Eleven NDA Teachers Nominated for Golden Apple


The 29th annual Golden Apple Awards Ceremony will take place April 20, 2022, and eleven NDA teachers have been nominated for the Golden Apple Award. Two of the eleven, Mrs. Katie Bialk and Mrs. Amy Stover, will move to the final round of competition.  

The Tritonian staff and Journalism I students compiled a detailed Q & A  interview with the two finalists and shorter stories on the other nine nominees: Dannielle Bennett, Carolyn Brown, Julie Campbell, Gregory Geiser, Andrea Gilsoon, Jen Laaksonen, Denise Percival, Michael Prudisch and Brenda Rentmeester.  

Special thanks to Mr. Andrew Pekarek, our marketing and communications genius, for the pictures.

                                                   Q & A with Mrs. Bialk and Mrs. Stover

When did you start teaching? When did you come to NDA? 

Bialk: I started my first teaching job in February of 2009.  I started at NDA in 2018

Stover: After being a financial analyst for 10 plus years at Schneider, I switched careers.  I went back to college for three semesters with a two-year-old and a six-month-old to get my teaching certification.  My first day at NDA was January 24, 2005.  There were some unusual circumstances that brought me to NDA in the middle of a school year.  I am very glad things worked out the way they did.  So, I’ve been at NDA almost 17 years and teaching just as long. 

What did being nominated for this Golden Apple award mean to you?

Bialk: It was rather surprising to me.  Most people don’t think to nominate a support teacher, so I feel very honored.  To know that I made a difference in someone’s life enough for them to not only think of me but also to take the time to nominate me is so very thoughtful. 

Stover: I work with a lot of great teachers that inspire our students.  It’s quite an honor that someone took the time to complete a nomination form for me.  I try to give students my best everyday.  

Why did you become a teacher? 

Bialk: I had always wanted to work with children. Originally, I went to school to become a pediatric oncology nurse but wasn’t able to leave my emotions at the door.  It was then that I decided to become a science teacher.  The desire to understand and help my students at a deeper level led me to pursue my master’s degree in special education.

Stover: After ten plus years as a financial analyst, I was looking for a career change that better supported my growing family.  I was encouraged by many to become a teacher and use my Spanish skills.  Funny thing is that in middle school I gave a lot of thought to being a teacher, but switched gears in my junior/senior years of high school when I took an accounting course.  Guess things came full circle as here I am teaching!  I am glad I took this path to teaching, though, because I think working in the business world and all the experiences that came with that career have made me a better teacher.   

Who is your role model? 

Bialk: Two teachers I was blessed to work under, Michelle Wade and Kim VanMieghem.  They portrayed everything I hoped to be as a teacher.  They were out-of-the box thinkers and found a way to reach every student they were given. 

Stover: My parents are my role models.  I grew up on a small dairy farm.  There are pros and cons with all careers, but farming is not an easy life.  It’s a 24/7/365 day job and everyone pitched in.  Both of my parents worked very hard.  When farming alone was not paying the bills, both of my parents got second jobs while continuing to run the farm to make sure my three sisters and I had everything we needed/wanted.  I get my work ethic from them.  Everything we had was earned and appreciated.  They also taught me to look out for others, volunteer, instilled in me a strong sense of being service-oriented, and the importance of community.     

What have been, in your experiences, the biggest challenges as an educator? 

Bialk: As ironic as this is because of my start in education, the biggest challenge for me is leaving my work at school.  I have a tendency to bring the emotions, worry and stress home with me.

Stover: In recent years, balancing the teaching of content and curriculum with the social and emotional well-being of our students has been a challenge for educators.  This has always been challenging, but the pandemic has magnified this challenge.  In addition, keeping up with technology, at least, for me!  Technology is always evolving.  There is a lot to sort through to find out what will get both teachers and students the most bang for their buck.  Finally, understanding the change in demographics and meeting the needs of our students with learning needs.  Making sure that teachers are trained, that we have resources in place, and that the right courses are available to help all students find success is a challenge.

What is your favorite part about being an educator?

Bialk: In my role at NDA, my favorite part is when I am able to collaborate with teachers to create a dynamic experience for the students. In general as an educator, my favorite part is when a student is able to feel success in an area that they hadn’t before.

Stover: My favorite part of teaching is helping students realize what they are capable of, discovering their strengths, and encouraging their passions.  Teaching Spanish and being the liaison for our Hispanic families enables me to reach many students and make a positive impact. 


“I felt very honored,” said Mrs. Gilson on her Golden Apple nomination. 

Mrs. Gilson is a prime example of someone who knows how to balance it all. Besides being an outstanding English teacher, she is the director of the winter musical, this year’s Footloose. 

“It’s a very difficult endeavor, to balance the two, and this year it has been especially challenging. With my kids getting older and my husband working out of town it has definitely been a balancing act this year,” said Gilson. 

Gilson said she was very honored and appreciative to be nominated this year, but this isn’t her first time being nominated. In past years, she was a Teacher of Dedication.

Before becoming a teacher Gilson worked in business but decided to make the switch to teaching. 

“The choice to go back to school as a teacher was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Gilson.  

Mrs. Gilson says that her strengths include organization and always keeping her students in mind when planning lessons. 

If Gilson could say one thing to the person who nominated her, she’d say this:

“It means a lot that you nominated me. This year, especially, has been such a challenging year for teachers. This was a beautiful compliment, so thank you,” said Gilson. 


Jennie Laaksonen, more commonly known to NDA as Frau, is nominated again for the Golden Apple award. 

“It’s always an honor,” said Laaksonen after being nominated for about the 10th time in the past 24 years of teaching here at NDA.

