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Nazareth Academy teacher wins Golden Apple Award

Amelia García and the all-school assembly at Nazareth Academy - Golden Apple

LA GRANGE PARK – The Golden Apple Foundation surprised Amelia Garcia, a teacher at Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park, with the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching on May 4.

During an all-school assembly, Nazareth Principal Therese Hawkins acknowledged Teacher Appreciation Week and the dedication and excellence of Nazareth’s faculty. Then, much to the surprise of the student body, faculty, staff and Garcia, Hawkins welcomed members of the Golden Apple Foundation, an Illinois-based nonprofit committed to preparing, honoring and supporting great educators who advance educational opportunities for students, according to a news release.

Garcia is one of only 10 high school teacher award recipients in Illinois and the only one from a Catholic high school. After a highly competitive process, the 2022 teaching award recipients were selected from more than 400 nominations of ninth through 12th grade teachers.

“We are honored to celebrate our 2022 award recipients and their many contributions both inside and outside of their schools,” Golden Apple Foundation President Alan Mather said in the release. “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. They are truly inspirational.”

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.

About Amelia Garcia

In a time when class participation has been hampered by online instruction and COVID-19 induced burnout, students and other instructors consistently have been impressed with Garcia’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, Garcia 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, Garcia has proposed a new elective for Nazareth’s English Department titled “Contemporary Literature: Diverse Voices in Literature.”

“My goal of encouraging students to become lifelong learners is aligned with Nazareth’s belief in educating the whole student in order to empower him or her throughout his or her life journey,” Garcia said in the release.

She said the surprise presentation was overwhelming to an introvert like herself. She also compared the announcement to the combination of “shock and thrill” she felt when she tried zip lining.

“Ms. Garcia is a testament to the fact that teachers can have the highest expectations of their students while also creating positive, impactful relationships with them so that they know they are supported and cared for,” Hawkins said in the release. “Ms. Garcia’s passion for literature and her masterful skills at facilitating deep, thought-provoking discussion are second to none. She is an admired and much loved member of the Nazareth Academy family, and we are bursting with pride at this recognition.”

Beyond English instruction, Garcia serves as the moderator for the Naz Latinx Group, where she oversees the student-led organization as they raise awareness about important issues facing the Latinx community.

Like many teachers, Garcia has been forced to grapple with the challenges presented by the pandemic. Instead of giving into the many difficulties that online instruction and other measures have presented, Garcia 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, Garcia believes there have been many enlightening successes she has been able to introduce to her in-person classroom environment.

Garcia has worked at Nazareth Academy for almost 15 years. She teaches AP English Language and English 2 Honors. She is an alum of DePaul University and holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and English and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Garcia was named Nazareth Academy’s Educator of the Year in 2016.