Some teachers cried. Some smiled. Some stood there, stunned, with no idea what was going on.
And a few needed time to collect themselves as the emotions set in.
“I’m sorry, I’m overwhelmed,” Fort Myers High math teacher Ryan Arciero said, his voice choking with tears, moments after his victory. the coveted Golden Apple trophy Friday. “I’m sorry, I have to sit down.”
The six Lee County teachers had mixed reactions when the “Golden Apple Surprise Bus” arrived at their schools Friday morning and people began pouring into their classrooms, unannounced, to give them a each a shiny, golden, apple-shaped trophy.
That’s what Marshall T. Bower loves most about the annual Golden Apple Awards program: the feedback from teachers and their students.
“It’s one of my favorite days of the whole year,” said Bower, president and CEO of the organization that awards the awards, the Lee County Public Schools Foundation. “Surprising teachers – especially in their classroom with all their children – makes everyone realize how important our teachers are.”
Social Updates: Six Teachers Receive Golden Apple During Surprise Visits to Lee County Schools
In case you missed it:Thirty Lee County teachers announced they were finalists for the 35th Golden Apple Awards
Teachers from five Lee County schools won the Golden Apple trophy on Friday. Prizes were awarded in this order:
- Taylor Ashby of North Fort Myers High
- Kaleigh Stewart of North Fort Myers High
- Skyline Elementary’s Stephanie Osterhouse
- Ryan Arciero of Fort Myers High
- Phillip Savage of Dunbar High
- Steven McGinley of Harns Marsh Middle
The winners were kept secret until Friday. None of the teachers knew they had won until their classroom door swung open and the news cameras suddenly started streaming into the room.
Sometimes teachers’ wives or husbands would also show up to help mark the occasion. That’s what happened with English teacher Kaleigh Stewart at North Fort Myers High.
“What are you doing here?” Stewart said when she saw her husband and he moved in for a big hug. Then the whole class burst into applause.
“Oh my God!” Stewart said, her eyes filling with tears. “Thanks very much!”
The awards team began their trophy presentation trip at 7:30 a.m. at the Lee County Public Schools Foundation office in downtown Fort Myers. The team of board members, law enforcement and local business leaders piled into a tour bus that Bower calls the “Golden Apple Surprise Bus” and visited five public schools around the Lee County over the next four hours.
First stop: North Fort Myers High, where not one but two educators received the award.
History teacher Taylor Ashby was teaching his children about the stock market crash of 1929 using a slide show and Monopoly money. Then her door opened to the sound of marching band drums, and the awards team — led by Bower and North Fort Myers High principal Debbie Diggs — crowded into the room all around. Ashby and his baffled students.
“Taylor, congratulations! Bower announced as he presented his trophy to Ashby and everyone cheered and cheered. “You are a Golden Apple teacher and you represent the best of all teachers here in the Lee County system. We are incredibly proud of you.
Subsequently, Ashby credited his students.
“Honestly, it’s as much about you as it is about me,” he told the children seated around him. “You give me a reason to come here every day. So thank you for being the top students in Lee County.
From there, the awards team visited four other public schools in Lee County. Everywhere they went they were greeted with wide eyes, tears, laughter, applause – and sometimes a confetti cannon.
They even interrupted an algebra test at Dunbar High, prompting Bower to joke that everyone would get a free pass.
Maths teacher Phillip Savage, holding his new Golden Apple trophy, didn’t seem too worried about the interruption, however. He trusted his students.
“Fortunately,” he said, “I think they’re in pretty good shape.”
Each Golden Apple winner will receive a check for $3,000 and attend an awards banquet on April 29. Their schools also received checks on Friday for $500 to spend on students and their classrooms.
Thirty Lee County teachers were named finalists in January for the 35th annual Golden Apple recognition program. The winners were chosen from about 3,000 entries this school year, Bower said.
More than 200 teachers have received the award over the past 35 years.
