On the morning of May 20, 2022, a group of teachers and honors graduates gathered at the Baldwin High School Fine Arts Center for the presentation of the first-ever Golden Apple Awards, a chance for the students to demonstrate their appreciation for the teachers who mentored them over the past four years with a trophy and a brief essay on what their mentorship meant to them.
The teachers who were invited to the ceremony did not know which of the students had nominated them or why. Emotions ran high as each student came up with their essay and presented their award. Band of the Braves Director James McMillan took home six Golden Apple Awards. Graduating Senior Ashton Davis said, "Going to school would often be tiring, but going to the band was something I would look forward to because of him. He has also helped me become both a better musician and a person. I have enjoyed these past four years being his student and I wish him the best for the rest of his career."
Baldwin High School Academy Coach Shelton Brown explained, "This is a way of honoring our graduates by giving something back to their teachers." Brown said that he and BHS Principal Jason Flanders wanted to provide something meaningful as we come back together following the COVID-19 shutdown, "we can allow students to take the most impactful educators and let them know what impact they've made." Brown recounted a time when a high school student whom he had tutored in middle school honored him because the student hated math, but when Mr. Brown taught him to put the concepts of math and business together, he opened the path for the student to explore something that greatly interested him. "You just never know what those 'a-ha' moments are for students to connect the dots and say this is why it matters. It really makes a difference."
In the gratitude of their students, every teacher in attendance was paid something back, making the first Golden Apple award a stunning success. Emberlynn Bonner's emotional speech to Ms. Kehli West said that knowledge and education are "the basis for all things that can be accomplished in life. Ms. West gives more than that. It means a lot for a teacher to go out of their way for a student. Not only does she help me academically, but she also helps me emotionally. Her mindset has influenced my mindset toward success more than ever. I appreciate all that she does."
Below is a photo gallery from the event.