after graduation.  

The local finalists for the Golden Apple Awards are Margarita Mojica, a bilingual social studies and English teacher at East Moline's Glenview Middle School, and Christine Watts, who teaches 4th grade at Bicentennial Elementary School in Coal Valley. 

Watts brought new "math tech" to Bicentennial which allows her colleagues to customize the curriculum. Mojica is the CEO and founder of One by One, a program designed to help people of color graduate from high school. 

As one of last year's winners, Heather Monson received $5,000 from the Golden Apple Foundation and a free course at Northwestern University. Each winner also goes on to help mentor and educate new teachers. 

Credit submitted / Golden Apple
Golden Apple

Mike and Pat Koldyke founded Golden Apple 35 years ago to honor the best and brightest teachers in the Chicago area.

It now serves the entire State of Illinois with its awards and two other programs that encourage students and others to become teachers.

The winners will be announced in the spring. 

Officially, Michelle's title for 28 years was WVIK News Editor. She did everything there is to do in the newsroom and whatever was needed around the radio station. She also served as Acting News Director from September 2023 - January 2024.
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