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Events

Golden Apples: Foundation, sponsors to fund Teacher Appreciation Week in lieu of yearly awards

Rachel Fradette, Naples Daily News

Golden Apple day in Collier County, with all of its surprises and tearful excitement, is transforming this year to celebrate educators in a new way amid the pandemic.

In lieu of the annual awards and dinner, Champions For Learning announced that 58 Collier County schools will receive funds to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week how they see fit.

Every school through Golden Apple sponsors will receive $2,000 to salute teachers May 3 to May 7 with a special emphasis on May 4 when community appreciation is encouraged.

The county’s education foundation said the pandemic led to a different opportunity and they ran with it.

“We’ve always done well when we’ve listened,” Susan McManus, president of Champions For Learning, said. “I think that was what came across this year.”

McManus said the foundation could not just proceed with their typical program this year; they needed to hear from educators like in every other year.

Foundation staff spoke to Collier school leaders about what teachers were feeling about the unprecedented year and how they might celebrate innovation and hard work in classrooms, McManus said.

“The principals and the selection committee taking the time to be on the phone and talk through all this, you know, it’s inspired us. It’s encouraged us,” McManus said. “I’m so glad we did it. I can’t even imagine right now trying to go through the motions of that, that same process or celebration.”

From coordination with their parent-teacher organizations to creative themes, schools are in the process of developing how their communities will salute their educators, Lisa Church, chief community impact officer for the foundation, said.

“I was just so impressed so far with what I’m seeing around how the principals are engaging so many people in the celebration plan,” Church said.

Church said she hopes to see Collier as a community reflect on what it has meant to have schools open this year and think about ways to say thanks you to teachers and school staff.

Last year, Collier schools hosted the foundation’s annual surprises mere weeks before the shutdown in Florida.

The results of school closings led to the cancellation of the foundation’s annual dinner, which celebrates awardees and other educators.

The coronavirus pandemic also prevented community volunteers from being able to visit classrooms as part of the selection process for the awards, McManus said.

“We did come to that understanding with them that we would make a commitment to helping the community really understand what it’s been like this year, maybe not by picking just teachers of distinction individually but by our organization really committing to putting a whole different process in place,” McManus said.

Lee County’s annual celebration sponsored by The Foundation for Lee County Schools moved forward with safety precautions and measures in place. Six Lee County teachers took home their Golden Apples last month.

In addition to the Teacher Appreciation Week celebration, Collier’s Champions For Learning is honoring educators through a TV special on April 25 that will focus on teaching and learning through the year.

This year’s program is dedicated to Lavern ‘Lal’ Gaynor, a prominent Naples philanthropist who often involved herself with the organization. She died this week at age 97.

Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at rfradette@gannett.com.

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2021 Golden Apple Celebrating this Extraordinary Year of Teaching and Learning

This year, more than ever, it is so important for us, as a community, to appreciate and honor teachers and principals across Collier County for the extraordinary work they have done in ever-changing circumstances to keep our students moving forward.  While the pandemic has prevented Champions For Learning from sending community volunteers into schools to identify individual Golden Apple recipients, it also provides an opportunity to tell a larger story about teaching and learning over the course of this extraordinary year.

Join in the celebration by watching the 31st Annual Golden Apple program presented by Suncoast Credit Union and broadcast on NBC-2 on Sunday, April 25th, 2021, at 7 pm.   This is a story of exemplary leadership, courage, resilience, creativity, and collaboration of our Collier schools and educators, which has allowed our community to move forward in ways other communities have not.  Our educators are the heartbeat of every community.

In lieu of the annual dinner and with the support of our generous sponsors, funding of $2,000 will be provided to 58 schools to help each school community celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3 – 7). On Tuesday, May 4th, the entire community is encouraged to show their gratitude for our schools and educators.  Champions For Learning has organized a list of appreciation ideas which can be found at https://championsforlearning.org/appreciation.

The Golden Apple program is presented by Suncoast Credit Union and supported by major sponsors Conditioned Air, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, NBC-2 Waterman Broadcasting, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, and Stock Development.

 

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Educators Are The Heartbeat Of Every Community!

Champions For Learning’s Classroom Grant program allows teachers to make grant requests that are funded directly by the community to create innovative learning experiences for their students. One-hundred percent of these contributions go directly into classrooms for teachers to put to use immediately with students.

Tommie Barfield Elementary demonstrates the outstanding creativity and innovation shown by teachers, especially during this incredibly challenging year, offering us the opportunity to understand the incredible daily effort put forth by our educators — they truly are the heartbeat of every community!

The Health and P.E. educators at Tommie Barfield Elementary School could not wait to get students’ hearts pumping when they returned to school last fall, but they knew that doing so during the pandemic — where new protocols were in place around safe distancing and not using equipment — was going to be a challenge.

