Mundelein High teacher gets a Golden Apple for work with Spanish-speaking students
Just before classes let out at Mundelein High School Monday, a group of friends, family and colleagues rushed into Sara Blair Winter-Rosenberg's classroom to give her good news: She'd been named a Golden Apple Award winner.
Winter-Rosenberg, who was named a finalist for the award last month, was shocked and quickly dissolved into tears. Her husband, Enrique De La Cruz, and their 2-year-old son Pablo were among the first through the door to congratulate her.
"It was everything seeing her reaction," De La Cruz said. "She truly loves what she does. It was priceless to see her face."
When Winter-Rosenberg had recovered from her shock, she said the award belonged to her students. She is an instructor in Mundelein High's Heritage Spanish program, for students who speak Spanish.
"In a time when the political language is so negative towards Spanish speakers and Latinos, it means so much to give them a place where they can remember that what they have is something worth being proud of," Winter-Rosenberg said of her classroom. "And they're really developing skills in their home language, which then helps them get a job or access college."
Mundelein High Principal Anthony Kroll said Winter-Rosenberg is passionate about helping her students.
"This is an example of a teacher being able to do what kind of work that she wants to do in an educational environment that's supportive," Kroll said. "It's the way education should be."
Kroll said he's been at the school 26 years and in that time no other teacher there has won a Golden Apple.
The happy commotion created by the big surprise got the attention of nearby classrooms. Leah Bolek, a foreign language teacher in the classroom next door, let her students join the celebration.
When a student asked about the Golden Apple, Bolek likened it to an Academy Award of teaching.
Judy Tyler, an AP biology and gifted program teacher at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, also won this year.
Each Golden Apple Award recipient receives a tuition-free spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University and a $5,000 cash award. Winter-Rosenberg and the other 2019 winners will be honored at an awards ceremony May 18, which will be broadcast later by WTTW Channel 11.
Golden Apple award winners are determined through a rigorous process undertaken by select master educators. The finalists are observed teaching by experts, who also interview colleagues, school leaders, students, parents and community members.
Stacey Gorman, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, was among the administrators interviewed by the selection committee.
"I had the pleasure of hiring her seven ago, so I'm pretty proud right now," said Gorman, adding that she was struck by Winter-Rosenberg's compassion for her students. "I call Blair an equity warrior. She advocates for our Latino students. She gives them a voice and that came through in her interview."