Esmond Principal Dr. Angela Tucker Named Finalist for Golden Apple Leadership Award  

By Tina Jenkins Bell 

 

Esmond Elementary School Principal Dr. Angela Tucker has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Golden Apple Leadership award.  

Dr. Tucker has been principal at Esmond since 2005. In her first year, she helped elevate the school out of academic probation, and Esmond has had an eighth-grade graduation rate of 100 percent during her tenure. The school currently has 260 students, from PreK3 through the eighth grade. 

She said she didn’t become a Golden Apple Leadership finalist by herself.  

“I wanted to mention the ongoing support for educational and structural improvements from Matt O’ Shea and the 19th Ward and community constituents from Old Morgan Park Civic Organization, where the late Nancy Smith served as a pillar of support for our community school,” she said.  

Here’s what else she had to say in a Q&A with The Villager:  

Q: What is your philosophy on the roots of a great education? 

A: I am an educator deeply invested in shaping the minds and futures of our youth. In my view, education transcends the confines of the classroom. It is a collaborative effort involving not just teachers and students, but the entire community. I strongly believe in the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This ancient wisdom underscores the collective responsibility we all have in nurturing the next generation. 

Central to my philosophy is the recognition of each student’s uniqueness. Every individual possesses distinct talents, interests, and learning styles. As educators, it is our duty to honor and embrace this diversity, tailoring our approach to meet the needs of every learner. This requires a personalized and inclusive educational environment where students feel valued and empowered to pursue their passions.  

I firmly believe that strong relationships form the cornerstone of a great education. Building trust and rapport with students fosters a supportive learning environment where they feel safe to explore, take risks, and grow academically and personally. As such, I prioritize cultivating meaningful connections with my students, understanding their backgrounds, aspirations, and challenges.  

Q: Based on these roots, what are your commitments to and priorities for Esmond students?  

A: To support connection and innovation, one of my top priorities is creating a cordless and effective school environment. At Esmond, we prioritize attendance, the academic and physical environment, ensuring equitable and inclusive learning experiences, and supporting the success of every individual who walks through our doors. As such, creating a highly connected and tech-forward environment is a priority, as it expands relationships, improves the school environment, and encourages success in today’s sophisticated world. Along with improving our students’ access to new tools and technology, I am committed to expanding our faculty’s experience and involvement with these tools, giving them continuing education opportunities that deepen their investment in the school and illustrate our commitment to growth.  

Q: What do you hope this award will do for the Esmond School community?   

A: To be named a Golden Apple Finalist is a distinction unto itself. In the education field, everyone is aware of this organization’s incredible reputation for identifying and honoring the exceptional achievements of administrators, teachers, students, and learning communities. Being selected as a finalist by such a prestigious organization can be a strong incentive for educators to be creative and successful in the classroom. Given that the Illinois State Board of Education posted Esmond’s commendations, I appreciate that the evaluators working for this organization took note of our school’s history and its overall improvements. Awards for Academic Improvement were given to our school in 2006, 2011 and 2013. I’m honored to report that Esmond posted a Level 1+ in 2019 on our district’s School Quality Rating System. We were also recognized for improvements in student attendance. While we experienced a dip after the pandemic, we were able to earn a Commendable Status on the Illinois State Report Card. 

Galvanized by the award, I believe it will be easier to leverage community interest to deepen the school’s relationship with its stakeholders, pinpointing problem areas and putting workable solutions in place. Additionally, in order to guarantee that every student has the tools that they need to succeed both academically and personally, I intend to further develop community partnerships and support networks. I believe the Golden Apple Award will facilitate these connections by offering validation of the school and our approach to academic and community engagement. 

Q: The Golden Apple award in leadership not only comes with recognition of years of effort and overall great accomplishments, it also comes with a cash award of $10,000. Five thousand of that award goes toward a school project. Have you thought about how those funds will be used at Esmond? 

A: With the $10,000 prize I am committed to enriching Esmond’s music curriculum and offerings. If selected as the Golden Apple recipient, my intention is to channel a portion of the award toward expanding our music education program, ensuring that all students have access to comprehensive arts enrichment opportunities. Through the implementation of workshops and seminars, we can foster a deeper appreciation for music while simultaneously enhancing critical thinking skills and reinforcing mathematical fundamentals. 

I firmly believe that the arts are an integral component of a well-rounded education. They not only broaden students’ horizons but also serve as a gateway to new passions and creative pursuits. By investing in our music education program, we are empowering our students to explore, innovate, and dream beyond their imagination. 

I am excited by the prospect of witnessing the transformative impact music education will have on our students and the Esmond School community as a whole. 

Q: Golden Apple leaders become fellows who help shape future educators — perhaps even a future Golden Apple educator. For the new educator starting out or your mentee, what is the best advice you have received that you will pass on? 

A: Never give up! Believe in your dreams and aspirations wholeheartedly, for with belief comes the power to achieve. Challenges and obstacles will arise along the way, but they are not meant to deter you. Don’t let them defeat you. Instead, view them as tests of your endurance and opportunities for growth. 

 

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