Teacher at Orion High School in Illinois receives prestigious Golden Apple Award

Mindy Carls
Orion High School teacher Andrew Lister was surprised with the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching on Tuesday night, May 10, at Academic Awards Night in Central Park. Surrounded by former students, Lister is the tallest man in the photo, and he is standing between two women holding “#TeachGolden” signs

It was the biggest secret in the Orion High School community, and everyone knew but English teacher Andrew Lister.

Principal Nathan DeBaillie had told Lister to be at Central Park on Tuesday, April 10, to help present awards during academic honors night. DeBaillie neglected to say Lister would be receiving one of the state’s most prestigious teaching awards.

Just before 6 p.m., Lister was seated in the front row with fellow teachers at the band shell. Meanwhile, the Golden Apple Foundation staff was gathering dozens of Lister’s friends and colleagues in the foyer of Orion United Methodist Church.

The plan was to leave the church at 5:58 p.m. and march across 12th Avenue, then proceed through the park to surprise Lister from behind, Golden Apple Foundation President Alan Mather said.

Surprise him they did.

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More than 400 high school teachers were nominated for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, and only 10 were chosen for their impact on students, schools and communities, Mather told the audience.

Lister stood out for his ability to connect with students, Mather said. He brings a variety of perspectives into the classroom and shows students how to debate respectfully.

In his classes for juniors and seniors, Lister introduces firsthand narratives by members of groups marginalized throughout American history. He creates “a welcoming, educational and open classroom environment,” the foundation said.

Orion High School teacher Andrew Lister, standing up at right, is surprised with the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching on Tuesday night, May 10, at Academic Awards Night in Central Park. At left are Alan Mather, president of the Golden Apple Foundation, and State Rep. Dan Swanson (R-Alpha), holding a basket of apples.

Lister has established a Writing Center at OHS to give students a chance to work on their writing skills.

He also coaches Orion’s e-sports teams, which give students a chance to bond with each other outside of class.

Lister will receive $5,000 cash and a paid sabbatical at Northwestern University, Mather said. The Orion teacher will be involved in efforts to recruit and train new teachers to help resolve the current shortage.

State Sen. Win Stoller (R-Peoria) was unable to attend the ceremony but sent a certificate of recognition, DeBaillie said.

State Rep. Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) spoke briefly. He said he met several of Lister’s students and learned what a great mentor and role model he was for them. He added Lister contributes to a bright future by sending students into the community to have an impact.

Lister said he was overwhelmed by the award and looked forward to helping bring more teachers into the field.