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NLU Alum Surprised With Golden Apple Award for Teaching Officials bring award, reporters to fourth-grade teacher Andrea Beaty's classroom

NLU alum Andrea Beaty was teaching in her fourth-grade classroom recently when officials from the Golden Apple  Foundation arrived to present her with the  prestigious 2017 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Beaty, who was surprised and emotional upon receiving the award, teaches fourth grade English and Language Arts, science, social studies, math, and social emotional learning at Serena Hills Elementary School in Chicago Heights, Ill. in the South suburbs. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education at National Louis University. 

The awards recognize and honor outstanding teachers for their role in building a stronger, better-educated society.

This year’s award recipients were selected from a pool of more than 600 nominations, and represent 4th-8th grade teachers throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Recipients were nominated by their students, community members/parents and colleagues who have directly engaged with them and benefitted from their talent and passion.

Beaty’s 4th grade class starts each day with a warm up song that she leads while standing atop her desk, followed by a Peace Circle during which students share feelings and discuss the “mountains” they are working to overcome. On the walls are photos and goal statements of each student and written atop each of their desks are personal “power words” to remind them they are empowered to conquer personal challenges.

At the start of the school year, students apply and interview for specific jobs in the classroom such as photographer, writer or classroom store manager. Through the interviews, Beaty learns her students’ strengths, interests and needs, which she builds upon through the year.

She fosters a community of learners who value each other as OHANA (family) and who believe that no one should be left behind or forgotten. She frequently reminds her students not to “hurt another’s heart” and to “have a grateful heart for what you do have.”


As part of the awards selection process, distinguished teachers, college/university professors, administrators, and former Golden Apple Award recipients served on Golden Apple’s selection committee. Committee members applied research-based professional standards to identify teachers who exemplify the highest standards and practices of the teaching profession. The selection process included classroom observations of the finalists and interviews with colleagues, administrators, students, and parents.

“We continue to see conclusive evidence that being taught by an effective teacher has significant consequences on student achievement. Great teachers change students’ lives for the better,” said Dominic Belmonte, CEO of Golden Apple.

For more than 30 years, Golden Apple has recognized outstanding teachers throughout Illinois each year. Created by founders Mike and Pat Koldyke, Golden Apple’s mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence in Illinois, especially in schools of need.

Each Golden Apple Award recipient receives a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Each recipient also receives a $5,000 cash award. Perhaps most importantly, award recipients become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, giving them a stronger voice and a larger stage from which to make a difference in education within Illinois and nationally.