The Golden Apple Goes to Emily Willis

Published: Dec. 23, 2016 at 7:07 AM CST
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From the small town of Altha, to a world traveler. This week's Golden Apple Award winner brought the Spanish language back to her hometown.

"Some days, you wonder if you're making any difference or if this is what you're supposed to be doing, but times like this just kind of reinforce what I'm doing," Emily Willis said.

After just six months as a full time teacher at Altha Public School, Willis' students have no doubt of her impact.

Her role at the school in her hometown is two-fold. Willis starts her mornings with her break-out group of inclusion students.

"If I need to, sometimes I pull them out for testing and just kind of give them some extra guidance," she said.

She then finishes her afternoons with high school Spanish students.

"This is a small town, and so there's not even a lot of Spanish speakers here, but I'm trying to just broaden their perspective and their worldview and just help them to gain an appreciation for everyone, no matter where they come from, no matter what language they speak," she said.

"When we go other places, she encourages us to talk to other people that speak the same language, so we have a lot of practice," Sydney Strickland, a 10th grade student who nominated Willis for the Golden Apple, said.

For Willis, that journey started with travel.

"I first went to Nicaragua and spent a whole summer there," she said.

Then she was on to Ecuador and Costa Rica.

"Central America just kind of has my heart," Willis said. "I just love the culture and the language, and there's where I decided I wanted to help other people gain a love and an appreciation for the culture as well."

Now, these first year Spanish students are past the basics.

"Like the first day of class, I'm like it's going to feel like you're in kindergarten again, because we're going to do like the alphabet and the numbers and all that fun stuff," Willis said.

"It's a lot better. I've learned a lot with her, because she really takes the time to teach us, and she's really thorough," Strickland said.

If you'd like to nominate a teacher for the Golden Apple Award, click the "Golden Apple" tab here on our website.