Fitness Activity Circuit Stencils, obtained through a classroom grant requested by P.E. teacher Deana Richett and funded by Ray Harman, in honor of Karen Harman, made it easy to transform the sidewalks and hardcourts at Tommie Barfield into safe environments to play and be physically active. The stencils are perfect for creating fun and engaging sensory, fitness, and socialization opportunities for students of all ages.

During recess, students can run through the circuit at their leisure. During physical education classes, the teachers use the circuits with more structure, building on daily lessons. Given all the changes and restrictions put on students this school year, it is important for their social and emotional well-being to have safe opportunities to play. All 500 Tommie Barfield students are now able to improve their motor development, flexibility, strength, and coordination through the different activities available while still following safety guidelines.

This year, more than ever, it is so important for us, as a community, to appreciate and honor teachers across Collier County for the extraordinary work they have done in ever-changing circumstances to keep our students moving forward. 

The Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers continues to be an opportunity to highlight teaching and learning in Collier County. Although the pandemic has prevented us from sending community volunteers into schools for a Golden Apple selection process, it has created an opportunity for Champions For Learning and all Collier County Public Schools to tell a larger story about teaching and learning over the course of this extraordinary year.

Presented by Suncoast Credit Union, the Golden Apple television program will air on Sunday, April 25th at 7:00 pm on NBC-2. Leading up to and following the program, there will also be social media highlighting each of our schools, and this will serve as a bridge to Teacher Appreciation Week in early May. Champions For Learning will also lead a community-wide initiative to thank educators on Tuesday, May 4th.

Join in. Your gift to Champions For Learning inspires our community to continue to work together. No gift is too small–your gift can be combined with others to support life-changing learning experiences.

Should you like to make a donation, please visit us here online. Your gift begins making an impact immediately.

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Celebrating our Champions — Supporting Educational Opportunities for All

Honoring those who succeed when it comes to education means looking at the entire community. It’s about the work the teachers, students and families contribute that really sets young learners up for the future.

This year, honoring the 2021 Champions felt a little different. We watched the entire Collier County community deal with rapid-fire changes. The pandemic made learning different, made engaging with others different, but it never changed the core values we hold close to our hearts at Champions For Learning.

Providing close to $3.8 million in support to students and educators within Collier County each year, we strive to engage the entire community in student success. To date, we’ve impacted 32,000 students. This number continues to grow as we create life-changing learning experiences for all.

Giving families and teachers what they need to stay focused on the future is a tenant of Champions for Learning, and each of our honorees at this year’s Celebration of Champions embodied this and more. Along with presenting sponsor Florida Gulf Coast University, we were proud to honor our 2021 Champions:

  • Frank Daveler who, along with his wife Ellen, have established a legacy at Champions for Learning. Not only have they provided the gift of scholarships, but recently funded the Center for Innovation at Champions For Learning. Here, deserving young adults are given educational opportunities foster success and help them gain life skill experiences.
  • Kiara Gonzalez-Duran who has benefited from our programs as both a student and now, as a kindergarten teacher.
  • Yadira Vintimilla, one of our mentors, uses time and opportunity to connect with those she mentors early on to establish long-term bonds.
  • Lynn Davidson, who we honored for her commitment to ensuring resources help as many who are in need as possible.
  • Beverly Feagin whose broad approach to academics includes helping students reach their goals through access to the right tools, resources and guidance.

Each honoree demonstrated dedication and love for the young people in the community.

The Celebration of Champions also recognized Nancy Potter as the Heart of the Apple. This award brings to light the work of a specific individual, and how he or she creates life-changing experiences for students and educators alike. Nancy, who draws her inspiration from the value of learning, works hard to help students achieve their dream, starting with self-sufficiency. That’s where, in her opinion, education begins.

The outpouring of appreciation and support from you during our Celebration of Champions this year was so meaningful. We are thankful for your faith in us to support the students of Collier County. Thank you for your donations and for logging on and bidding in our silent auction.

Proceeds from the online auction, along with the donations made during the celebration, directly support the scholarship fund and student programs at Champions For Learning.

If you were inspired by the stories of mentoring and the impact one can have on another’s life, please consider becoming a mentor with Champions For Learning. We are actively recruiting mentors for our new class. To learn more contact Kristin Peras, Director of Community Engagement, at 239-263-5783 or KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org. Or visit our website ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore to join us at our next All About Mentoring informational session.

Should you like to make a donation, please visit us here online. Your gift begins making an impact immediately.

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Meet Champions For Learning’s 2021 Heart Of The Apple: Nancy Potter

The Heart of the Apple salutes sustained, committed leadership in support of a community-wide culture of learning. This year’s Heart of the Apple, Nancy Potter, has led a life inspired by the value of learning and is truly devoted to ensuring Collier County students achieve their dreams.

