Libertyville High teacher wins Golden Apple Award
Representatives from the Golden Apple Foundation and school officials surprised Rukes in her classroom Thursday morning to tell her of the prize.
As students clapped and cheered, Rukes cried.
"I am overwhelmed," she said. "I am really lost for words right now."
The Golden Apple comes with $5,000 and a tuition-free, quarter-long sabbatical at Northwestern University. Additionally, Rukes will join the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a group of award winners who mentor teachers.
Rukes, 43, of Gurnee, has taught at Libertyville High for 19 years. She coaches the school's robotics team and volunteers with the Science Olympiad and math team.
She also has organized weekend chemistry programs for Libertyville-area youth that let kids play with slime, blow up pumpkins and do other entertaining activities in the name of science.
"The recognition of her innovation, creativity and love of students by the Golden Apple Foundation is much deserved," said Prentiss Lea, superintendent of Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128. "We're just so excited and happy for Sherri."
Joining in Thursday's celebration were Rukes' parents, Patti and Jerry Conn of Gurnee. Patti Conn said Rukes always wanted to be a teacher.
"She enjoys the kids," Conn said. "She'd do anything for them."
Rukes' students were enthusiastic about the prize. They posed for pictures and shared hugs with their teacher, and she appreciated the support.
"You guys are my family, my kids," Rukes told the teens. "I want you to succeed. That's why I do this."
Rukes is Libertyville High's first Golden Apple winner.
All 10 of this year's Golden Apple recipients are high school teachers from the Chicago area. They include teachers at schools in Downers Grove, Skokie and Chicago.
The 2017 awards will recognize fourth- through eighth-grade teachers. The 2018 awards will recognize prekindergarten through third-grade teachers.