For 26 years the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program, through Champions For Learning, has honored over 23,000 teachers in Collier County. The prestigious teaching award is sort of like the Oscars for instructors. Instead of a golden statuette of a person, the teachers are awarded a life-size golden apple.
On February 18, five special teachers from all over the county were presented with the Golden Apple in a surprise classroom visit. Representatives from Suncoast Credit Union Foundation, Champions For Learning board members, as well as volunteers and other sponsors presented the educators with their well-deserved accolades.
This year 27 teachers made the grade for the “Teachers of Distinction” title, earning them a $500 cash award from the Mary IngramFund of the Columbus Foundation. Of those 27, only five were chosen to receive the Golden Apple, which comes with a hefty $5,000 grant to build their classroom practices from the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation. The Golden Apple recipients include: Jenny Godley, Naples High School, Eric Mazurkewitz, Immokalee High School, McKenzie Morton, Naples High School, Bruce Peters, Lorenzo Walker Technical College, and Tommie Barfield Elementary School’s very own, Nancy Garousi.
Mrs. Garousi has been teaching for 27 years, almost as long as the Golden Apples have been awarded. She and her family moved down to Marco Island in 2004, and in 2007 she began working at Tommie Barfield Elementary School (TBE). Now in her eighth year at TBE, Garousi hasearned herself a Golden Apple.
“It was crazy! I was shocked, surprised—it was surreal. It was a little bit overwhelming with all those people in the room coming in with cameras,” said Garousi with a laugh. “It was exciting, though. It was definitely a nice moment. I honestly wasn’t expecting that.”
The Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program aims to highlight the importance that teachers play in our community and celebrate and honor their achievements. The goal is to bring teachers together so that they can share their methods and practices and hopefully learn from one another, creating a stronger network of educators.
In order to be eligible for the Golden Apple, instructors must be nominated through their students or nominate themselves. Theythen must formally apply, present in front of a 15-person panel, and participate in five separate classroom observations. It’s a long process and definitely not for the faint of heart. But then again, neither is teaching. Winning the Golden Apple opens up opportunities for growth for their schools, their students, and their fellow employees.
In regards to her philosophies on teaching, Garousi says, “I really think that when kids come in it’s not just our job to make sure that they’re getting the content and the curriculum. We’re responsible for making them all around better people on an emotional, social and academic level. I really try. It’s important that they grow as learners and that they grow as people. Whatwe try to do in our classrooms is embed a tolerance for the differences we have academically because the classes are mixed at different levels. We want them to be appreciative of who they are, and feel like they can take risks. Empower them. At the end of the day when they walk out hopefully they’ve had a great year of learning and they feel confident and they’ve developed a sense of community and compassion for their peers.”
The 26th Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner will be held on April 1, 2016 at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. The dinner will be broadcasted on NBC2 the night of the event. It will also be rebroadcasted on The Education Channel Cable 99 after April 2.