Nancy is passionate in her belief that you cannot give a young person a better gift than the gift of self-sufficiency and that self-sufficiency begins with education. She also believes that there in no organizations in Southwest Florida that does education better than Champions For Learning.

Nancy recently sat down with us to share her experiences as a mentor with Champions For Learning:

Why do you believe mentoring is so powerful?

So there are many scholarships out there available to students, but this scholarship program is unique in the fact that it has that mentoring aspect, which makes the scholarship and the program that much more powerful. Because in addition to having the scholarship to look forward to, that these students work towards, they also receive one-on-one mentoring from adults in the community who have been there, who have had the experiences. And they also have opportunities through Champions For Learning to apply for additional scholarships and get to know how to manage the ropes. 

How would you have benefited from being a mentee as a young person? 

I don’t think it’s by accident that, when young people who grow up in a family where there are doctors or professors or accountants or what have you, that they go into those professions as adults. It’s because they hear about it at the dinner table, they live that life in the shadow of their family members where they’re overhearing and learning from these mentor family members about the process and how to get there. They learn that “yes I can”, “I can do that too”.

So I think that’s what mentors can do for young people who don’t have those opportunities. Where they don’t necessarily have a family member in their life who can “show them the ropes”. They are inspired by their families in many ways, but if the family member wasn’t a doctor, can they really learn how to become a doctor? Can they really feel confident that they can achieve certain goals that they may have individually?

So it’s a nice teamwork situation working with the families as an outside mentor who has other unique experiences and career histories. It’s just a really good overall learning experience for the student.

How do you think things would have been different for you had you had a mentor?

So knowing from my experiences being a mentor, if I had somebody who was a mentor to me I would’ve been less intimidated. I wouldn’t have felt so limited in my educational opportunities, my career opportunities. And I think I would’ve definitely benefited from hearing some of the other personal experiences in people’s lives.

What’s your first memory of being a mentor? 

It was a little bit of a stressful situation because I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know if I had it in me to be the person that could help a young person out in a way that was meaningful. So I was a little nervous about it, but I can tell you that my best memory is after leaving the first mentoring meeting and walking out, I felt like I was walking on cloud nine!

It was just such a wonderful experience. First and foremost, it’s just nice to be around young people.  And second of all, I just received so much back personally from those meetings. It grew into a very good relationship, to the point where we each felt certain parts of the other’s souls. 

How do you think you got to that point in mentoring?

I think it was just natural, it was a natural progression. When I mentor, my goal is to demonstrate that the student can achieve whatever they set their mind to. And I will tell them a lot of my personal experiences – good and bad – so that hopefully from what I say they can put that in the back of their mind so that they can eventually, when faced with some choices, make their choices accordingly. And it may or may not happen, we all have to make our own mistakes, but knowing what I did or how I overcame situations, hopefully there will be a lesson learned. 

What do you wish other people knew about Champions For Learning?

I wish other people had the opportunity to participate in the events that show the results of all the hard work that the people that work for Champions For Learning and the people who volunteer for Champions For Learning do for our students, our teachers, and for our community.

This year, our annual event Celebration of Champions, formerly Night of Champions, will be virtual and accessible to our entire community at no cost. We hope that you join in to see more of Nancy’s story, and all the stories of this year’s Champions and the impact they have made in our community. This virtual experience, presented by Florida Gulf Coast University, showcases our vibrant community, alumni, students and volunteers.

Register today to tune in at no cost: https://championsforlearning.org/celebration-of-champions/.

Mentors help high-school students stay on track for personal and professional success. They are trusted advocates and excellent listeners, not tutors. Typically, this program is a school-based mentoring program, but is currently happening virtually. We hope to resume in-person mentoring sessions over lunchtime on school grounds in the future.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor through Champions For Learning, we invite you to attend an “All About Mentoring” session by visiting https://ChampionsForLearning.org/LearnMore or by contacting Kristin Peras at KPeras@ChampionsForLearning.org or 239-643-4755. Seasonal residents are welcome!

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Meet the Champions

Meet The Champions 

 

 

 

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Tom Gamber: Star of Giving Recipient

After serving twenty-five years in the Navy and teaching for five years In San Jose, California, Tom Gamber decided to move to Naples, Florida in 2000, At this time, he started to repair and teach the community about computers.

With his passion for computers and a little help from his friends at Greater Naples Leadership, Tom learned about Champions For Learning ten years ago.

At first, he started by donating computers to a few students who needed them for school but realized many more students had the same need.

In total, Tom has donated over 142 refurbished computers to Champions For Learning and has restored all 38 student lab computers to Windows 10, all through his partnership with Microsoft.

