Photo caption: Science teacher Greta Kringle celebrates her Golden Apple Award with students and colleagues at Solorio High. All photos courtesy Golden Apple.
It’s a big week for teaching in Illinois, with the announcements of the first-ever statewide winners of Golden Apple Awards. The awards are kept top-secret and winning teachers get a big surprise when TV news cameras, district leaders and even politicians like Mayor Rahm Emanuel arrive at their schools. The awards originated in the Chicago metropolitan area and this is the first year in which teachers across Illinois competed.
This year, four of the 10 Illinois winners teach in Chicago Public Schools. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Erin Unander, Math Teacher and Department Chair, Lake View High
According to her LinkedIn profile, Unander has been a math teacher in CPS for 14 years. She joined Lake View High School as department chair in 2016, after a long stint at Manley High. Over the last three years, she has turned Lake View’s math department around, says Principal Paul Karafiol. Students say they love her enthusiasm, energy and interest in their lives. Her efforts to ensure equity in math include developing culturally-relevant lessons and working to eliminate bias in math education. Her dedication to her students showed when she arrived at school wearing a boot after a foot injury–just in time for the surprise of learning she was a 2019 Golden Apple winner. “We were doing similar triangles today. I couldn’t miss that,” Unander told ABC7 News.
Angela Young, Special Educator and Vocational Training Teacher, Southside Occupational
For the last 19 years, Angela Young has been helping young people with disabilities prepare for the world of work. She teaches them everything: how to dress, get to work, make change, and even how to make small talk with coworkers. She leads her students on public transit to places like Mt. Sinai and Holy Cross Hospitals, where they learn to serve food, sort mail, and tackle jobs in transport and environmental services.
“Many times people look at students with special needs and see their disability. We teach them by focusing on their abilities. We strengthen the areas that they’re weak in and give them opportunities for real-world practices,” Young told the Daily Southtown. Her principal credits her with expanding the community partnerships that give her students access to these real-world job experiences. Young also puts in many hours helping her students find post-graduate jobs.
Leticia Raygoza, Spanish, Phoenix Military Academy
Leticia Raygoza has been teaching Spanish at Phoenix Military Academy since 2007. In 2010, she earned a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Salamanca. Her students have experienced outstanding success on the AP Spanish exam; 78 percent earned a score of 3 or higher in 2013, and the next year 99 percent of her students hit the benchmark, which allows them the possibility of earning college credit. The school website notes that Raygoza delivered her two children during the period, one each year. Since then 90 percent or more of her students have continued to earn a 3 or higher on the exam.
Greta Kringle, Science Teacher and Department Chair, Solorio High School
As science department chair, Greta Kringle launched AP Environemental Science at Solorio, offering her students a more access to rigorous coursework and a pathway to college credit. Kringle also coaches girls varsity soccer and leads service learning at Solorio. This year, Friends of the Chicago River named her their Educator of the Year.
“Teachers like Greta do much more than educate students about the basics of math or science,” said Margaret Frisbie, Friends’ executive director. “They bring the planet to life for their students and help them understand that they are a part of our environment and can act to protect it.”