Golden Apple surprises Greenbriar School teacher

Chronicle Media

Jeremy Bartunek is one of 10 Illinois teachers in grades 4-8 recognized for superior performance in the classroom and school community.

Golden Apple, the leading Illinois nonprofit committed to preparing, honoring and supporting exemplary educators who advance educational opportunities for students, today surprised Jeremy Bartunek, an elementary school music teacher at Greenbriar School in Northbrook, with the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

For the first time in Golden Apple’s history, the awardees are being notified differently than in the full-school environment, and Bartunek was surprised via a Zoom staff meeting.

Following a highly competitive process, the 2020 award recipients were selected from more than 730 nominations of fourth- to eighth-grade teachers. The demand for recognition throughout the state was profound, with nominations for outstanding teachers and leaders received from 64 Illinois counties.

“Exemplary teachers create an extraordinary ripple effect that benefits students, transforms schools and strengthens communities,” said Golden Apple President Alan Mather. “We look forward to Jeremy Bartunek joining our mission to prepare the next generation of highly effective teachers for Illinois schools through our Scholars and Accelerators programs. Our award recipients play a major role in Golden Apple’s efforts to make a material difference in resolving the teacher shortage crisis across Illinois.”

The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching honors outstanding teachers for their roles in having lasting, positive effects on students’ lives and building stronger communities. Teacher award recipients demonstrate — in their teaching and results — significant, positive impact on their students’ growth and learning. Fellow educators, students, parents and community members nominate teachers for the awards. Teachers may not self-nominate.

“We recognize the recipients of the Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching to thank them for their countless contributions, to elevate the importance of the teaching profession for all to see and to inspire others to positively impact their communities by pursuing careers in education,” said Alicia Winckler, CEO of Golden Apple.

Award recipients are selected by master educators who understand and recognize instructional best practices and who utilize professional standards to evaluate exemplary teachers and school leaders. Members of the selection committee viewed video evidence of instruction and observed recipients’ teaching in-person in their classrooms during a comprehensive day which also included interviews with recipients’ colleagues, school leaders, students, parents and community members prior to school building closures in Illinois.


Bartunek, an elementary school music teacher, aims to have a cross-curricular approach to teaching by partnering with other departments. This approach allows the teachers and students in his school community to try new things to see what works and enables creativity to blossom. With the support of the community and school leadership, Bartunek led the creation of a district-wide children’s choir, which is now thriving.

As a highly valued component of this recognition, Northwestern University, Golden Apple’s partner for more than 30 years, generously provides a Spring Sabbatical to award recipients at no cost.

“Both Northwestern and Golden Apple are dedicated to developing teachers who will transform the lives of their students and we are proud to host these master teachers on the next step in their professional journeys in education,” said Timothy Dohrer, Ph.D., director of the Master of Science in Education Program at Northwestern University’s School of Education & Social Policy.

In addition, each Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching recipient receives a $5,000 cash award. Award recipients become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a community of educators who support current and future teachers and deepen the learning of students. Fellows play an important role in preparing the next generation of teachers by providing instruction and mentorship to future teachers in the Golden Apple Scholars and Accelerators programs, each of which is dedicated to addressing the teacher shortage in Illinois.