Teacher Caitlin Placke loves her kindergarten class at Bain Elementary School.
But the job can still be tough, she said, sometimes wondering if she’s really making a difference in the lives of her students.
So it was a surprise and an honor on Monday, Nov. 5, when Placke was awarded the Crystal Apple award, a new honor produced by the school’s parent-teacher group to allow students the opportunity to recognize their teachers. Placke is the first to win the award.
The award was initiated by Meredith Dolan, a member of the school’s parent-teacher group who saw a need to encourage teachers even more.
“I came up with it by just going to the quarterly awards,” Dolan said. “I saw the teachers hand out awards to the kids, so I thought it would be great for a teacher to get an award.”
Dolan wanted the award to be totally student driven, with students writing about their favorite teachers explaining why they deserve the recognition. More than 80 students submitted teachers’ names, but the panel of parent judges found one submission that really stood out—fourth-grade Colby Bost, who was able to present his thoughts about Placke during the awards ceremony at the school.
Colby had Placke as a kindergartener himself— it was Placke’s first year teaching at Bain. In Colby’s submission, he described Placke as an inspiration not only to him, but his brother who is currently in Placke’s class.
“I was very surprised,” Placke said. “I wasn’t expecting it all—the fact that he wrote it all by himself and the fact he was so caring and compassionate about his brother in my class and recognized how I treat his brother.”
This is the first time Placke has received recognition as a teacher, she said, adding that the job can be tough sometimes, but it’s all worth it in the end when you can really see student growth.
“It’s encouraging to have students recognize you’re doing a good job, especially a student from five years ago,” Placke said. “It’s even more important to hear it from students than from the parents.”
For Placke, she said hearing Colby’s sincerity and compassion helps her keep a positive outlook and to know that she is making a lasting difference.
“The way he wrote it was just really touching. It was just very heartfelt and very kind. It’s nice to know that kids appreciate you and step back and think about you,” Placke said. “I just really like the fact that he was thinking of
himself and his time in my classroom and how I made him love learning so much… he wasn’t just thinking of himself, but also his brother.”