Golden Apple Winner 'Makes Learning Fun'
Students discuss what makes award-winning teacher great.
Take one step inside Howard Templer’s fourth-grade classroom at Braeside School and the fact he won the prestigious Golden Apple Award should come as no surprise.
Yet winning what Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) called the “Academy Award for teachers” seemed to shock Templer, who learned he won when Dold and other dignitaries came into his classroom May 10 with the trophy.
“He makes learning really fun even if it’s something you didn’t want to learn about,” said one of Templer's students, Taylor Himelhoch. “You will want to learn about it.”
Hands on teaching 'makes it come alive'
Students who cared little for subjects like science, government or reading before starting fourth grade at Braeside said they couldn't wait for their school day to begin so they could be part of Templer's next journey.
“Mr. T [Templer] makes it come alive for us. We don’t just read out loud,” said Drew Felman. “When he teaches it, we always remember it. He makes it fun.”
Templer is quick to point out that certain subjects, such as science, lend themselves to hands-on creativity. Several students expressed wonder when they made minerals in class. Templer explains it simply.
“We put salt in hot water with food coloring to make rocks,” Templer said of the project his students described with awe.
Templer credits much of the creativity that he brings to the classroom to a physics class he took geared toward teachers at Indiana University, where he earned his undergraduate degree. He learned many of the hands-on projects from that course's professor.
“I’ve stayed in touch with the teacher,” Templer said. “That teacher is the one who helped me with the electric lightbulb and the rocks and minerals.”
A year before he had his students make rocks, they produced lightbulbs in the classroom.
While Templer may see such hands-on science projects as a good way to stimulate students' interest, the youngsters are thrilled with the ways he does it with other subjects as well.
“I never liked social studies in the beginning of the year. We always just read out loud in other classes. Then we did Illinois ABC,” said Jeremy Learner, who was describing a project where the students constructed a fact chart about Illinois using many letters of the alphabet.
Creative teaching motivates
A number of his students, like Ayla Ochoa, rave about Templer’s use of technology to teach.
“I didn’t like science last year but he made ecology real when we made an animoto,” Ayla said.
An animoto is a multimedia production combining animation, a slide show and movie-making techniques in one presentation.
“It’s like a movie,” Templer said.
One of Templer’s students, Catherine Pappas, sees more than creativity emanating from the classroom. She credits her teacher with motivating her to learn all she can about a subject.
“Mr. T shows us how to do it. He says ‘Use your resources. You are your best teachers,’ ” Catherine said. “He gives us the tools. He has really helped me understand that. He helps us find better solutions by making due with our resources.”
Seeing his students’ excitement while learning just makes Templer work harder.
“I get so excited seeing the students feed off it,” the award recipient said.
From the golf course to the classroom
Caddying since childhood at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe was the unlikely motivation that spurred Templer into education as a career. The summer after graduating from Highland Park High School, Templer spurned the golf course for a job as a camp counselor.
“I made good money caddying, but it wasn’t fun,” he recalled. “Being a camp counselor, I made a sixth the money I did as a caddy but I was making a difference in kids’ lives and having fun.”
A teacher was born. He left for Indiana University and enrolled in the School of Education.
Some of those campers eventually became Templer’s students. He has kept in touch with his students and has created a Wiki to foster interactive discourse with the class.
“Each student has their own page,” Templer said. “They use it to send me messages and upload work.”
Last year’s Wiki produced 5,000 messages and Templer has set the same standard this year. As of May 13, there were 4,700 entries so the class is on track to meet its goal. He continues to get messages from past students since he keeps the projects active.
Templer knew he made the right career choice after a summer as a camp counselor. His students for the last four years get it when they walk in his class. Now that he won the Golden Apple, everyone knows it. He knows what it means to him.
“I feel I make a difference,” Templer said. “I impact people’s lives in a positive way.”