Local principal and teacher are Golden Apple Awards finalists

Dr. Gregory Jones

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer
 
Dr. Gregory Jones, the principal at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., and Lisa Washington Kuzel, an elementary school teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools were both named as Golden Apple Awards finalists, according to a public announcement released last Thursday.
 
 
Golden Apple is an Illinois based nonprofit whose mission is to develop great teachers. The Golden Apple Awards recognize excellence in teaching and outstanding school leadership through its “Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching and the “Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award.”
 
Jones was one of seven nominated for the Golder Leadership award. The award honors exemplary performance and excellence in school leadership of a Pre-K through 12th grade principal of head of school from the Chicago area.
 
Kuzel is one of 30 teachers nominated for the excellence in teaching award.
 
“My love of teaching started at an early age with my first classroom, which was my stuffed animals lined up in my room right next to my younger sister and brother.  After that, every job I have ever had has involved working with children,” Kuzel said in a written statement.
 
She received a bachelor’s degree from University of California at Los Angeles and earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the Bank Street Graduate School of Education in New York City. 
 
As an undergraduate she worked as a teacher’s aide at the UCLA Lab School. 
 
“For four years I worked in their Early Childhood Unit with children ages 3, 4 and 5.  That experience further fueled my passion for teaching,” Kuzel said.
 
While in New York, she worked as a Kindergarten/First Grade teacher at The Dalton School in Manhattan.
 
About 25 years ago, Kuzel was offered a position at the Lab School. Kuzel is a Nursery/Kindergarten teacher at the University of Chicago Lab School. 
 
“My passion for children and teaching is ever-growing as I remain active in the field of education.  I look forward to my next 25 years as an educator,” Kuzel said.
 
Ten teachers and one school leader will be selected for each award. The winners will be surprised in their schools. They will be honored on May 19 at WTTW studios during the 33rd annual Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching & Leadership. 
 
650 nominations were submitted this year for the excellence in teaching award, which is a record number according to Golden Apple. Five percent of nominees were selected from the pool as finalists. This year’s finalists also include the highest percentage of Chicago Public School teachers.

Lisa Washington Kuzel

 
This year marks the first time that Jones has been nominated for the award.
 
“It’s nice to be nominated for a prestigious award,” said Jones adding that his nomination is recognizing the accomplishments of the high school. “It’s a real reflection of what’s happening at Kenwood more so than my accomplishments.”
 
Jones was named as principal of Kenwood in 2012. Before that, he was the assistant principal at Westinghouse College Prep High School, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd., where he had been since 2008.
 
He has been an educator since 1997. He began at Dunbar High School, 3000 S. King Dr., as the girl’s basketball and volleyball coach. He became the accounting, computer technology, world studies teacher and education to careers coordinator until 2007 when he became assistant principal at Marconi Elementary Community Academy, 230 N. Kolmar Ave.
 
“This year’s award finalists, selected through an anonymous process, represent accomplished educators who are embracing very complex assignments to enrich and advance the lives of students,” said Alicia Winckler, Golden Apple President and CEO in a written statement. “These awards shine a bright light on the incredible work happening in our schools. On behalf of Golden Apple, we applaud the teacher and school leader finalists for their initiative, innovation, dedication, and perseverance.”
 
A selection committee will determine the winners for each award. The Awards’ announcement will come this spring. The committee consists of college and university professors, educational consultants, administrators and former Golden Apple Award recipients.
 
Finalists for The Excellence in Teaching Award finalists will have a final round of review and classroom observations before the Awards’ announcement. The selection committee also will conduct additional reviews and school visits for the Golder finalists.
 
Each Golden Apple Award recipient will be provided with a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical at Northwestern University. Award recipients will also receive a $5,000 cash award. The winners will also become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators.
 
Golder Leadership Award recipients receive a cash award of $10,000 half will go toward professional development, and $5,000 will go toward the school for a project of the recipients choosing. 
 
Golden Apple will host its annual Celebration of Excellence in honor of the finalists on Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare.  
 
t.hill@hpherald.com