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The Winnetka Current 041218

22 | April 12, 2018 |

22 | April 12, 2018 | The winnetka Current school winnetkacurrent.com New Trier grad becomes Golden Apple teacher Hilary Anderson Freelance Reporter Gwen Faulkner, secondgrade teacher at Wilmette’s McKenzie Elementary School, is the recipient of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. She received the prestigious award March 22 at a ceremony in her classroom in front of students, family and school leadership. “I am absolutely stunned,” Faulkner said. “My legs are shaking. Glad I have a wall to lean against.” “I would not have expected anything less for her,” said Genna Stein, Faulkner’s best friend. “She truly cares about her students and loves teaching.” This is Faulkner’s sixth year of teaching at McKenzie, following two years working at the school as a student teacher. “Gwen always wanted to teach,” said her mother, Sally Faulkner, of Northfield. “I am so proud of her. I have known about it for a week and was so excited when I learned about her award. It was hard to keep quiet.” Gwen Faulkner, a former Wilmette resident and 2004 New Trier graduate, is one of two North Shore teachers and one of only 10 teachers in the entire metropolitan area out of 650 nominees to receive the award for her efforts to build a stronger, bettereducated society. Natalie Burnell, a former third-grade student, nominated Faulker last year when the 2018 nominations opened. She listed reasons why Faulkner should receive the Golden Apple Award. Faulkner’s classroom is engineered to be a studentoriented one with a flexible learning environment. Her students tweet daily about their classroom activities through the class Twitter feed, which she started several years ago as a means for parents to stay informed about what their children were doing at school. Parents of Faulkner’s students say this communications channel helps them to have more fruitful conversations with their children about school. “We take turns serving as class reporters to capture and caption the day’s significant moments,” Burnell said. This year, students also began delivering “on-air” reports via video clips of their presentations during non-fiction reading and writing units. Also this year, through a partnership with Together We Rise, Faulkner helped her students tackle concerns they had shared about the lack of personal integrity, kindness and diversity in the discussions surrounding the recent presidential election. The service-learning project led by Faulkner’s students helped raise funds to purchase suitcases for children in foster care. The effort helped her students feel empowered to take action to help others and fostered their personal awareness and empathy. “The lifeblood of my classroom is love and laughter,” Faulkner said. Her students totally agree. “I feel so happy for Miss Faulkner,” Emelia Alcalde said. “She is a good teacher.” “This honor for Miss Faulkner is amazing,” said Gwen Faulkner (center), a second-grade teacher at McKenzie Elementary School in Wilmette, celebrates winning a Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching on March 22. Photos by Jill Dunbar/22nd Century Media Dr. Ray Lechner, District 39 superintendent, congratulates Faulkner. James Barnett, holding two thumbs up. “I like Miss Faulkner because she is not crazy about only doing something her way and says, ‘You don’t have to do it my way,’” Sydney Koski said. “She is friendly, patient and fun,” Luke Hartman said. “I like Miss Faulkner because she is respectful and patient,” Sammy Volk said. “She is so nice,” Briana Zieff said. “I wish she could always be my teacher.” The adults who work with Faulkner agree. “Miss Faulkner is a dynamic teacher who makes all students feel welcomed into her classroom,” said Rachel Filippi, principal of McKenzie Elementary School. “She meets the individual need of all of her students academically, socially and emotionally. Miss Faulkner’s students know she is their biggest advocate.” As a result of Faulkner’s achievement in the classroom, she also was recognized with a teacher tribute from the Alliance for Early Childhood Education, Beyond Pencils and Gluesticks grants. After viewing the Golden Apple award ceremony in her classroom, Faulkner’s students walked with her down and around the school’s hallways chanting, “Faulkner, Faulkner” to thunderous applause from other McKenzie students, teachers and staff. “We are proud of Gwen,” said Dr. Ray Lechner, superintendent of Wilmette District 39. “The Golden Apple folks were clearly able to see her dedication and energy in the classroom. She is an important part of the McKenzie and District 39 families.” Northwestern University provides each Golden Apple Award recipient with a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Each recipient also receives a $5,000 cash award. “Golden Apple is proud to recognize this year’s award recipients for their exceptional accomplishments in the classroom,” said Alicia Winckler, Golden Apple president and CEO. “Each of the recipients is uniquely talented and epitomizes the dedication, skill and drive in the teaching profession that facilitates better futures for scores of young people.” Award recipients become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, giving them a stronger voice and a larger stage from which to make a difference in education. “I would love to use some of the $5,000 to travel so that I can use some of it as a learning project for my students,” Faulkner said. “It would be good to tell them first-hand what life is like outside of the Wilmette area.” For more information about the 2018 Golden Apple recipients visit goldenapple.org/2018-awardrecipients.

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