An event typically held in a surprise assembly for winners of the Crystal Apple Award for teaching instead came to the educators’ doorsteps, with videos showing how appreciative students are of the work the honorees do.
Seven Shawnee High School teachers were awarded the Crystal Apple by seven students in conjunction with the Lenape Regional district’s “One District, One Book” theme of search for self. Students at Shawnee were asked to produce essays detailing the winning educators’ impact on their lives and personalities.
The winning educators are Kristen Shimp, Davon Loeb, Madison Chrupcala, Christina Ognibene, Peg Havens, Anthony Escudero, and Philip Langan.
“While students would normally have a chance to read their essays in person, school transitioned to virtual learning before the recognition ceremony, so students created videos reading their essay from home,” program coordinator Dr. Lorna Fairess explained.
“These videos were shared with each teacher and while they listened to their heartfelt tribute, a family member awarded the Crystal Apple.”
The teachers choked up after viewing the student videos and noted their appreciation of the honor. Sophomores Andrew Cappello and Sophia Giordano and senior Vivian Vo expressed how their teachers transformed them into stronger students and people.
“[Escudero] instilled a sense of work ethic in working together and it resonated with me and made me a better person,” Cappello shared. Escudero has coached Cappello in football for two years.
Giordano noted how Ognibene helped her grasp concepts in English, a subject she admitted was difficult. Vo laughed through her description of Shimp as a science teacher who joked with students, somewhat dryly, to encourage enjoyment of science.
Students explained their appreciation for the educators was warranted by the transition to remote learning after schools closed. While Vo has not been enrolled in Shimp’s classes since last year, she retained her membership in Shawnee’s Students Actively Concerned (SAC) club to give back to others, a group for which Shimp is advisor.
Vo noted that she’s become more outgoing because of Shimp’s ability to keep students participating in lessons. Escudero has led students to gain confidence on the football field.
“Ognibene was not here for the first two months of the school year, so when she showed up, it was time to connect with a teacher who we knew nothing about,” Giordano commented. “She was always open in class periods, where she explained who she was and what she’s about.
“She’s super upfront with how she is with everything.”
The trio of students remarked on how the winning teachers encouraged them to explore career options after high school, informing them about applying to colleges and choosing majors that best fit their future goals and aspirations.
The students all admired how the teachers made a lasting mark in Shawnee, whether they were new or familiar to the school.
“You would never be able to find a more genuine person with so much heart, and there is not a more inspiring person,” Cappello said of Escudero.
If the students could attach superlatives to their award-winning teachers, they would describe Ognibene as “kind and always there for students” and Escudero as the easiest person to get along with.
“The funny teacher,” Vo declared, laughing at the thought. “She tries to be funny and it comes off as awkward sometimes. She uses an element from the periodic table and makes a joke out of it. She’ll find some (jokes) in the middle of the classroom and search them up.”