A Beye Elementary School teacher has been named a finalist for the coveted 2021 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Petra Choi, who teaches third-grade at the Oak Park District 97 school. She was among 32 pre-K through third-grade finalists, just 4.5 percent of 708 nominations received from 67 counties in Illinois, Golden Apple officials announced on Feb. 23.

In a statement describing Choi’s teaching, Golden Apple officials said Choi “viewed the pandemic as an opportunity to ‘up her game’ as an educator, finding new ways to maintain an environment that provides each student with what they need to thrive educationally while maintaining a connection with one another and the community, despite the circumstances.”

Choi developed a full virtual curriculum for her students and spent nights and weekends with parents who volunteered to test equipment to make sure “it would work intuitively for students.” 

Choi also produced a list of more than 500 virtual activities and websites for students that she shared with other educators in D97. In addition, each student in Choi’s classroom published a book and completed an art project about an animal that they had researched. 

And through a partnership with the Oak Park Township last year, Choi’s class created more than 400 cards that were delivered to area senior citizens on Thanksgiving.

“”The vital role of teachers in the lives of students, their families, and their communities has been elevated even more over the past year,” said Alan Mather, the president of Golden Apple, in a statement. 

“The resilience teachers have demonstrated while navigating teaching during the global pandemic and through a time of racial awakening, while providing the high-quality education and social-emotional support students need, has been tremendously impactful,” he said. “We are honored to recognize the extraordinary work of these finalists.”

Alicia Winckler, Golden Apple’s CEO, stated that the annual distinctions “elevate the critical roles that teachers have in our society,” adding that while “continue to face a growing teacher shortage, we know that exceptional teachers, like the 2021 finalists, are crucial to the success of students and play a significant role in the future success of Illinois and our nation.” 

Golden Apple officials said that they’ll surprise the 2021 award recipients in the spring. 

“Northwestern University generously provides a spring sabbatical to award recipients at no cost,” they explained. “Each recipient receives a $5,000 cash award. Award recipients become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a community of educators who play an important role in preparing the next generation of teachers in the Golden Apple Scholars and Accelerators programs – which are dedicated to addressing the teacher shortage in Illinois.” 

Visit goldenapple.org for more information.  

Join the discussion on social media!