Here’s a look at the six Golden Apple winners:
The school: Fort Myers North High School
Subjects taught : World History and Global Studies, Grades 9-12
Years in class: Nine (all in Lee County)
His teaching style: Ashby says he tries to do everything he can to bring his students’ story to life. “I don’t believe in textbooks,” he says.
What the school and the students mean to him: At age 17, he vowed to return to North Fort Myers High and teach there. And that’s exactly what he did. He graduated from the school in 2009.
“I was a student here,” he said. “I knew I wanted to come back and have a profound impact on this school.”
What he thinks of winning the Golden Apple: “I’m humble,” he said.
The school: Fort Myers North High School
Subjects taught : English, 9th and 10th grade
Years in class: New (five in Lee County)
His teaching style: Stewart always tries to get his students up and down from their seats. Sometimes they do things elsewhere on campus. Sometimes they play music in class.
“We’re having a great time here,” she said. “We really, really do. …School isn’t fun if you’re sitting at your desk all the time, is it? »
How she feels about winning: “I’m in shock,” she said. “I am overwhelmed. It’s something I could only have dreamed of, if I’m being honest with you.
“And for that to happen with this class of kids – it’s one of the best groups of kids I’ve ever taught. So I feel very lucky. I’m just blown away right now.
The school: Skyline Elementary School
Subjects taught : First year teacher, all subjects
Years in class: 14 (12 in Lee County)
His teaching style: Osterhouse described it in one word: “Crazy!”
“I try to bring as much fun to the class as possible,” she said. “I make themes and I decorate. I try to do everything I can with them to keep them engaged, and learning is fun.
How she feels about winning: “It means everything,” she said. “I’ve worked so hard, and they’ve worked so hard (his students) to get this far. It’s just a great journey from start to finish.”
What school means to her: “Memories. Love. Fun. It’s a lot of things. And now, another memory.
Her late father worked at the school. And her husband also teaches there.
The school: Fort Myers High School
Teaching subjects: English teacher
Years in class: Seven (all in Lee County)
What differentiates him from other teachers: “For me, my Catholic faith is so important to me, to love all of my students and to receive the spirit of God in each of them,” he said. “And building my relationships with my children is also so important to letting them know they are loved and cherished every day with a thumbs up and a smile.”
How does it feel to win: “I’m a bit overwhelmed,” Arciero said. “But it’s a feeling of great joy, gratitude and humility.
“I want to share this with all of the teachers at Fort Myers High and the amazing candidates I’ve worked with in the finalist process. To me, Golden Apple represents the power of education and the influence we can have on our children and how we can represent the power that education can (should) shape lives.
The school: Dunbar High School
Subjects taught : Algebra, AP statistics, mathematics
Years in class: 12 (all in Lee County)
How he feels about winning: “It’s amazing,” Savage said. “I mean, honestly, it’s such a blessing to be able to represent so many great teachers in our district.
“It’s a great place to learn. And it’s been a tough time for a lot of us, so it’s worth it.
His teaching style: “I have an engineering background, so I did things differently and figured it out as I went,” he said. This means lots of lectures, high quality activities for its students and working hard to build relationships with them.
“With COVID, what I’ve noticed is that when the kids were home, some of them weren’t excelling the way I would have liked them to,” he said, “and those who were able to persevere were those who had the connection beyond mere content.
“And so that’s something that I’m really making a concerted effort to do now is build strong relationships with these kids and tell them the kind of guidance I think they really need to be successful.”
The school: Harns Marsh Middle
Subjects taught : Civics
Years in class: Seven (all in Lee County)
How he feels about winning: “It’s amazing,” McGinley said. “This class was absolutely brilliant. The students at this school are so great. So I am proud to represent our school and our district.
His teaching secret: It’s espresso coffee. “I drink way too much coffee,” he smiles. “I have way too much energy!”
But you need that energy to reach children and engage them, he said.
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at [email protected] or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).