Nine suburban teachers named as finalists for Golden Apple award

Nine suburban high school teachers have been chosen as finalists for a prestigious education award.

Classroom leaders from Cook, DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties are among the 30 finalists for the 2022 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The Chicago-based Golden Apple Foundation on Tuesday announced the list of teachers up for the award, taking special note of their resilience two years into the pandemic.

“Part of what stood out with these 30 finalists was their ability to persevere through all of this while keeping students engaged, while advancing student learning in a high school setting,” said Golden Apple President Alan Mather, a former English teacher.

The foundation received more than 400 nominations for the honor.

The list of finalists includes not one, but two educators from Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211: Mary Lopez, a U.S. history teacher at Schaumburg High School, and Kerri Largo, a business education teacher at Hoffman Estates High School.

“District 211 has a long tradition of excellence, and a hallmark of that is our fantastic staff, who consistently go above and beyond to deliver an education that prepares our students for their future,” Superintendent Lisa Small said in a statement. “Both of these teachers are outstanding examples of that innovation and determination. An extraordinary school system is created through the hard work of incredible people. Today, as a district, we salute these individuals for their leadership, their ingenuity and the lives they have helped shape.”

Other educators who made the list of finalists include:

• Otto Corzo, a foreign language teacher at McHenry Community High School

• Philip Culcasi, a chemistry teacher at Wheaton Warrenville South High School

• Laura Dabezic, an English teacher at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville

• Miguel Parra Garcia, a foreign language teacher at Rolling Meadows High School

• Britnee Kenyon, a theater teacher and director at Deerfield High School

• Nikki Lazzaretto, a dance teacher at Deerfield High School

• Michelle Marconi, an English teacher at Rolling Meadows High School

A selection committee, mostly made up of previous award recipients, is planning in-person classroom visits with every finalist to observe teachers in their element. Committee members also will talk with students, parents and administrators to determine award winners.

“We really want to focus on those things that engage students at a high level,” Mather said, “that bring members of the community in instead of pushing them out, help students see how not only is the world their classroom, but the classroom can impact the world.”

The foundation also plans to celebrate award recipients with surprise school visits in the spring.

Each winner receives a $5,000 cash award and a tuition-free, spring-term sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Award recipients join the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a group of fellow winners who help prepare the next generation of teachers and mentor those just starting their careers.

The foundation has recognized teachers with the Golden Apple Awards since 1986.

Philip Culcasi
Laura Dabezic
Miguel Parra Garcia
Britnee Kenyon
Kerri Largo
Nikki Lazzaretto
Mary Lopez
Michelle Marconi
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