Golden Apple Nominee ‘Shocked’ by Award


Cassi Garrison, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

The Golden Apple award was created to showcase teachers who go above and beyond expectations to support and educate their students.

This year, three teachers from Notre Dame Academy have been nominated for this prestigious award: Mrs. Caitlin VandenWyngaard, Mrs. Denise Percival and Mrs. Julie Campbell.

VandenWyngaard said she was “shocked” when she found out she was nominated for this award, so shocked she had to read the email twice.

“My family and I like to joke that if it weren’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all,” she shared. “So as you can imagine, I had to re-read Mrs. Hearden’s congratulations email a few times for it to sink in because I was so surprised.”

VandenWyngaard said that she “loves working with students and getting to know them,” as well as the “aha” moments where the content really starts to click with her students. 

“I also enjoy sneaking in reading strategies and tips that students can use in all of their classes, not just in my Spanish class,” she added. 

VandenWyngaard shared that as a kid she secretly hated school due to struggling in reading and math, but her tutor, Ellen, turned it around for her. 

“Ellen was caring, compassionate, and my biggest cheerleader,” she said.“Although she passed away from a brief illness my sophomore year in high school, I still think of her to this day. It is my hope that I can make a positive impact, even if it is just a small one, on my students’ lives like Ellen did for me.”

Through her teaching, VandenWyngaard is accomplishing this hope.

“I had Mrs. VW last year,” said sophomore Ally Paprocki. “She was a really supportive teacher, and I loved her sense of humor. She definitely kept a cheerful classroom.”

VandenWyngaard started working at NDA in the fall of 2009, so she has been working here for almost 14 years.

Prior to that, she taught 7th and 8th grade Spanish at Holy Spirit in Darboy, as well as being the school’s After Care Director.

“I like to think teaching at NDA was a bit of a calling for me rather than coincidence,” VandenWyngaard said. “My previous school had to downsize, so they had to let me go since I taught a special. The same day my principal called me to her office to tell me she could no longer offer me a contract for the next school year, the job opening for NDA was posted online.”

She shared that this was one of those ‘when a door closes, a window opens’ moments for her, and that window was opened at NDA.

“What makes the experience even crazier is once I was offered the job and given my classroom, I looked at my classroom number (213) and realized it just happened to be the same as my birthday, February 13th,” said VandenWyngaard. 

She said one of her favorite parts of NDA is all of the history that it has, from its predecessor schools to today.

“I like being a part of something bigger than myself and look forward to contributing positively to NDA’s legacy to the best of my abilities,” she shared.