Apples for Teachers 2022

And a big thank you to our sponsors:

We spent so long this year reading over so many wonderful letters from students and parents about teachers who went above and beyond to help their students. We know that Ms. Eastwood is just one of the many who deserve prizes, but we are excited to shine a light on her as the 2022 Golden Apple Award recipient.

Whitney Eastwood, K, Bush Elementary, Fulton
Nominated By Brandi Hassien, parent of Joseph, K
I am nominating Mrs. Whitney Eastwood for the Apples for Teachers award for many reasons. I will start with the reasons that directly impact my son. Joseph was anxious about beginning school, and Mrs. Eastwood made him feel right at home, she is incredibly kind and calm and makes sure all feel welcome. She pushes Joseph to work hard and learn new things, while also praising his efforts in the classroom. He knows he is loved there and enjoys school because of the experience she has given him. More though, Mrs. Eastwood is a student advocate like I have never seen. I am also a teacher in the building, and watching Mrs. Eastwood do WHATEVER it takes for students to succeed is a beautiful thing. Mrs. Eastwood welcomed five Afghan refugee students into her room this year. They could not read, write, or speak English and had never attended school. This did not slow Mrs. Eastwood down at all. In the past months, she has taught those students their letters, letter sounds, and how to write them. They can ask for things using English phrases, and they follow the classroom expectations, while feeling loved and happy during this entire time. She seeks out opportunities for all students to learn about our community – writing grants and setting up field trips to provide these experiences to the students. She celebrates every single holiday like it is the one and only holiday, which brings so much magic to the faces of these children, especially those who do not have the means to celebrate much with their own families. Mrs. Eastwood uses many of her own resources to help teach her students, and she continues to selflessly give of herself and her time to see ALL students succeed. I hope that Mrs. Eastwood can be recognized for her dedication to not only student learning and success, but also for providing students with an overall wonderful school experience.

Finalists Monday, 4/4
Dylan Hayes, Special Education, Moberly High School
Nominated by Reagan Wilborn, 11th grade
Mr. Dylan Hayes is the definition of a “light in a dark room.” He always greets every person in the school with his kind smile and positive energy. The first experience I had with Mr. Hayes was when he used to help in my math class. Hayes has the perfect balance as a teacher. He is super fun to be around, and always joking, but can also take charge when needed and be taken seriously. He makes everyone at the school feel included and loved. Not to mention, he hand-wrote EVERYONE in my math class personal (and unique) letters thanking us for the time we had together during the school year. Because he is a sped teacher, he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves at our school even though he does WAYYY more. He not only helps out in the classes but also attends mostly every school event in support of the students and spreads positivity the whole time.

Finalists Tuesday, 4/5
Ann Alofs, 3rd, West Boulevard Elementary, Columbia
Nominated by Katie Barnes, parent of Jack
From even before the start of school, Ann has been an incredible communicator with us. She is highly engaged with the kids, and seems to have an innate understanding when a student needs to be challenged, or given time to process tasks. Before third grade, our son was an avid reader, but only with graphic novels. A few weeks ago, she asked him to check out a chapter book that she needed to hear a student’s opinion on. He gladly accepted, and pored through a 250 page chapter book in two days. It was incredible. We appreciate everything she does, and all of her unbelievable communication with parents!!

Jennifer Hernandez-Francisco, 3rd, Gratz Brown Elementary, Moberly
Nominated by Regina Cross, parent of David
Jennifer Hernandez-Francisco (Ms. Hernandez to the students) is an amazing teacher who recognizes and celebrates the unique strengths and personalities of each of her students. Our son, David, could not be more excited to go to school each day. Ms. Hernandez has more than supported him – she has helped him thrive. Where other teachers have treated his ADHD as a problem resulting in office referrals, she has helped him learn better coping skills, including some breaks in the school’s “focus room” to work out some of his energy before going to specials where the teacher expects less fidgeting and more stillness. She has encouraged David to excel, supporting his participation in the Moberly EAGLES program as well as nominating him for the Cool Math Kids club. She has encouraged his desire to help other students when they are struggling. She celebrated David earlier this year – not for his academic prowess or his physical attributes, but for his character, writing that he works hard every day and is a helpful friend to his classmates. These are important skills that don’t always show up on a grade card, and I’m so thankful that she’s encouraging and celebrating these soft skills.

Finalists Wednesday, 4/6
Skylar Long, 5th, Gratz Brown Elementary, Moberly
Nominated by Ashely Barnhart, parent of Kellen
My son is very very shy when it comes to new people. We just moved to Moberly over the summer and got to meet Mrs. Long. Before school started he didn’t want anything to do with meeting his new teacher or school, lol! At Kellen’s first Parent conference Mrs. Long expressed how he’s very shy and hadn’t opened up at all, not even really that much with other students. I wasn’t surprised at all to hear this; he’s so shy that he will wear a hoodie/jacket all day, and even though mask isn’t required, he would wear it all day just so people could hardly see him or see his facial expressions. This last Parent conference Mrs. Long has said that Kellen has improved on grades and has opened up quite a bit and has become pretty popular with his classmates! And I’m just very appreciative that she didn’t give up on him, and kept pushing him to achieve goals, and making him feel welcomed and safe to be himself! Some teachers haven’t put that much effort into him – they just kind of let him be.

Karen Himmelberg, K, Southern Boone County, Ashland
Nominated by Kaylee Zumalt, parent of Luke
Mrs. Himmelberg has made a huge impact on my student. My son has been struggling with ADHD, but she has helped us the whole way. She has made sure that he is well taken care of and gives him the time in class to get his school work done. He is still on grade level because of the extra effort she puts in with him. She contacts me almost everyday to let me know how his day was and has helped me learn tricks to help him that I hadn’t thought of before. She is not only amazing with my student but is amazing with all her students. She has all of her students ahead of schedule with their popcorn words. I can say so many more amazing things about her. Thank you Mrs. H!

Finalists Thursday, 4/7
Amanda Power, 7th, Moberly Middle School
Nominated by Leah Hardy, parent of Kahlen
My child has had a hard time keeping up in school since kindergarten. I have gone to the school board, and talked to teachers at every level. No one ever seemed to know what to do or have the time to help. And if they did have the time they weren’t persistent. Mrs. Power has stayed after school weekly, helped him implement best practices, messaged me after hours to make sure that he shared with me the assignments, and taught him to be accountable for himself. And since she started his grades have gone from very low failing grades, to average. Like I said, this has been an issue since kindergarten. She had helped him have confidence that he’s never experienced. She just may have changed my child’s entire life around!

Lisa Propst, Title 1 Reading Specialist, Belair Elementary, Jefferson City
Nominated by Samara Protzman, parent of Braxton, 2nd
Mrs. Propts is a wonderful asset to Belair Elementary!! She is the Title 1 Reading Specialist. She has worked with my son for 2 years now. He has shown such great growth in reading largely because of her. Her love for her students shows greatly. She is sure to acknowledge the growth of her students. She has gone out of her way to send things home to help him continue learning at the rate he was going. He went from a very timid shy struggling reader, to a student that willingly will pick up a book if asked so and read. Mrs. Propts has taught him (and the other students) different learning mechanisms to help them process and understand the words they are seeing. How to form the words by sounds, process the words in their minds, and get the words out. She is a wonderful person, and I hope she continues her love of teaching her students years to come.

Dr. Danielle Johnson, Speech/Debate, Columbia High Schools
Nominated by Christopher Mesfin, 12th, Rock Bridge High School
To describe every way the Dr.Johnson has gone above and beyond for her students in just two-hundred words is an impossibility in of itself, but knowing her, she wouldn’t want me to say that because of how she strives to break down walls of “impossibility” in every setting she is involved in. This year I’ve had the opportunity to work under her as the captain of the Rock Bridge team and have gotten a glimpse into how much Dr. Johnson values each of her students. Before she came to give our debate team direction, we were little more than a group of kids who were above average at speaking, but after she instantly assumed the position and manifested her positive debate experience into everyone. During a year where everything was wayward due to Covid I can’t say that I would’ve stayed on the team and been the speaker, debater, or person that I am today without Dr. Johnson. My experience is far from unique as it’s common to find Dr. Johnson eating lunch, tutoring or just hanging out with students in her room. She truly is the best.

Sabria El-Kurbu, English, Moberly High School
Nominated by Shelby Baughman, 12th, Moberly High School
Mrs. El-Kurbu is the best teacher that I have had all of high school. I had her my sophomore year for honors LA II, my junior year for speech as dual credit, and my senior year for English Composition I and II for dual credit. Not only has Mrs. El-Kurbu taught our in-school information well, but she also teaches us life skills that we need to know. She taught my senior class how to file our taxes because none of us knew how to. She made a slide show, found fun informational games, and we filled out fake taxes ourselves. She helps her students to the best of her ability and is very understanding when life gets in the way. She goes above and beyond to make sure we understand our work and challenges us to do our best every day. Mrs.El-Kurbu has positively influenced all of her students and is more than deserving of this award. When I finally become a teacher, I want to be just like her.

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