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Teachers honored with Golden Apples

Ten Chicago-area teachers got tapped as the best of the best this week by the Golden Apple Foundation.

Monique Blakes started crying as Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped into her first grade classroom Thursday morning.

He was followed by some of her colleagues and family, including her sister, aunt and three nieces who drove up from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Blakes is one of three Chicago Public School teachers to receive the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“I’m so honored,” she said. “I work really hard and my students, all of this is for them.”

Blakes has taught at Depriest Elementary in the Austin neighborhood for seven years.

Before that, she went through the Academy of Urban School Leadership’s one-year teacher training program.

“You have the best teacher,” Emanuel told Blakes’ students. “She’s been recognized as number one.”

And her students agreed.

“She’s nice, funny and sweet, and she always takes care of us,” one girl said. “And she helps us learn stuff.”

The classroom surprise is a bit of a tradition.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday honored kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Luna at Murray Language Academy in Hyde Park. Luna is also a mentor teacher for The University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program.

Golden Apple winners get $3,000 and a tuition-free, six-month sabbatical at Northwestern University.

More than 500 teachers were nominated for the award.

The other Golden Apple winners are: Susan Stephan, a first- and second-grade teacher at Norwood Park Elementary in Chicago; Bryan Jackson, a third-grade teacher at the Latin School of Chicago; Zackary Ruelas, a third-grade teacher at St. Malachy School in Chicago; Pamela Kelly, a first-grade teacher at Naper Elementary in Naperville; Kathy Burns, a second-grade teacher at Highlands Elementary in Naperville; Maria Barba, a third-grade teacher at MacArthur Elementary in Hoffman Estates; Robert Taylor, a second-grade teacher at Central Road Elementary in Rolling Meadows; Denise Ostarello, a first- through third-grade teacher at Crete Elementary in Crete.

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