Chicago UTEP Graduate Honored with Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching


Eliza Ramirez
May 11, 2011

Chosen from over 600 nominees, Eliza Ramirez, a graduate of the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program (Chicago UTEP), has been awarded a prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes and honors outstanding teachers for their contributions to building a stronger, better-educated citizenry and includes a rigorous selection process. Award finalists are observed in their classroom and their colleagues, supervisors, students, and parents are interviewed. Winners receive a tuition-free, spring semester sabbatical to study at Northwestern University, a $3,000 cash award, and membership in the Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators.

Golden Apple representatives and a camera crew from Telemundo on the morning of May 10 surprised Ramirez at her school, Zapata Academy in Little Village to inform her of her award. Once realizing she had won, she wasted no time in thanking her instructors at Chicago UTEP.

One of those instructors and the director of Chicago UTEP, Kavita Kapadia Matsko, said, “From the moment she entered the program, Eliza viewed education as a lever towards social justice. She has since committed to becoming the best teacher she can for the sake of her students. Through persistence, reflection, and many hours of dedication, her classroom assignments and discussions are emblematic of ‘intellectual work,’ a primary instructional objective of the Urban Teacher Education Program. We are all very proud.”

When reflecting on the Chicago UTEP program, a 2-year, MA-granting teacher certification program, Ramirez expressed particular gratitude for her internship experiences. The internship year afforded her 12-months of in-class teaching experience in multiple locations, an unusually robust level of preparation. Ramirez commented, “Without my internships, which are so unique to Chicago UTEP, I would have been miles away from where I needed to be during my first year of teaching; from minute one as a teacher, I was setting up a classroom community and management structures that would allow my students to do their best learning. With the resources and tools Chicago UTEP afforded me, I have been reflective in my practice every day and know I have Chicago UTEP to thank for where I am as a teacher and professional today. “

Ramirez, a graduate of Chicago UTEP’s cohort 3, has completed endorsements for language arts, ESL and bilingual education and recently finished the paperwork required for National Board Certification. As a reading and writing teacher, she works tirelessly to increase the language skills of her predominantly Hispanic students.

Ramirez remains humble when reflecting on her practice. “I still have miles to go before I feel comfortable thinking of myself as a great teacher, but I have all the great teachers I've had to thank for my journey.”

The recipients of the 2011 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching will be honored at a black-tie event on Friday, October 21, at WTTW/Channel 11 Studios in Chicago. WTTW will also broadcast the awards in a one-hour television program following the event.

Additional Coverage:

“5 More Teachers Savor Golden Apples”
Chicago Tribune