BROWN COUNTY - Several area teachers received a special honor Wednesday, a 2012 Golden Apple Award.
As has been the case every year since the program began in the Green Bay area in 1994, I was reminded first hand that once again it was a day of surprise.
Whether it's walking into a reading classroom of a dozen Edison Middle School students in Green Bay, or a hallway packed with first graders at West De Pere's Hemlock Creek, or a gym full of an entire school like at Syble Hopp in De Pere, Wednesday was a day to recognize the teachers selected to receive this year's Golden Apple Awards, which this year were crystal not golden.
"So, Mike, I'm Phil Flynn from Associated Bank. On behalf of the bank and Partners in Education, I want to congratulate you. Mike is this year's Golden Apple Award winner," presenter Phil Flynn told Syble Hopp's cognitive disabilities teacher Mike Nichols in front of a crowded gym.
No matter where we went, the reaction was genuine elation.
"It's a dream come true to be recognized like this," Nichols had to say.
"Flabbergasted, so happy to be recognized. We work really hard trying to do the best for our first graders. This is really, really neat," Hemlock Creek first grade teacher Mary Bain said after getting her award.
"I'm just overwhelmed," a surprised Nancie Brennan exclaimed.
Recipients like Nancie Brennan from Green Bay's Edison Middle School were quick to credit the group most responsible for their success.
"I was just thrilled. And it's my students that really make this possible. I mean they are just outstanding individuals," said Brennan, who is a reading and language teacher.
Teachers, too, can be outstanding individuals. Even stronger perhaps as a team, like the first grade team at West De Pere's Hemlock Creek: Nicole Schoenwalder, Jennifer Lambrecht, Mary Bain, Tracy Hopkins and Jennifer Ruechel.
But it's still about the students.
"Even if you're having a bad day, all you have to do is close the door and teach. And that day becomes wonderful," Bain said after receiving her Golden Apple.
"Every day I'm inspired by the students here and the staff, everyone who works here at Syble Hopp. They make me want to do my best by their efforts and their hard work," Nichols said to the packed gym during his award presentation.
It was also a time for hugs, from a husband and a daughter, from a superintendent and from a colleague.
"I feel very fortunate to be here," Nichols told the crowd.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful, honor," Brennan added.
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