Teaching in their futures: A few words with this year's Golden Apple scholars

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Teaching in their futures: A few words with this year's Golden Apple scholars

Lately, superintendents statewide seem to say it around this time every year: Finding qualified, quality teachers sure isn’t as easy as it used to be.

The Golden Apple Foundation hopes to change that.

In a quest to lure the best and brightest to teaching, the non-profit awards scholarships to Illinois high school seniors, as well as first- and second-year college students, who have the makings of “excellent teachers in high-need schools.” Those selected receive tuition support of up to $23,000, on-site classroom experience and mentoring from Golden Apple teachers.

The News-Gazette’s VISHESH ANAND caught up with seven of the area’s eight scholars to learn more about their career aspirations.

Carlie Trybom, 19, of Monticello

Junior in Elementary Education at Blackburn College

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I have always wanted to become a teacher. I always felt the need to help and be a leader and since I enjoy being around kids and leading them, I felt like teaching was a good path for me. The teachers I have had throughout my educational career have also inspired me, I want to be like them. I want my students to think of me as fun, energetic, caring, and someone to talk to just like I have thought about my past teachers.

If you had the power to make a change to current education system, what would it be?

If I could change something in the current education system, I would remove standardized tests. I don't believe a multiple-choice test can determine how schools compare to each other in student achievement and how well teachers are at their job. I believe how much a student knows and understands can not be calculated by a multiple-choice test. A multiple-choice test that is timed creates anxiety and worry of failure in students and therefore they do not do as well on the test. A project, paper, skit, presentation, or an object that is created can test the knowledge of students but it also allows them to choose which method they are most comfortable with so they can perform at the best of their ability.

What kind of teacher do you think you will be?

I think I will be an affable, inventive, and fair teacher who has high expectations of all her students and helps them reach those expectations. I also think I will be a teacher that inspires my students to be creative, diligent, and enthusiastic and I want to be a mentor to my students and help them solve their problems.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

It's hard for me to pick a favorite because many of my middle school teachers were awesome. But, I would say that my favorite teacher would be my middle school band teacher, Mr. Wattleworth. I looked forward to going to his class every day. He was funny and sarcastic, but he also knew how to take charge of the class. He knew his material and taught me how to play the flute. When an unexpected event happened during my 8th grade year, he was supportive to my friends and I as we coped with what had happened. I aspire to be like him as a teacher.

What are your expectations for the Golden Apple Program?

I am looking forward to meeting new people and making new connections with other future educators. I also am looking forward to unique opportunities I will have observing in schools of need and creating my tool box of resources that I will use when I become a teacher.

Emma Germann, 18, of Watseka

Freshman in music education at Elmhurst College

What inspired you to become a teacher?

My mother is a teacher, so in a way, I grew up in the classroom setting. As a kid I always enjoyed going to school, and I loved getting to help my mom with her classroom and be a part of the process of refining and adapting to it. I have also grown up participating in music in a variety of forms. Musical theater, dance lessons, and being a part of school band and choir were all major parts of my life. So for me, becoming a music teacher was a natural progression for my passion for music, my interest and comfort in education, and my desire to make a difference in schools and in students' lives.

If you had the power to make a change to current education system, what would it be?

From the perspective of a future music teacher, I would wish that there could be more funding for the arts in Illinois public schools. Music, theater, and the visual arts all play a very important role in a child and student's development. The increased brain development and maturity that comes from having arts in school positively affects student performance in other subject areas. Unfortunately, in most schools, the arts and music programs are the first programs that experience budget cuts, and can even be eliminated entirely. From the perspective of an elementary teacher, I also understand how funding and budgets play an important role in the general classroom. Overall, my hope for the future of education in the state of Illinois, and across the country, would be for increased funding for schools. Students, teachers, and communities can only stand to benefit from more funding across the board for schools, whether that be for arts funding, or general school funding that all students and teachers can benefit from which will allow them to try to create the best possible education for students.

What kind of teacher do you think you will be?

I hope to be the kind of teacher that is effective and enjoyable for students. I would like to be the kind of band director my high school had in Mr. Erik Parmenter. He demonstrated to me what it means to be very effective in your teaching and instruction, and also how to create a fun environment for everyone. I hope to be able to help my students to become great musicians, create music that they are proud of, and to learn about themselves and each other through their music.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher is my mother. Being able to watch her over the years as she has developed her classroom, and shared her stories with me, I have been able to learn a lot about the realities of education, the education system, and everything that truly goes into becoming an effective teacher.

What are your expectations for the Golden Apple Program? In the Program, I am most looking forward to getting real, on-the-job experience. I am looking forward to taking what I learn in the classroom and applying it to my experiences in classrooms in schools of need.

Allyson Miller, 18, of Champaign

Freshman in Music Education at Illinois State University

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I was inspired to become a teacher because of other the teachers in my life. Both my mother and grandmother are teachers, so I have grown up around the profession. I also have been blessed with amazing teachers in middle school and high school, especially in areas like music and Spanish. I was inspired further when I became a drum major for Centennial high school marching band, which was a big leadership position. I got to teach the band often and was exposed to what my career would be like. Not only was it fun, but I was supported by all my teachers who set a good example for me. I have learned from them that connecting with students is important, and that's one of the main reasons I want to be a teacher.

If you had the power to make a change to current education system, what would it be?

In the current education system, I would like for there to be more of an emphasis on the arts and languages. Often, the "elective" classes are not seen as serious or important courses. Schools tend to treat them as filler options in a schedule, rather than looking at the benefits these classes can have in a student's life. Specifically in band, students learn habits of practicing or studying, which can make them more successful in other classes. Similarly, a bilingual student can apply the skills learned in a language class to all of their classes. Students that excel in these electives tend to have higher overall GPAs and be leaders within a school. If schools and counselors would encourage more students to get involved in these programs, rather than enforce a rigorous schedule with all AP or college level classes, students will be more successful later on in life.

