One of the most prestigious honors for educators in the Chicago area is the annual Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Now in his 12th year at EPHS, Mr. Heinen recently found out that he was nominated when a letter from the Golden Apple organization appeared in his mailbox informing him of his status.
"I was stunned," he recalled. "It was very nice being acknowledged like that."
For Mr. Heinen, this is just the beginning of his participation in the Golden Apple selection process. He must now complete his portion of the application, which includes submitting letters of reference and answering a number of questions about his approach to teaching.
Each Golden Apple Award winner will receive a tuition-free, spring quarter sabbatical to study at Northwestern University. Each winner will also receive a $5,000 cash award and become a Fellow of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators. All recipients will be featured on a WTTW one-hour TV program and livestream marketed to local school communities.
PHOTO: Mr. Heinen, who has an undergraduate degree in marine biology, leads a class session on environmental science. Click image for larger view (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca).
A National Board Certified teacher, Mr. Heinen has a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., and a master's degree in special education from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.
He teaches science to EPHS special education students, working with many of them throughout their four years at the school.
The Golden Apple's mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence. Students, parents, community members and fellow educators may nominate teachers for the honor.
The teaching award focuses on a different group of grade levels each year. For example, last year's competition was for pre-K through 3rd-grade teachers. This year the Golden Apple is for teachers in grades 9-12.
Principal Mr. Douglas Wildes nominated Mr. Heinen for the award.
PHOTO: Learning is exciting in Mr. Heinen's classroom, as shown here when one of his students celebrates nailing the right answer in an online challenge about environmental science. Click image for larger view (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca).
"I decided to nominate Josh for this award because of his work ethic, selflessness and, most importantly, his love for his students," Mr. Wildes said.
"There is no one in this building who works harder in the classroom for the students, who cares about the students' academic and social-emotional well being, and who is willing to do anything and everything for the success of the students and the school than Josh."
For a contest as prestigious as the Golden Apple, simply being nominated is an honor in itself, according to Mr. Wildes.
PHOTO: Mr. Heinen explains the answer to one of the questions in the environmental science challenge his students took. Click image for larger view (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca).
"Most teachers will go their entire careers without being nominated by a fellow teacher or school leader for an award such as this," he said.
"If you were nominated, that means a colleague feels you have made a significant and positive impact on student growth and learning within the school. Coupling this with the fact that high school teachers are only allowed to be nominated every three years, this makes it an incredibly amazing honor."
PHOTOS: Mr. Heinen works one-on-one with a student. He takes time to make sure his students are equipped to overcome any obstacles they encounter in their course work. Click images for larger view (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca).