Cristina Arroyo says she had to re-read the letter sent to her a couple of times before believing she was actually nominated for the Golden Apple Award.
“I wanted to make sure,” said the fourth-year District 97 teacher, who is among three nominees in the district this year, along with Marvin Childress and Chase Vivas. The nominees were notified by mail two weeks ago. The Golden Apple winners won’t be announced until next spring. This is Arroyo’s first nomination.
She worked at a daycare after high school while growing up in Blue Island. She’s the only teacher in her family — her dad was a machinist and her mom worked in purchasing at a hospital. Arroyo also has a brother.
Teaching kindergarten in her four years at Irving School, she said she sees her students as individuals first, recalling that her favorite teachers were the ones who made her feel that way.
“Those were the ones that stood out,” she said. “Before you can begin teaching kids anything, you have to get to know the student as a person. That’s key to being a good teacher. It’s making them feel like they’re the only one that matters.
“I want to involve kids in their own learning, “Arroyo added, “which I find to be more encouraging for them.”
Arroyo teaches one kindergarten class of 19 students. She was among the new teachers hired in 2008 when D97 expanded to a full-day kindergarten program. Arroyo was hired right out of college, after attending Northern Illinois. She’d heard about the Oak Park schools from friends while in college.
“I fell in love with Oak Park and said I wanted to be here,” Arroyo said. “It was just, literally, my dream job.”
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Cristina Arroyo’s name.