A Teacher’s Apple Turns Golden

A Teachers Apple Turns Golden

Ben Achammer, Editor in Chief

The Orange and Black Gym was packed with students last Friday to surprise and celebrate chemistry teacher and Science Department Chair Mr. Culcasi. Out of 400 educator nominations across the state of Illinois, Mr. Culcasi was selected as one of ten recipients of the prestigious Golden Apple teaching award. The result of 24 years of impacting students, the Golden Apple award serves as an important milestone in Mr. Culcasi’s teaching journey.

The Golden Apple Foundation is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to, “…advance the teaching profession by recognizing excellent teachers, leveraging their thinking and efforts to improve education, recruiting and preparing prospective teachers with a special emphasis on schools of need.” Every year since 1986, Golden Apple has selected master teachers to receive the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Culcasi didn’t start his professional career as a teacher. He initially pursued engineering, but the joy and impact of teaching inevitably swayed his path. Even to this day, he still cites the students as the continued source of his teaching inspiration.“We have so much fun in class,” he commented after the assembly. “It makes every day new and interesting and exciting.” 

The supportive role teachers play in their students’ lives motivates so many, and Culcasi is no exception. To him, the highs and lows of teaching directly relate to the impact he makes on his students.“The most difficult part of teaching is trying to help 125 kids every single day,” said Culcasi. “But, the good part about teaching is when you can help 125 kids every single day, it’s really amazing.”

Upon receiving the award in a room filled with school spirit, Culcasi was anything but bravado. “If you want me to be honest, I’m very embarrassed right now,” he expressed after the assembly. “They just put 2,000 people in that gym for this, which is very humbling.” 

He took this moment to share some words of wisdom that had helped him through his journey. “A very wise man once said that if you are really kind and you work really hard, then amazing things will happen to you,” reflects Culcasi. “And, I have to say, this is pretty amazing.”

As part of the Golden Apple Award, Mr. Culcasi will receive a cash award in addition to a free spring sabbatical at Northwestern University, where Mr. Culcasi can continue his journey of passing on what he has learned. Yet the work he does at South, trying to create an engaging learning environment and students feel seen, has perhaps already rewarded him more than anything.