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Nazareth Academy English teacher Amelia Garcia is one of 10 Golden Apple excellence in teaching winners this year. (Golden Apple photo)

Naz’s Amelia Garcia wins Golden Apple teaching award

By Bob Bong

Amelia Garcia, a teacher at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, was one of 10 teachers in Illinois to receive the 2022 Golden Apple award for Excellence in Teaching last week.

Garcia, who teaches 10th- and 11th-grade English, was surprised with the award at a school assembly on May 4.

“This is really overwhelming,” she said after receiving the award and fighting back tears.

In a time where class participation has been hampered by online instruction and COVID-19 induced burnout, students and other instructors have been consistently impressed with García’s dedication to creating an English class that goes above and beyond to create a fun, exciting and participatory learning environment. By governing a class grounded in culturally responsive instruction, García works to introduce literature that allows students to reflect on their own experiences as well as the experiences of those different from them. To support her commitment to diverse writers and literary voices, García has gone on to propose a new elective for the English Department entitled “Contemporary Literature: Diverse Voices in Literature.”

Beyond her English instruction, García also serves as the adult moderator for the Nazareth Academy Latinx Group, where she oversees the student-led group as they continuously seek to raise awareness about important issues facing the Latinx community.

Like many teachers, García has been forced to grapple with the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic. Instead of giving into the many difficulties that online instruction and other measures have presented, García has continued to hold the interest of her students by employing creative ideas in her classroom. Through pre-taped lessons that involve ideas such as online literary bingo (as well as other games, quizzes and methods of scaffolding), García feels as though there have been many enlightening successes that she has been able to reintroduce to her in-person classroom environment.

“We are honored to celebrate our 2022 award recipients and their many contributions both inside and outside of their schools. We know that their impact doesn’t stop at their classroom doors. These amazing teachers positively influence thousands over their lifetimes by shaping the lives of students, schools, and communities,” said The Golden Apple Foundation President Alan Mather. “They are truly inspirational, and we look forward to their continued commitment to the next generation of teachers as they support our two teacher preparation programs – the Golden Apple Scholars and Accelerators programs.”

The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching honor outstanding teachers for having lasting, positive effects on students’ lives and school communities. Teacher recipients demonstrate – in their teaching and results – significant, positive impact on their students’ growth and learning.

Each award recipient receives a $5,000 cash award and a spring sabbatical provided by Northwestern University at no cost. Award recipients also become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a community of educators who play an important role in preparing the next generation of teachers in the Golden Apple Scholars and Accelerators programs, which are dedicated to addressing the teacher shortage in Illinois.

Garcia was born in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood, and she spent her teen years in the unincorporated Garden Homes area, where she went to middle school and then graduated from Mother McCauley High School.

She now lives with her husband and two children in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

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