COLLIER COUNTY — Wednesday afternoon was truly golden at Tommie Barfield.
Principal Jory Westberry got on the intercom to inform the entire school that they had not one, but two Golden Apple teachers as applause erupted from classrooms down the hall.
“Our school blossoms under their leadership,” she said of music teacher Lisa Braren and fifth-grade teacher Jon Mundorf before telling the school about their achivement. “This is the best thing since sliced bread.”
Braren and Mundorf were two of six teachers across Collier County who were honored with the 2010 Golden Apple Award.
The process began for the teachers last fall when they were nominated for the award. The teachers submitted a written application and a selection committee narrowed the field of applicants to 60. The 60 teachers were observed and scored by a group of community volunteers. The application and initial observation scores are combined to identify 31 Teachers of Distinction.
The 31 Teachers of Distinction are then observed by the selection committee, which chooses the final six.
Each of the Golden Apple recipients receives $2,000 from the Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, an engraved Golden Apple and other gifts from the community.
Name: Jean Lorenz
Experience: 24 years
Current position: Exceptional student education career and technical education at Naples High School
What does the Apple mean to you?: “I feel gobsmacked. ... My kids are pretty wonderful. All kids are wonderful. I love teenagers. They keep me honest and they have taught me so much.”
First her morning meeting was canceled. Then, she was told she would have a group of students to watch during first period, her planning period.
The surprises kept coming Wednesday morning for Lorenz. She was teaching her students about a cappella music when cameras and about 50 people burst into her room to surprise her with her Golden Apple.
Her students burst into applause.
“She is truly a woman who puts her children – and these are her children – first,” said Principal Nancy Graham. “She’s amazing.”
Name: Kate Hickie
Experience: 18 years
Current position: Pre-kindergarten inclusion at Naples Park Elementary School
What does the Apple mean to you?: “This is so incredibly rewarding. Working with children is a reward every day, but being rewarded by the community is incredible.”
Hickie used the basket of apples she received for her class as a lesson to her students.
“What color are they?” she asked her excited students, as their little hands grabbed for one. “What shape are they? Are they good for your teeth or not?”
Alison Ballarino, an assistant teacher who works with Hickie, said her mentor is most deserving of the apple.
“The children love her. And she is so prepared, she makes it look seamless,” she said. “She has more energy than someone half her age. You can see when she looks at the kids that she just loves working with young children.”
Name: Angela Loerzel
Experience: Five years
Current position: Second grade teacher at Pelican Marsh Elementary School
What does the Apple mean to you?: “This represents the fact that you can have a second career and be successful. ... I am going to be carrying this around with me everywhere.”
Teaching was not Loerzel’s first profession. She was a marketing director for years before entering the classroom. But she said that first career prepared her for this one.
“It was the warm up,” she said.
Loerzel, who has worked at Pelican Marsh for five years, has been a Teacher of Distinction for the past three. She said winning the Apple was special and proves that one can succeed in a second career.
Principal James Gasparino said Loerzel represents the Pelican Marsh community very well.
“She has such passion. She comes to teaching, because of her background, with a different perspective,” he said. “She has such creativity. She is not afraid to try anything.”
Name: Diane Fontdevila
Experience: 20 years
Current position: Fourth grade teacher at Osceola Elementary School
What does the Apple mean to you?: “The Apple means I am representing a group of awesome teachers. I have lived in Naples for 38 years and this is the greatest reward.”
At Osceola Elementary School, a Golden Apple is a very special award. So, it is no surprise that those that came to surprise fourth grade teacher Diane Fontdevila’s award brought music and got Fontdevila and her class to dance.
“She teaches us about life and how to survive and to have a good attitude,” said Anthony Stein, 10. “She teaches us a lot more than math and science.”
Fontdevila, a Barron Collier High School graduate, said the Apple means she is a representative of some “awesome teachers.”
“I have lived in Naples for 38 years and this is the greatest reward,” she said. “I love that there is something different every day and I love being able to inspire children to achieve their dreams.”
Name: Jon Mundorf
Experience: Seven years
Current position: Fifth grade teacher at Tommie Barfield Elementary School
What does the Apple mean to you?: “It puts the spotlight on teachers in a good way. It ups the ante on what we expect of our students, but also on what they expect of me.”
The biggest smile in the room when Mundorf received his Golden Apple was the one on his face.
Mundorf said he became a teacher because he had good teachers who impacted him as a child.
“It is one of the greatest ways you can impact humanity,” he said of his profession. “These kids today have a lot on their plate. I want to give them as much help as I can.”
Student J.R. Pierce said Mundorf is creative, which makes him a fun teacher.
“He lets us do wonder projects. We wonder about something and then we do a report on it,” he explained.
Name: Lisa Braren
Experience: 35 years
Current position: Music teacher at Tommie Barfield Elementary School
What does the Apple mean to you?: “This Apple is not just for Tommie Barfield, but for music education, too.”
Braren was leading her kindergarten class in the paper plate dance, which teaches them about conducting, when she was surprised with her Golden Apple.
Braren said she wants to do projects that her students remember to teach them a love of music.
Braren said music education teaches students character traits they carry throughout their lives, including poise and public speaking skills.
Stacy Clark, a member of the Golden Apple selection committee, said seeing teachers like Braren receive their apples was a major reward.
“I love to see their faces,” she said.