6 Golden Apples awarded Tuesday to Collier’s best teachers

Corey Perrine/Staff
Surrounded by kindergarten students, Eden Park Elementary School's Judy Ramirez reacts to receiving a Golden Apple Award presented by Greg Pasanen, Champions for Learning board member, Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in Immokalee, Fla. The Education Foundation's annual Golden Apple Awards are given to Collier County teachers who exhibit excellence in the classroom. Teachers are nominated by students, parents and community members.

Photo by COREY PERRINE // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Surrounded by kindergarten students, Eden Park Elementary School's Judy Ramirez reacts to receiving a Golden Apple Award presented by Greg Pasanen, Champions for Learning board member, Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in Immokalee, Fla. The Education Foundation's annual Golden Apple Awards are given to Collier County teachers who exhibit excellence in the classroom. Teachers are nominated by students, parents and community members.

— Screams coming from a classroom is usually a bad thing.

But not on Tuesday, when kindergarten teacher Judy Ramirez’s joyful screams echoed through the halls of Eden Park Elementary School in Immokalee.

“I’m in shock and I am so honored. I have not taught for a long time, so to receive this honor — I’m so thankful,” she said. “I love my kids.”

Champions for Learning, formerly The Education Foundation of Collier County, handed out six Golden Apples Tuesday to six of Collier County’s best teachers. It was the end to a months-long process that began with the teachers being nominated by community members, deciding to apply and going through classroom observations from members of the Golden Apple Core Committee.

In addition to Ramirez, the teachers are: Sarah Nick, a third-grade teacher at Golden Gate Elementary School; Catherine Hunt, a law studies teacher at Lely High School; Khris Betten-Jutasi, a world cultural geography teacher at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School; Kathleen Weitzel, a fifth-grade teacher at Naples Park Elementary School; and Andrew Klatzkow, a fourth-grade teacher at Corkscrew Elementary School.

Representatives from Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, Champions for Learning board members, sponsors and volunteers traveled to schools across the county to present the awards to teachers in their classrooms, and bushels of apples for the students.

Many of the teachers honored Tuesday came to the profession as a second career. Hunt was a prosecutor and had her own law practice before leaving the law to become a teacher.

“When I left the legal field to be a teacher, I still wanted to be around the idea of the law. But I never imagined being a teacher would be this fulfilling,” she said.

Some of the teachers saw the Golden Apple as a chance to have the light shown on their school. Nick, who was recruited to Collier County to teach at Golden Gate Elementary School by her former Pelican Marsh Assistant Principal Marilou Andrews, said her students are incredible.

“They score 17 points higher than the district average on standardized tests,” she said proudly. “I am not worthy of being their teacher.”

But her principal, Charles Frontz, disagreed.

“She has a natural gift,” he said. “She’s one of those people who is doing exactly what she’s supposed to do.”

Betten-Jutasi also spoke lovingly of her school, Lorenzo Walker Technical High.

“Teenagers get a bad rap,” she said, “but my students are incredible and I am so happy people see that.”

Weitzel proved her award can be a strong motivator for young teachers.

“I knew she was the best. I’m just so happy to see her get this recognition,” said Michelle Beilein, a teaching intern from Florida Gulf Coast University who works in Weitzel’s classroom.

Corkscrew Elementary School Principal Kim Lonergan said Klatzkow always puts his students first.

“The kids love him and they learn from him. He makes it fun,” she said. “He’s constantly showing them new things.”

This year, the Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers will be a special dinner to honor the teachers. The celebration will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, May 10 at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, 851 Gulfshore Boulevard N.

And the winners are ...

Golden Apple teacher: Khris Betten-Jutasi

Where and what she teaches: World cultural geography at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School in East Naples

How long has she been a teacher: 8 1/2 years, all at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School

What the Golden Apple means to her: “This means my school will be recognized. There is no place else I would want to be. ... I am so honored and blessed to be part of this school. And I am so honored to have these students. They are what make my job awesome. And I am thrilled that the community could come in and see what I see every day.

Golden Apple teacher: Catherine Hunt

Where and what she teaches: Law studies at Lely High School in East Naples

How long has she been a teacher: 3 years, all at Lely High School

What the Golden Apple means to her: “When I left the legal field to be a teacher, I still wanted to be around the idea of the law. But I never imagined being a teacher would be this fulfilling. ... It’s absolutely impossible for a teacher to win a Golden Apple without exceptional students. And that’s what you are each and every day.”

Golden Apple teacher: Andrew Klatzkow

Where and what he teaches: Fourth grade at Corkscrew Elementary School in Golden Gate Estates

How long has he been a teacher: More than 30 years, more than 10 at Corkscrew Elementary School

What the Golden Apple means to him: “As a teacher, sometimes you can feel neglected by society. But winning the Golden Apple means people understand why you are in this profession. And we are all in it because we care about kids. ... I want my students to learn not only for a day, not only for the year, but for life.”

Golden Apple teacher: Sarah Nick

Where and what she teaches: Third grade at Golden Gate Elementary School

How long has she been a teacher: 3 years, all at Golden Gate Elementary School

What the Golden Apple means to her: “I am so thankful that this moment happened because it lets everyone know that Golden Gate Elementary School students are the best students in the state. There is a gift that is occurring here. It’s nice that people will see how truly exceptional our students are.”

Golden Apple teacher: Judy Ramirez

Where and what she teaches: Kindergarten at Eden Park Elementary School in Immokalee

How long has she been a teacher: 2 1/2 years, all at Eden Park Elementary School

What the Golden Apple means to her: “This is the biggest honor I have ever had. I love my kids. Every day with them is a new experience ... I hope when they leave, they remember the fun and they remember that people care about them, that they can be anything they want in life.”

Golden Apple teacher: Kathleen Weitzel

Where and what she teaches: Fifth grade at Naples Park Elementary School in North Naples

How long has she been a teacher: 9 years, all at Naples Park Elementary School

What the Golden Apple means to her: “This is absolutely amazing. ... I do this because of (the students). It is because of them that I got into this profession. And my mom. ... She wasn’t a teacher, but she should have been ... But this solidifies that what I’m doing is right.”

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Comments » 1

rangerover writes:

I am curious as to why it was necessary to "update" this report. The comments seem to have been "lost" in the process.

Come on NDN, what's really happening?

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