What kind of teacher do you think you will be?

I believe that as a teacher, I will do my best to teach my students not just the material of the class, but how to be a good person. I want to be the teacher that students are not afraid to ask questions to, whether they pertain to the class or not. I would not necessarily say that I will be laid back or lenient, just approachable. Connecting with students helps them learn better.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher was my band director at Centennial, Mr. Schulze. He was my favorite teacher because he always went out of his way to make sure his students were having fun during band. He also taught me a lot of lessons that I will use in my on classroom, and encourages me to always do my best.

What are your expectations for the Golden Apple Program?

I am most looking forward to the summer programs that Golden Apple offers, because I will learn more about teaching and get more experience. I will begin to create a network of people that may be able to help me find a job, as well.

Hunter Howard, 18, from Georgetown

Freshman in Early Childhood Education at Eastern Illinois University

What inspired you to become a teacher?

Honestly, the teachers I have had throughout my time in school is what inspired me to become a teacher. Seeing how they impacted my life makes me want to do the same for other children.

If you had the power to make a change to current education system, what would it be?

I would try and change the main focus. The education system right now focuses more on everyone being at the same level instead of focusing on each child's individual achievements and efforts.

What kind of teacher do you think you will be?

I hope to be an encouraging yet tough teacher. I want to be a teacher who pushes each child to do their best. Yet still helps them learn life lessons along the way.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

I probably couldn't pick just one teacher as my favorite! I had so many awesome teachers in the Georgetown Ridge-Farm School District that helped me and shaped me into the person I am today that I could just decide on one.

What are your expectations for the Golden Apple Program?

I'm looking most forward to getting to work in a school-of-need after earning my degree. Getting to work in a school where I can try and help not only the students but also everyone else just really excites me.

Bailey Salyards, 18, of Gibson City

Freshman in elementary education at Illinois State University

What inspired you to become a teacher?

In general, I love teaching and working with kids, but I would say I wasn't really inspired to teach until high school. My choir teacher, Ms. Broaddus, talked to us about how we can make a difference in the world and our community, and that was when I realized how much of an impact teachers can really have.

If you had the power to make a change to current education system, what would it be?

If I could change one part of the education system, it would be that teaching, in general, is more one-on-one. Every student has a different learning style, and it's nearly impossible to cater to each individual student's needs when you're teaching a class of 20+ students.

What kind of teacher do you think you will be?

I think as a teacher I'll be fun and energetic!

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Although I've had a few teachers I've really loved, my favorite is probably my Spanish teacher, Señora Frashier. She's so energetic and positive, so class was never dull or boring. Also, every week she asked each individual student what they were doing over the weekend and I could tell she really wants to know about what happens in our lives, and she always puts what's best for her students first!

What are your expectations for the Golden Apple Program?

I'm most excited about the summer institutes the Golden Apple program provides. The hands-on classroom experience and training will give me experience with things I won't necessarily deal with throughout my regular college education, especially like working with students in schools of need.

Rachel Winslow, 18, from Georgetown

Sophomore double majoring in early childhood and elementary education at Eastern Illinois University

What inspired you to become a teacher?

Up until a few years ago, I planned on being a family lawyer because my uncle and aunt were going through a pretty bad divorce and I saw how bad my cousins were hurting and I just wanted to help them and kids like them. But then I saw that I would be able to help them more in their daily lives if I became a teacher.

If you had the power to make a change to current education system, what would it be?

I would make sure that everybody understands that just because some schools aren't fortunate enough to have the same technologies and advantages that others have, and that some students can't afford the same things that some students can, education is still as valuable for everyone.

What kind of teacher do you think you will be?

I think I will be a teacher who genuinely gets to know each and every one of my students, and then incorporates their interests into school. They will know my expectations and consequences and understand the concept of equity over equality in the classroom. I will be fun, open, and for the most part, easy-going.

I want to be a teacher that inspires my student so that they can do whatever they feel passionate about and I'll make sure that they enjoy their time in the classroom.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

It was Ms. Short, she always made sure that everyone had a good understanding of what was going on in class. And anytime that she was able to, she would give us different activities and things to do to help us understand even better. And you could tell that she cared about her student's personal lives as well as their education.What are your expectations for the Golden Apple Program?

I'm looking forward to learning how to provide time in the classroom for all students, so that they are able to get a full education and are able to have the opportunity to take whatever steps that they want to take in their futures.

Marina Taylor, 19, of Champaign

Junior in elementary education at Parkland College

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I have always wanted to be a teacher. While growing up my room was decorated as a classroom, and I would invite my friends over to play 'school.'

If you had the power to make a change to current education system, what would it be?

It would be to rectify the inequities in the system and to put everyone on an even playing field. The way schools are funded gives the schools in higher income neighborhoods more funding which allows them to provide their students with more resources. Because of this, students from lower income neighborhoods are at a disadvantage when competing with their peers from higher income neighborhoods. Every student should have an equal chance of success and the income of their parents shouldn't play a factor in whether or not they will be successful.

What kind of teacher do you think you will be?

I will be a teacher who genuinely gets to know each and every one of my students, and then incorporates their interests into school. They will know my expectations and understand the concept of equity over equality in the classroom. I will be fun, open, and for the most part, easy-going.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

It was my fourth grade teacher, Julia Anderson. I was an extremely shy and well-behaved student, so I was often overlooked by teachers. Ms. Anderson really took the time to get to know me and my individual needs.

What are your expectations for the Golden Apple Program?

I am most looking forward to getting more hands-on experiences in the classroom, specifically in schools of need.

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