Nikki Gallentine, 4th grade teacher at Prairie Hill School in South Beloit, is surrounded by her students after being presented with a Golden Apple for Excellence award on March 12, Gallentine was one of five Winnebago – Boone County elementary teachers selected this year.

By Jean Seegers


The Roscoe, Rockton and South Beloit School Districts are known for their outstanding teachers and academic excellence. Every year one or more teachers from Stateline area schools are among those selected from throughout Winnebago and Boone counties to receive the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Education.

After extensive interviews, classroom monitoring by Golden Apple volunteers, and recommendations from students, parents and/or fellow teachers, 20 pre-K through 5th grade teachers were selected as finalist this year. Of the 20 finalists, five represent elementary schools in the Roscoe, Rockton and South Beloit School Districts: Heidi Milner – Kindergarten, Ledgewood Elementary, Roscoe; Danielle Peterson – Blended Pre-K, Prairie Hill Elementary; Laura Brooks – 3rd grade, Whitman Post Elementary, Rockton; Jackie Weerda – Kindergarten, Ledgewood Elementary, Roscoe; and Nikki Gallentine – 4th grade, Prairie Hill Elementary, South Beloit.

On March 12, Golden Apple representatives presented the prestigious award to five educators from throughout Winnebago and Boone counties.

In Roscoe, family members and media personnel quietly walked down the hallway and opened Heidi Milner’s kindergarten classroom door at Ledgewood Elementary. Her excited students gathered around the surprised teacher as she accepted her Golden Apple from Rockford Register Star representative Jim Roth.

Milner has been teaching at Ledgewood for 11 years. She is the fourth generation of teachers in her family and was a former student at Ledgewood. Her daughter now attends the school. “My goal is to help my students develop a love of learning,” she said.

Golden Apple Foundation representatives then moved north a few miles to Prairie Hill Elementary School where they took another hallway walk to Nikki Gallentine’s fourth grade classroom.

Jim Schmidt, representing Bergstrom Industries, presented a Golden Apple to the stunned teacher. Her excited students gave her a rousing round of applause. “It’s important to get to know your students and work with their best interests, she said. “They are the reason I love teaching.”

Tiffany Russey, 2nd grade teacher at Conklin Elementary School in Rockford, Tui Harned, Nashold Childhood Center in Rockford and Heather Geary, 4th grade teacher at Whitehead Elementary School in Rockford rounded out the group of five Golden Apple recipients.

The Golden Apple Foundation, instituted in 1997, celebrates, inspires and supports excellence in education. The Foundation has expanded through the years and now honors principals and volunteers as well as teachers.

The five Golden Apple award winners will receive a cash award, a professional development stipend, a lap top computer from Entre Computers and a Rockford University Scholarship.




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