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Born in Jamaica, Michael Stewart, now a teacher in Chicago, received the surprise of his life, the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching by his colleagues and family members in a drive-by parade outside of his home in South Chicago.

Stewart, a seventh and eighth-grade teacher at LEARN South Chicago, was in the middle of teaching his eighth-grade class when there was a knock at the door. His wife told him to answer it.

“I’m sitting here like, ‘All these people in the house and no one can answer the door?’” Stewart said.

Jamaican Teacher
Jamaica Born Teacher Wins Prestigious Award 2

There was a good reason his wife insisted that he get the door. Waiting for him on the other side were his school principal, colleagues and Alan Mather, President of Golden Apple, to surprise Stewart with the news that he was one the 2020 recipients of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“It was one of the biggest surprises I ever had,” Stewart said.

Stewart, originally from Jamaica, grew up in Rogers Park and Evanston. He graduated from Evanston Township High School before attending University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While education had always been the family cornerstone — Stewart’s mother and sister are educators — he briefly entertained the idea of becoming a lawyer, even interning at Chicago law firm Jenner & Block the summer of his junior year.

A chance run-in with an old basketball buddy during a field trip to Cook County Jail made Stewart change course.

“I asked him what happened. ‘How did you get here?’ He’d only tell me that he didn’t take his education seriously,” Stewart said. “I remember going home later that night and thinking ‘Man, this ain’t right.’ That could’ve been me. My grandmother would tell me that ‘Prevention is the cure.’ That’s what education is.”

After graduation, he applied for a teaching position back at Evanston Township, and that’s when he knew his fate had been sealed. He joined a Caribbean academic program as a teaching assistant, and found the perfect mentor in a first-generation Jamaican-American who was married to the woman who ran the program.

“Teaching those students was like teaching myself,” Stewart said.

Golden Apple winners receive a $5,000 award and a Spring sabbatical, courtesy of Northwestern University.. Recipients also become fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, a community of teachers who mentor current and future teachers.

Spotlight on Jamaican Teachers

Jason is a teacher from Jamaica. Through Educational Partners International’s cultural exchange program, he has the opportunity to teach mathematics and social studies in the USA. Watch the following video to hear about Jason’s experience in the USA with EPI and the professional benefits of the program.

Educational Partners International (EPI) focus on delivering a world-class education through cultural exchange and professional development programs. EPI is an Exchange Visitor Program authorized to sponsor teachers under the Fulbright–Hays Act of 1961. Exchange Visitor Programs are designated by the U.S. Department of State to facilitate authentic cultural exchange between citizens of the United States of America and citizens of other countries.


Suzette is a teacher from Jamaica. Through Educational Partners International (EPI)’s cultural exchange program, she has the opportunity to teach 3rd grade in the USA. Watch the following video to hear about Suzette’s experience in the USA with EPI and how it has expanded her professional life.

“As a teacher I think we should prepare kids for the global world, the 21st century, so what better way to do it than to experience it myself.”-Suzette from Jamaica 🇯🇲

Teaching in America: Music Teacher from Jamaica

The Teachers Council sat down with one of our inspirational educators for an interview about her personal story of becoming a teacher in her home country of the Jamaica, and her journey to come teach and live with her family in the United States of America.

Marie is a music teacher for grades PreK-3rd at The DC Prep Charter School, where she has taught now for 9 years. Her passion for inspiring young minds to express themselves musically is easy to see.

The Teachers Council held a job fair in Jamaica for U.S. charter schools, where Marie was introduced to us and her future school. We facilitated her interview process with the school and assisted with her immigration and permanent residency to teach in the USA. She and her family now live in America and are pursuing their own educational and vocational dreams.

Story curated from : South Side Golden Apple Award Winner Hopes To Bring More Black Men Into Teaching

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