The latest Northwest suburban teachers to make the cut as Golden Apple finalists are an art teacher who uses filmmaking to engage her students, a dual language teacher who promotes bilingualism, and a second-grade teacher who makes connections for his students and their families.
Tricia Fuglestad from Dryden School in Arlington Heights, Maria Barba from MacArthur Elementary School in Hoffman Estates and Robert Taylor from Central Road School in Rolling Meadows joined the elite group of finalists last week.
"I am beyond words," says Barba, in only her fourth year of teaching. "It's still such a shock."
She teaches a class of half native English speakers and half native Spanish speakers, and she presents all of her units in both languages. Families have the option of having their children placed in a dual language classroom or a traditional multi-age class.
"The dual-language program is very important to me," says Barba, who grew up in a household where learning Spanish began around the kitchen table on Saturdays. "I know that the success and opportunities that bilingualism brings will outweigh any challenges that may come from initially learning a second language."
Principal Danette Meyer describes Barba as an exceptional teacher who fosters bilingualism and bi-literacy in a way that makes it dynamic and engaging for her students.
"She impacts her students, her team and our school community in positive ways that promote literacy and celebrate our school's diverse population."
At Dryden School, Fuglestad's students have worked on three videos this year.
They include, "Push up your Sleeves," a short video featuring their new art room theme song, and "Elementary Musical," where students introduce the elements of art in song and dance.
Their favorite might be one where students used iPads. The finished product combined 335 images into one animation.
"Mrs. Fuglestad's program is creative, engaging and dynamic and has included SMART Board technology to make it truly interactive," says Dryden Principal Robert Jares. "Most recently, Trish discovered the beauty of the drawing capabilities using iPads.
"She keeps current with her technology skills and finds innovative ways to include the most current technological experiences in the children's learning."
At Central Road School in Rolling Meadows, second-grade teacher Rob Taylor believes in an active teaching style that helps students make connections.
For example, for a social studies unit, his class listened to a bilingual storyteller.
"She is a local woman with Colombian heritage," Taylor explains. "She fits into our social studies core concept of community and her productions work well for our large Hispanic population at our school."
This year, he held parent workshops that focused on assessments, home reading ideas for parents and most recently math.
Central Road Principal Josh Carpenter says Taylor's teaching impacts his students' families. He worked with his second-grade team to prepare several parent evenings focused on building literacy and math skills.
"Rob has been an innovator in the district for several years," says Carpenter. "He sets high expectations for his second-grade students, but most importantly, his students have fun while learning, which I think is a huge compliment."
The three are among the 32 finalists from 560 nominees from the Chicago metropolitan area. The 10 Golden Apple recipients will be named in May.
Each finalist's commitment and innovative teaching methods illustrate Golden Apple's mission "to inspire, develop and support teacher excellence in Illinois, especially in schools of need," says Golden Apple CEO Dominic Belmonte.
Winners will receive a tuition-free spring semester sabbatical to study at Northwestern University and a $3,000 cash award.
They also 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 statewide education.