Westmont High School’s biggest fan found himself in the spotlight May 12 when Principal Jack Baldermann received one of this year’s Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Leadership.
“This is our award, Westmont,” Baldermann said to a cheering crowd of students and faculty during a midday ceremony at the school.
The surprise assembly included the entire student body, most wearing school spirit T-shirts. Baldermann entered the auditorium accompanied by students and band members playing drums. He was joined on stage by school district administrators, members of the Golden Apple Foundation and family members including his mother, wife, children and grandchildren.
The event played out like a small pep rally, with cheers and inspiring words from Baldermann as he celebrated this pinnacle of his more than 30 years in education.
“Our teachers, staff are incredible,” Baldermann said. “This championship doesn’t mean as much without our team.”
Baldermann was selected from more than 100 nominations for this year’s award. The award for Excellence in Leadership honors exemplary performance in a principal who has had a significant and sustained positive impact on the school, created a culture of inclusivity and delivered dramatic student growth.
The Golden Apple Award follows what has been a noteworthy time for Baldermann, who became principal at Westmont High School in 2012. In the fall, the school was recognized nationally as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
In 2020, the school won the DuFour Award as the best Professional Learning Community in the country. The school’s advanced placement program was ranked in the top 1% in Illinois and the nation and recognized as the Most Improved AP Program in Illinois and the Most Inclusive AP Program. Additionally, the high school has a 99% graduation rate, and the graduation rate has been 100% for the past seven years among Latino and Black students.
“I have the privilege every day of getting to know you in the halls, in class, in the extracurricular activities, and I see the way in this community you lift each other up,” Baldermann told the students.
Sophomore Charlotte Riemma said Baldermann is truly a principal who’s everywhere, from chatting with students in the lunchroom to visiting classes.
Sophomore Ella Kalinski said learning that Baldermann won the award is not a surprise.
“Once you meet Mr. Baldermann, you realize how wonderful he is, and he deserves this award,” Kalinski said.
Freshman Hamzah Bedeir said Baldermann is someone students admire.
“He’s an inspiring figure,” Bedeir said.
In presenting the award, Pam Witmer, chief of staff for the Golden Apple Foundation, spoke of how Baldermann cares deeply for the school community.
“Principal Baldermann, you are truly the definition of excellence,” Witmer said.
The award is named after Stanley C. Golder, a founding member of the Golden Apple Foundation and a former college professor. Golder’s legacy continues with his daughter, Nancy Northrip, who attended the festivities and serves as chairwoman of the Golden Apple Board of Directors.
“This is the best time of year,” she said, watching Baldermann while he was surrounded by family and colleagues.
As a winner, Baldermann will become a Fellow of the Golden Apple Academy, a community of educators who works with the next generation of teachers in the Golden Apple Scholars and Accelerators program. Additionally, the award comes with a cash prize of $10,000, with half going to Westmont High School.
“We all know this is a team effort. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. It’s amazing,” Baldermann said.
Before dismissing students back to class, Baldermann made a final request.
“Be good to each other,” he said. “Be leaders today. Make a difference in the lives of your fellow human beings.”