Golden Apple and Teach For America Offer Specialized Teaching Experiences

May 20, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Selected from hundreds of applicants by the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois and Teach For America programs, 10 Illinois Wesleyan students are honoring their commitments to provide students in schools of need with highly trained teachers. 

Illinois Wesleyan class of 2008 graduates Amanda Cordes, an English and Spanish double major with a secondary education concentration from Naperville; Michael Lawton, a music education major from River Forest; Kristine Madigan, an educational studies and sociology double major from Skokie and Amy Sipovic, a history major with a secondary education concentration from LaSalle are fulfilling their promise to the Golden Apple Foundation as they embark on their teaching careers throughout the state of Illinois. Also, Sophomore Anne Marie Casa, an English major with a secondary education concentration from Berwyn was recently selected as a Golden Apple Pathway Scholar.

Illinois Wesleyan has additionally learned that three incoming 2008-2009 first-year students have recently joined the Golden Apple Scholars program: Claire Current, an educational studies major from Bloomington; Tristan Rogers, an educational studies major from Oak Park, and Rebekah Park, a biology major with a secondary education concentration from Wilmette.

Created in 1988 by the award-winning teachers of the Golden Apple Foundation, the Golden Apple Scholars program recruits talented high school graduates and a select number of college sophomores who commit to teaching careers in Illinois schools of need. As part of the commitment, The Golden Apple Scholars program requires its members to attend one of the 53 Illinois colleges and universities that participate in the program, to maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, to obtain Illinois Initial Teacher Certification and to teach for at least five years in a school of need in Illinois after graduation.

Students are also required to participate in Summer Institute programs. In return for their commitment, the students receive $2,500 per year for up to four years paid directly to their undergraduate institution and $2,000 per summer for participation in the Summer Institute programs. 

The Golden Apple Foundation defines a school of need as one listed on the government’s Department of Education Federal Perkins Loan Program forgiveness list or one that states through its Interactive Report Card that less than 60 percent of students meet or exceed state standards in two subject areas.

“I personally feel that I have an obligation to work with students in schools that may not necessarily attract the best teachers because they may pay less or are in an undesirable location,” said Sipovic, who joined the Scholars Program in 2006 as a sophomore Pathway Scholar. “The Scholars Program has invested time and money into my education and furthered my training. To show my appreciation, I would like to give back to the Foundation through my teaching.”

Students who apply directly after high school participate in two consecutive Summer Institutes during which they live at DePaul University, work in Chicago area schools and take classes on various aspects of teaching.  Sophomores in college have the opportunity to apply to become Pathway Scholars. The Summer Institutes continue throughout a student’s college career with the final institute occurring the summer before they begin their student teaching.

“My favorite part of Golden Apple was spending my summer in Chicago and working in a high school in Hyde Park,” said Sipovic.  “Living and working in the city really opened my eyes to the inequities in school funding that exist.”

While The Golden Apple Scholars program is strictly based in Illinois, Teach For America places teachers in areas of need throughout the nation. Established in 1990, Teach For America recruits recent college graduates from all academic majors and career interests who are committed to teaching in urban and rural public schools in an “effort to expand educational opportunity.” The corps members receive intensive training and participate in a variety of teacher preparation courses before they are assigned to one of the 26 high-need regions across the country.

The Teach For America 2008 class of Illinois Wesleyan graduates includes Erica Stearns, a music education major from Chicago; Laura Litton, an educational studies and computer science double major from Chicago; Edward Price, a physics major from New Lenox, Ill.; Lauren Fischer, an educational studies and philosophy double major from St. Charles, Ill. and Nathaniel Erickson, a political science major and history minor from Elmhurst, Ill.

“I want to be an educator because I want to close the achievement gap that is widening at a catastrophic rate,” says Erickson, who originally considered joining the Peace Corps. “By committing to Teach For America for two years I will be much more aware of educational issues and will continue to work to improve school conditions for the rest of my life, whether I remain in the education field or move elsewhere.”

Beyond their two-year commitment, Teach For America corps members utilize their insight and skills gained through classroom experiences, curriculum development and ongoing professional development in leadership positions addressing educational inequalities.  According to the Teach For America corps, many members continue on a third year with the corps, while others apply their Teach For America experiences to graduate work, volunteer work and careers. Since Teach For America placed its first 500 corps members in classrooms in 1990, more than 17,000 college graduates have joined its movement to eliminate educational inequity.

“As a Teach For America corps member, I want to be as involved as I possibly can,” said Stearns. “I want to make sure that many other young students are given the same opportunities I had while growing up.”

For more information about these organizations, visit The Golden Apple Foundation Web site at or Teach For America Web site at

Contact: Lauren Pietruszka, ’09 (309) 556-3181