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Top-Notch: Golden Apple Awards

Top Notch Teachers: Golden Apple Awards

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — At a luncheon honoring the 2013 Golden Apple award winners, physical education teacher Ulrike Kerstges made the room full of adults work off their lunches.

As she took to the podium to accept her award, Kerstges got the room to their feet and taught everyone a short dance routine. Then she plugged in her iPod and led everyone through the routine to the beat of a Rihanna song.

Kerstges, who teaches P.E. at Ventana Ranch and Tierra Antigua elementary schools in Albuquerque, was one of seven elementary teachers recognized this year with the Golden Apple award.

Teachers are nominated by principals, students or other community members, and this year, 144 teachers were nominated from 113 schools around the state.

The nominees then go through a selection process that includes classroom observations. Each year, the awards focus on teachers from a different age group, and this year’s winners all teach elementary students.

Winners receive a $1,500 cash award and a $4,000 grant for professional training. They also go on to mentor college students who are pursuing a career in teaching.

Here’s a look at the seven winners and the observations of master teachers who observed their classrooms.



Ulrike M. Kerstges

Kerstges teaches physical education to nearly 700 students at Tierra Antigua and Ventana Ranch Elementary Schools.

“Ms. Kerstges is amazing. She taught PE (dance) with ease and expertise. She wove geography into the lesson by describing traditional dress and what the dance signified.”

“She has unending energy and enthusiasm for teaching and for her students’ well-being.”



Terri L. Lindstrom
Lindstrom teaches math and social studies to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Tierra Amarilla Elementary in the Chama Valley Schools.

She is described as “an innovative and excellent teacher who moves seamlessly from challenged students to gifted students.” She is also the “go-to person for her entire school community.

From interpreting test score data to providing tutoring after school to building a volleyball pit on the weekend, Terri exhibits constant service to her students, the school, and the community.”

Ann-Marie McColluogh 



McCollough teaches 18 first-graders at the independent Manzano Day School in Albuquerque.

Classroom observers said she “exemplifies the commitment to continuing excellence reflected by all Golden Apple Fellows.”

McCollough said in her professional development plan, which will be funded with Golden Apple money, “The simple truth is that I have an obligation to myself and those little people I spend each and every day with to figure out how to prepare them for … a rapidly changing world filled with fantastic new problems as well as exciting new possibilities.”




James Olivas
Olivas teaches 25 sixth-graders at Naaba Ani Elementary in the Bloomfield Public Schools.

“Mr. Olivas is an outstanding teacher,” the observers wrote. “His use of technology to enhance learning is remarkable.  He will do almost anything (dances, actions, songs) to help children learn.

Mr. Olivas is committed to instilling the love of learning in all of his students.”




Theresa S. Sandoval
Sandoval teaches 18 kindergartners in a dual language classroom at Dolores Gonzales Elementary School in Albuquerque.

She is widely recognized as “queen of field trips,” often taking her students on as many as 15 a year, despite limited resources.

She tells the story of one student who said after a field trip to the University of New Mexico, “Mrs. Sandoval, I want to come to this big school, just like you did.”




Jeff Tuttle
Tuttle  teaches 29 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in an inclusion classroom at Monte Vista Elementary School in Albuquerque.
Observers said  one of the most impressive aspects of their visit was the respect expressed by Tuttle’s colleagues, administrators and parents of his students.

“Jeff is well recognized by parents as a tireless advocate for each of their children as individuals.  He makes the effort to identify how to help each student thrive, and stays in touch with them after they have left his class.”




Cristal Dawn Wilson
Wilson teaches seven pre-K students on the autism spectrum at Mark Twain Elementary Albuquerque.

Teaching such students demands a “unique combination of creativity, patience, and commitment.  All of these attributes describe Cristal perfectly.

From integrating sign language into her classroom to helping students’ families arrange for needed interventions in their homes, Cristal is the epitome of dedication and innovation in teaching.”

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