special education teacher Danya Greenberg has been named one of 32 finalists for the 2012 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Greenberg, 24, was one of 560 teachers nominated from Chicago metropolitan area schools.
“I’m beyond honored,” Greenberg said. “Even when I’m not at work, I’m thinking about these kids, and new ways to teach them. The fact that someone took the time out of their day to nominate me is just so touching. I was excited and humbled.”
Greenberg teaches a class of first- through third-grade students through the Elementary Instructional Program, a special education program she helped implement in the district.
“It is wonderful to walk into Danya’s classroom and watch her teach. She creates a positive and nurturing environment for her students. It is evident that the children love coming to school and genuinely love their teacher," Guy Schumacher, superintendent for said in a press release. "It is an honor to have Danya on the staff. She brings much to the classroom, Rockland School and District 70 as a whole.”
Creating An Engaging, Fun Class
The special education program allows Greenberg to devote extra attention and time to special education students and use technology such as Promethean Boards, iPods, and iPads to create an engaging and fun environment.
“We’re lucky to have a Touch Promethean Board, so it's really interactive,” Greenberg said.
The interactive boards allow students to perform tasks by themselves, which Greenberg says increases students' independence and motivation.
“Even during Friday fun time, the kids will want to play coin math on the iPad, which is an education drill app,” she said. “They’re seeing that learning can be fun.”
Greenberg says that she has seen dramatic increases in the students’ ability and desire to learn, as well as increases in their confidence levels.
“We had students who last year were facing backwards not even facing the instructor, or students who wouldn’t participate. They’re now becoming confident leaders,” she said. “We have a student who is on student council now.”
Keeping Students Within the District
Another benefit to the special education program, Greenberg says, is the ability to keep the students who require special education within the district.
“Instead of them being outplaced to a different school out of district, they’re now able to be educated in their own community,” she said. “So if they’re in soccer, they’re still on the same soccer team as their classmates. They’re able to learn that sense of community.”
Greenberg has been teacher for three years and previously worked as a resource specialist for the district. She graduated from Indiana University with a double major in elementary education and special education. She said that her dream was to be a special education teacher in a classroom.
“I have amazing families to work with and incredible students who truly teach me more than I teach them on a daily basis because they just expose you to so many ideas and ways of thinking,” Greenberg said. “They just open your eyes to a different world. They’re incredible.”
The 10 award recipients will be named in May after the finalists participate in another round of review and are observed in their classrooms. The recipients will receive a tuition-free spring semester sabbatical to study at Northwestern University, a $3,000 cash reward, and will become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators.