More than 600 nominations from Chicago-area schools were received, according to a news release from Golden Apple. Finalists represent fourth- through eighth-grade teachers.
Jane Szybowicz, a fifth-grade teacher at Fox River Grove Middle School, is a finalist who stands out because of her leadership in the school, great relationship with parents and dedication to students, Fox River Grove Principal Eric Runck said.
“She is an ultimate professional,” Runck said. “She not only relates well with students, but under her tutelage, they learn a lot.”
Szybowicz teaches grammar and writing, social studies and math. This is her 21st year as a fifth-grade teacher, she said.
Szybowicz also puts in time outside of the classroom, including traveling to the University of Oxford for a seminar called the “Age of Lincoln" and two “We the People” seminars, one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania.
She previously was selected as the 2015 Illinois History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving history education.
Szybowicz said she was honored and humbled when she heard about the nomination.
“I always look for progress in a student, not perfection,” Szybowicz said. “And every kid that is in the world has an incredible talent, and I want to help them find that.”
Fourth-grade teacher and 15-year veteran at Lotus Elementary School Maureen DeVoss also was chosen as a finalist.
“She makes so many parent connections, and she maintains relationships with them,” Lotus Assistant Principal Natalie Udstuen said. “She’s the kind of teacher who attends high school graduations.”
DeVoss serves as an instructional coach for the school and is at the forefront of any new educational ideas or curriculum models, Udstuen said. DeVoss also is helping to form a mentor program for new teachers.
“She just has so much empathy in her heart for every person that she comes across,” Udstuen said.
Golden Apple, a nonprofit that celebrates and develops teachers who make life-changing difference in the lives of students, also is recognizing one exemplary pre-K through 12th-grade teacher with the Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award, according to its website. Jeff Prickett, principal at Richard Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake, is among the 10 finalists for that award.
A celebration of the finalists will be held Saturday in Rosemont, according to the news release. Finalists will go through a final round of reviews and classroom observations before the 10 award recipients are announced in the spring.
Award recipients get a tuition-free spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University, $5,000 cash and become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, according to the release.