Joliet West High School Band Director Kevin Carroll was one of 10 winners of a Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Carroll, chosen from among 32 finalists out of a pool of 510 nominations, was surprised with the honor Wednesday morning. The recognition is among one of the most prestigious teaching honors in the state, with only 10 Golden Apples awarded every year.
Each recipient receives a spring sabbatical to study tuition-free at Northwestern University and a $3,000 cash award.
Carroll learned he was a finalist in March, but was not informed he had won the top honor until Wednesday, when he was surprised in his classroom by Golden Apple officials, Joliet City Councilmen Don Fisher and John Gerl, Joliet Township High School District 204 administrators and others.
Fisher, a former District 204 school board member whose son was once a band student of Carroll's, presented Carroll with the award.
"Thank you for what you do in your classroom to make a difference every day," Fisher said. "Your students, peers and parents know what an exceptional and dedicated teacher you are."
The Golden Apple Award was created by Mike and Pat Koldyke in 1986 as a way to recognize outstanding teachers for their contributions to improving society. The winners will be honored at a banquet in Chicago that will be broadcast on WTTW-TV (Channel 11).
Carroll has been the director of Joliet West's Marching Tigers and other school bands since 1986. Joliet West's music programs have won numerous awards and honors during Carroll's tenure.
“Mr. Carroll has the ability to connect and communicate using a student-centered approach that fosters creativity, expression, leadership and musical growth,” Joliet West Principal Teresa Gibson said at the time he was named a finalist.
“His ‘gift’ of teaching is evident within just minutes of entering his classroom.”
Only one other Joliet-area teacher won a Golden Apple this year. That was Lincoln-Way North High School teacher Linda Egnatz, who teaches Spanish III, Spanish IV, Spanish V, AP Language and AP Literature at the Frankfort-based high school.