“This work for me is so important because I know that these computers are going to students who need them, if I can help even one student in his studies, I know that I have made a difference,” said Tom.

He hasn’t stopped there; Tom has also mentored students for the last eight years. “For me mentoring is exciting and I feel like I learn just as much as the students do. My favorite part about mentoring is receiving the student’s perspective on today’s issues,” said Tom.

Tom has been mentoring much longer than his time in Naples, “all teachers are mentors, as a high school teacher in San Jose, teaching inner-city students, I had to be that mentor for them,” said Tom.

During his time as a teacher, Tom built more than forty computers for students to have a place to do their homework or to just come in and play games. Later, he taught the same students how to build computers from scratch that they could take home.

“If I can teach the students I mentor anything it is that there are three stages in life; the first is learning, the second is earning, and the third is returning,” said Tom. He hopes to instill a passion for giving back to the community in his students.

As for being awarded the Star of Giving award, Tom was shocked. “I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was for students. For me, computers are my passion and I take each one as a challenge. I am proud and grateful to be a part of an organization that gives back and also invests in the future of the community,” said Tom.

The Star of Giving award was presented by Waterside Shops on behalf of Champions for Learning. The community celebrated a day of shopping at Waterside Shops on December 11th, where 10% of total sales benefited Champions For Learning!

 

To donate click here

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Champions For Learning Announces 2019-2020 Glass Slipper Recipients

                                                                     Champions For Learning is proud to announce the 2019-2020 Glass Slipper recipients. The honorees are Donna Issenmann, Lili Montes, and Dottie Whipple.

Each year, the Glass Slipper event is held to honor female leaders for their dedication and service to the children of Collier County. This event and recognition program benefit young ladies who are graduates of Champions For Learning student programs, and helps to generate funds for the third and fourth year of their post-secondary education.

Join us in honoring the Glass Slipper recipients at a cocktail reception, which will be held on December 11, 2019 from 6-8pm at the Club at Olde Cypress There will be heavy hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction perfect for your holiday shopping. Tickets for the event are $50.

For tickets please visit ChampionsForLearning.org/news-events/glass-slipper or call (239) 643-4755

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Champions For Learning Announces Collier County Teachers of Distinction

Champions for Learning is excited to announce the 2019-2020 Teachers of Distinction for Collier County. As part of the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program, each school in Collier County Public Schools has the opportunity to nominate a teacher and best practice to highlight on behalf of their school. From this group of 53 Teachers of Distinction, Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee will identify the Golden Apple recipients.
The Teachers of Distinction not only receive a $250 cash award and multiple celebration activities, but also have the opportunity to share their ideas and practices across the county with their colleagues and the community through this process. With a vision of a community that is 100% engaged in support of student success, Champions For Learning creates opportunities for educators that support high impact learning experiences for every child.
The Teachers of Distinction and the Golden Apple recipients will be honored at the 30th Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner presented by Suncoast Credit Union on April 3, 2020 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.
Thanks to Presenting Sponsor, Suncoast Credit Union for the support provided educators. Generous support is also provided by Golden Apple Major Sponsors: Conditioned Air, eBella Magazine, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News, NBC-2 Waterman Broadcasting, and Stock Development.
Opportunities to sponsor a school to attend the event are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales go to www.ChampionsForLearning.org/GA

Full List of Teachers of Distinction and Best Practice 

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Champions For Learning Announces Collier County Teachers of Distinction

Champions For Learning is proud to announce the Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program’s 2018-2019 Teachers of Distinction. Each school nominated a teacher and best practice to highlight on behalf of their school. From this group of Teachers of Distinction, Champions For Learning’s community-based selection committee will identify six (6) teachers to highlight as Golden Apple recipients. Click here to see the list of Teachers of Distinction.

In addition to a $250 cash award and multiple celebration activities, the Teachers of Distinction representing 55 schools, will have the opportunity to share their ideas and practices across the county with their colleagues and the community through this process.  With a vision of a community that is 100% engaged in support of student success, Champions For Learning creates opportunities for educators that support high impact learning experiences for every child.

The Teachers of Distinction and the Golden Apple recipients will be honored at the 29th Annual Golden Apple Celebration of Teachers Dinner presented by Suncoast Credit Union on March 29, 2019, at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.

We’d like to thank our Presenting Sponsor, Suncoast Credit Union for all of the support they provide educators and students.  We would also like to thank additional Golden Apple Major Sponsors:  CenturyLink, Conditioned Air, eBella Magazine, Mary Ingram Fund of the Columbus Foundation, Moorings Park, Naples Daily News and NBC-2 Waterman Broadcasting

Opportunities to sponsor a school to attend the event are available. For more information on event sponsorships and ticket sales click here.

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