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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
May 31, 2006
DeKalb — Northern Illinois University's trio of Golden Apples will glow in the spotlight at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 1, when the awards ceremony is broadcast on Chicago's WTTW-Channel 11.
Two of this year's 10 Golden Apples are alumni of NIU College of Education, and one is a current Ed.D. student in the Department of Teaching and Learning.
Kristie Charles, a third-grade teacher at Hunting Ridge Elementary School in Palatine, earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in elementary education from NIU. She also received her National Board Certification in 2001. Dianne Hamelly, a first- and second-grade multi-age teacher at Fremont Elementary School in Mundelein, has a master's degree in education/reading.
Sandy Noel, a physical education teacher at Hatch Elementary School in Oak Park, is working on her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction.
All were honored Saturday, May 13, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The ceremony will air again at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 18, on WTTW.
“It's been an amazing thing,” Charles says. “Teaching was always something I wanted to do. I grew up with a family of educators. My mom is a retired kindergarten teacher from the same district. My father was a principal. Their desire to make a difference in children's lives was contagious.”
Charles has taught in Palatine for 12 years, following a decade in Carol Stream, where she started her career.
Students in her classroom are engaged in “hands-on” activities that are “just right” for them. Students work independently, in partners and in small groups to practice and review taught and modeled lessons.
Her students enjoy a teacher who plays a large role in their lives, in and out of school.
“I'm part of my kids' lives, not just in school. I make a connection not just here but outside. I'm going to baseball games, soccer games, first communions. That bond really makes us stronger,” she says. “I became a teacher to influence and impact the kids of today, not just academically but also socially and emotionally. I teach the 'whole' student. In my classroom, I have children who come to school with very different backgrounds and experiences. Working closely with the parents of my students builds a strong home-school connection.”
Charles also hopes to imbue her pupils with “a love of learning that never ends.”
“I love this age. The kids still love being here. They're very excited, very energetic and so willing to learn. They're just like little sponges,” she says. “Every day is different, and you never know what to expect.”
That enthusiasm is familiar to Hamelly.
“I love just watching the kids grow and develop. I love the kids learning to read and write, and being able to communicate and think,” she says. “They're so excited to learn.”
Hamelly, who also has taught for 22 years, works with her students for two years. She meets a new crop of first-graders each fall in her multi-age classroom, one of five at Fremont: two are first- and second-grade; two are third- and fourth-grade.
“It's a choice program, and something we started about 13 years ago,” she says. “The kids work very well together. The second-year students mentor the first-year students. They become leaders. They model behaviors, discussion and language. They know how the class runs, and they help on a day-to-day basis with the younger kids.”
Her own path to teaching began in a similar way. “I always liked school,” she says, “and I always enjoyed helping around the classroom when I was in school. I thought this would be a good thing to do.”
The children in Hamelly's classroom enjoy a teacher whose love of literature pervades her lessons.
“We work every day on poems and songs, and we read literature for comprehension strategies. Much of it is tied to our theme – we have five or six major themes a year – and tie in several other math, science and social studies activities,” she says. “We also integrate reading and a lot of writing. The kids look to literature for models of good writing, and I teach lots of mini-lessons on approaches to writing.”
Noel, who's studying for her doctorate, has no intention of leaving the gym behind.
“I'm at NIU because I want to help write curriculum so that other people can use what I do. I've piloted programs here in nutrition and connected that to social studies. In addition to learning about the continents in the classroom, we travel to them in the gym. We take a trip to Italy and eat bruschetta,” she says. “We don't take a paper-and-pencil test on why this is good for us. We learn about good nutrition by eating.”
A lifetime love of sports helped her decide to teach P.E. after earning a bachelor's degree in English and psychology:
“A whole new world was opened up to me” while earning a teaching certification in physical education at DePaul University, she says. “I am so much into the mind-body connection and getting into a zone through experiential learning, and I hope that this puts physical education in the forefront so that everyone understands that children, to perform better, need enough sleep, need to stay hydrated, need to eat right and need to exercise during the day.”
Now she works to keep young bodies and minds active.
“What I think makes me different is the fact that I don't just teach skills. There are many concepts that I'm teaching. When we play tag games, all my tag games are learning games. If you get tagged, you have to stop and play ‘patty cake' with your partner. '7, 12, 5, 5, 4, 33 vertebrae and no more.' We're learning about bones,” she says. “I teach many concepts about the body, and I incorporate the arts program so the children learn music, movement and drama, and they're getting fit while they're learning.”
A total of 850 teachers from Cook, Lake and DuPage counties were nominated for the award, first presented in 1986. In addition to $3,000, each will receive a tuition-free fall-term sabbatical at Northwestern University, a personal computer from Apple and membership in the Golden Apple Academy.
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