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Three charter teachers named Golden Apple Awards finalists

Posted on: March 4, 2024

INCS is delighted to share that three charter educators are among the finalists for the 2024 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching: Precious Allen (Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools), Melissa Behrendt from (LEARN 6 North Chicago), and Karen Vargas (Namaste Charter School). These awards honor and recognize outstanding achievement and the exceptional contributions the honoree has made to their schools, communities, and students. The proportion of charter finalists speaks to the direct impact these educators and their schools have across the state.

Precious Allen, Melissa Behrendt, and Karen Vargas are critical to the Illinois charter school community. Made up of 134 schools, charter educators work tirelessly to uplift 60,853 students, 96.4% of whom are students of color and 85% of whom receive free or reduced lunch. These schools are tuition-free and open to all students. They provide parents with a public school option that ensures all Illinois students, especially those from educationally underserved communities, have access to a high-quality public school that meets their needs.

Congratulations to all the Golden Apple finalists! Get to know these educators and the role they serve for learners in their communities.

Precious Allen

In addition to her Golden Apple nomination, Precious Allen was recently named the INCS 2023 Elementary School Teacher of the Year! She is currently a second-grade teacher at Betty Shabazz International Charter School. Mama Precious, as she is known to her students, incorporates global citizenship into the curriculum through guest speakers, pen pals, and interactive activities tailored to students’ learning styles.

Melissa Behrendt

Melissa Behrendt is a third-grade teacher at LEARN 6 in North Chicago. She was nominated for her commitment to social-emotional learning in the classroom and beyond. A certified yoga instructor, she facilitates an after-school yoga program and creates a safe space to impart essential life skills such as respect and conflict resolution. Her nominator applauded her commitment to continuous growth and improvement as an educator.

Karen Vargas

Karen Vargas is a dual-language teacher at Namaste Charter School, educating her third graders in both English and Spanish. Namaste describes her as a thought contributor to the school community who works hard to cultivate a caring classroom community. She constantly empowers her learners, and it’s no wonder that students, colleagues, and parents alike all admire her.

The Golden Apple Awards are given by the Golden Apple Foundation, a non-profit committed to preparing, honoring, and supporting educators who advance educational opportunities for students. The foundation will announce recipients in the spring, and each will receive a spring sabbatical and a $5,000 cash award. Award recipients become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a community of educators working to address the teacher shortage in Illinois.