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District 65 Educator Named Golden Apple Finalist!

March 4, 2021


Golden Apple, the leading Illinois nonprofit committed to preparing, honoring and supporting educators who advance educational opportunities for students, has announced the 2021 finalists for the prestigious Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Following a highly competitive award process, only 32 Pre-K through 3rd grade educators were selected as finalists for the highly coveted award— just 4.5 percent of a record-setting 708 nominations received from 67 counties in Illinois. Among the 32 finalists nominated: Ms. Meghan Rice, Willard Elementary kindergarten educator.Picture of Ms. Meghan Rice, Willard Elementary kindergarten educator.


“I was shocked that someone in our community felt that my commitment to the children and the families should be recognized,” said Rice, an educator with eight years of experience under her belt, with four of those years serving District 65 students. “I still feel incredibly humbled that someone thought that highly of me.”

The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching honor outstanding teachers for having lasting, positive effects on students’ lives and school communities. This mission of creating a lasting impact in the lives of students is not a new goal for Rice, it’s one that she embeds into her instruction and classroom culture daily. “It is my heart's desire for children to feel that they are capable, seen, heard, and known,“ said Rice. “Establishing and maintaining a culture and climate of inclusivity is central to my classroom community. I often say, ‘Do your best, and leave the rest.’ I have had the joy of seeing academic gains for my students both in and out of the pandemic. I think that the relational aspect of our classroom deeply affects my ability to utilize the appropriate teaching moves that help students to think critically as they develop as young learners.”

Serving as a Pre-K teacher for the first four years of her teaching career, and currently as a Kindergarten teacher, Rice’s extensive experience in the education field has seen her impact learners of all ages. Aside from her service on district-level committees, and her position as the Vice Chair for the board of the Childcare Network of Evanston, Rice is also a board member for the Youth Chorus of the North Shore. “Our organization teaches children who are in Pre-K through 12th grade,” Rice added. “In the pandemic, we have provided free classes in conjunction with local music teachers to offer high quality learning opportunities. For students who want to be a part of one of our choirs, we have access from generous funders to provide both partial and full scholarships to help ensure children can develop their vocal skills in a safe and professional environment.”

The 2021 Golden Apple Award recipients will be announced this spring. If she were selected as one of the organization’s ten recipients, Rice’s plan comes as no surprise: she’d continue giving back to her community to make an even greater impact. “I would desire to give back to the Golden Apple organization and my profession in any way I could,” Rice said. “ I would not take the role or responsibility of carrying that honor lightly. In terms of my emotions, I think I would be overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for every experience and person that has been a part of my journey.”


In addition to the surprise announcement this spring, the 2021 Golden Apple Award recipients will receive a spring sabbatical, which is provided at no cost to the recipients, from Northwestern University. Each recipient receives a $5,000 cash award. Additionally, 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.


For a full list of the 2021 finalists for the Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching, please visit: