Maddi Bodine, a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), and Zebulon “Zeb” Holder, NBCT candidate, were named 2021 Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching winners. They are among 10 Illinois teachers chosen for this honor. This year, the Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching winners were selected from over 708 nominees from all across the state—a new record for Illinois. 

“This past year has been so hard on everyone, and teachers across the world have been challenged in a way we never have been,” said Bodine, who teaches Pre-K special education at Kingston Elementary School. “I achieved NBCT certification in December 2020, and while I was waiting to hear back about those results, I received an email that I was named a finalist for the Golden Apple award. Both of those accomplishments coming within weeks of each other were very humbling and rewarding.

“I take my job very seriously and do my best every day to support my students, celebrate every ounce of progress they make, connect with their families, and advocate for them. I, like many other teachers, was feeling burned out and at the end of my rope. By having both the National Board scorers and the Golden Apple Foundation feel that I was worthy of their highest honors means the world to me.”

Bodine said she was lifted out of burnout mode by both awards and sees them as daily reminders that someone believes in her and to keep giving everything she has to her students.

Holder is still working on achieving National Board Certification. That has not stopped this Lovejoy Elementary School music teacher from striving to help students become lifelong learners and creatively overcoming the difficulties presented by teaching the arts during quarantine. Holder quickly worked to provide engaging virtual lessons that he shared on Facebook for his students and for any children or families who wished to learn. His posts have garnered views across the U.S. and internationally. 

“My National Board journey actually started a few months before we entered the pandemic,” Holder said. “I wanted to work on my teaching craft without the completion of another master’s degree. It had been eight years since I had completed my master’s degree, and I wanted to find some new opportunities for professional growth.”

In his search, Holder found that the National Board certification process is something that helps teachers look at their teaching craft, and the state covers the cost. He said it was a wonderful opportunity for professional growth and reflection. Initially in the summer of 2020 he was worried about the teaching process, but his fears were calmed after he met his cohort at the beginning of the school year.

“I found that the focus of the National Board and Golden Apple Foundation is on student success and reflection in the teaching practice,” Holder said. “Both organizations push teachers and students to their full potential. Every moment in the classroom is an opportunity for success and impact and an opportunity for reflection and growth in your own teaching craft.”  

Congratulations to Bodine and Holder on their outstanding achievements and recognition.