Barrington kindergarten teacher passes out after winning Golden Apple
How does it feel to win a Golden Apple award?
"It's almost enough to make you faint," said George Vlasis.
He would know. The Hough Elementary School teacher passed out a few minutes after being surprised in his kindergarten classroom with the award and congratulated by a crowd of around 50 friends, family members and colleagues. The Barrington teacher came to moments later and within a minute the celebration was back on.
"It's very exciting. No one told me the secret, so I was very surprised," Vlasis said, after he had recovered with some fresh air and a few cups of lemonade. "It means so much; it validates how hard I work, but it also validates how hards the kids have worked and their amazing families. It's kind of an award for everyone that has been around my classroom."
Because he is the only kindergarten teacher at the school, most every student there from first through fifth grade learned to read and write from Vlasis, whom they all call "Mr. George."
When fifth grade students have their last day at Hough Elementary, all of the students line the halls and give those departing for the last time a round of applause as they leave. On Tuesday afternoon, Vlasis got the fifth graders' treatment. He smiled as he high-fived his former students as they applauded and chanted his name.
Principal Jim Aalfs said because Hough students start off in Vlasis' classroom, there is a ripple effect of positive influence from Vlasis that has meant much to the school.
"Those kids are loved from day one," Aalfs said. "He's a treasure, he really is a treasure."
Vlasis is one of 10 Illinois teachers to receive the award this year and the first Barrington Area Unit School District 220 teacher to receive a Golden Apple in six years.
Robert Taylor, a Golden Apple-winning teacher from Central Road Elementary School in Rolling Meadows, was part of the group who selected Vlasis. Taylor said Vlasis knows the kindergarten age group better than anyone he's ever met. He said a little bit of chaos seeps in to most kindergarten classrooms when the teacher is trying to get his or her students to shift gears throughout the school day.
"In his classroom, you never see that -- things are dialed in," Taylor said. "How (the children) do those things and interact with each other is at a level that you don't often see and it's because he instills it in them."
Kathy Kotel said her daughter had Vlasis for a teacher 11 years ago in his first class in the school district at the Early Learning Center before he began working at Hough Street nine years ago.
"My daughter has a disability and he didn't see any difference in her," Kotel said. "He just accepts kids for where they are and they learn. He's amazing. He's a natural."
Vlasis' father, who is also named George, said people have paid his son many high compliments on his teaching over the years, including one woman who claimed that Barrington women were having babies just so they could be in his class.
"He's very happy here at Hough School," Vlasis' father said. "He says it is like a family with how supportive the teachers are."
Each Golden Apple Award recipient receives a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University, and a $5,000 cash award. Vlasis and the other 2015 winners will be honored at an awards ceremony Oct. 30 that will be broadcast later by WTTW/Channel 11.