Laaksonen is a German teacher at NDA but does so much from running Student Government to organizing the Morning show.

Laaksonen “puts connection before contact” as she described it, creating a very engaging classroom environment.

As a child Laaksonen would play “teacher” with her friends but thought it “wasn’t cool enough,” explained Laaksonen. It wasn’t until later in life when she realized how much she loved the teaching atmosphere.

“Thank You, It’s nice to be noticed” said Laaksonen 


Brenda Rentmeester the French and Russian teacher is nominated for the third time for a Golden Apple Award. 

Rentmeester is in her third year of teaching here at NDA. She also taught at a public middle school for three years before NDA.

“I am very excited,” said Rentmeester, knowing that she was nominated.

 She started teaching because of her love for French which she wanted to share with others.

Rentmeester not only enjoys teaching her students but creating relationships with them as well.

“I would say, you don’t know how much joy it brings me that you took the time to single me out as a nominee. I am so grateful” said Rentmeester

Mrs. Denise Percival is one of the Golden Apple nominations at Notre Dame Academy. She is a  mathematics teacher and also a first-time nominee for the award. 

“I was a little shocked since most students don’t like math,” said Percival. Percival says that her favorite part about teaching is seeing students finally get something they’ve been struggling with.

Percival is from Wisconsin Rapids and lived in Superior before moving to Green Bay. “I taught summer school at Parkview Elementary, and my first four years teaching were at St. John the Baptist,” said Percival.

She went to school at Western Governors University, Emporia State University, UW-Superior and Mid-State Technical College. 

“I recently completed my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in April, and I am working towards my master’s in mathematics,” she explained.

Percival’s favorite classes were math and art in high school. Right after high school she got her Associate’s Degree in Accounting and figured out that she didn’t like a solitary work environment. 

“I went back to school and got my degree in Graphic Design,” said Percival. “I tutored dozens of students in college and high school. I continued to tutor students after settling in Green Bay in 2000.”

After finding her love in graphic design, Percival went back to school to get a teaching degree in math. 

“After a lot of praying and encouragement from parents of students that I tutored, I decided to do it,” she explained.

Percival loves to make things easier and more fun for those who don’t like math. 

“Math has always come easy to me, and I love sharing my tips and tricks with my students,” said Percival.

When asked about her teaching style after Covid, Percival responded, “My teaching style easily meshed with online learning, but I found students prefer to ask questions and get help in person.”

Percival talked about how her teaching has changed over the years, saying that it has become more technological and she loves that.

“The ability to post lessons online for students to watch and rewatch is awesome,” she said.

Percival would like to thank the person or persons who nominated her. 


After six years of teaching,  Mr. Michael  Prudisch has been nominated for the Golden Apple Award again–for the fourth time.

 Prudisch is a science teacher here at NDA with a degree in Broad Field Science with concentrations in biology and physics and an emphasis in secondary education.

He did not know exactly what he wanted to do going into college. He either wanted to be a teacher like his mother or an engineer like his father.

 Prudisch enjoyed being able to help his friends and others in college which led him down the path of teaching. 

He identifies his strengths in teaching as having “a classroom environment that is open and comfortable for all students.”


Mrs. Julie Campbell, who teaches sociology, child and family, and U. S. history and government classes, is once again a nominee for the 2022 Golden Apple Award.

Campbell has been teaching here at Notre Dame for 30 years. Evidently teaching runs in the family with her father being a teacher and coach and her daughter Eliza now a teacher at Notre Dame.

She enjoys being able to spend time with her family, so being a teacher and having weekends, summer, and holidays off allows her to do that. 

Campbell was “pleasantly surprised” as she explained after being nominated. “It means a lot to me that someone would take the time to nominate me.”


Mr. Greg Geiser is in his ninth year at NDA as a history teacher.

“I wasn’t aware I got nominated for a Golden Apple until just now, but thank you to whoever nominated me,” said Geiser. 

“I have no idea if this is my first time either,” he added. 

Geiser graduated NDA in ‘95, then went to Stevens Point and graduated in 2000. 

He’s had a lot of jobs since then but this one is his favorite. 

He enjoys teenagers and loves being around them because of the energy they bring. 

“I always think I’m a pretty terrible teacher, honestly. I have low teacher self-esteem,” said Geiser. 

However, when you ask students, they all say otherwise.

He always makes class so fun no matter what he is teaching that day,” explained Audrey Burnell. 

Lastly, when asked what he has learned through his time at NDA, he said, “I have learned a lot of history.”


“I started teaching because I thought it was the best way for me to be of maximum service to God and to my community. I had three other careers before I went back to school to become a teacher. I feel like it was a calling.” 

This Golden Apple nominee, Mrs.Danielle Bennett, is a history teacher who came to NDA five years ago after teaching at a large urban public school in Long Beach, California.

Known for her creative strategies to meet the different learning styles of her students, Bennett said the best part of teaching is when students “get it” and “when they let me know they are learning or appreciate a lesson or activity.”

Bennett is “honored, grateful” for the Golden Apple accolade and looks forward to more years of “trying to make learning history interesting and fun.”


“I can’t stand not teaching and that is why I haven’t retired yet,” said English teacher Carolyn Brown, who often claims “I’m #1 at NDA” in reference to being the oldest person in the building.

In her 26th year here, the veteran teacher appreciates having the health to continue a career she loves.  “The students energize me, keep me going.  I think I’d be bored if I retired.  Teaching is learning and handling challenges–it keeps me happy.”

Unsure how many times she has been nominated for a Golden Apple, Brown acknowledges the nomination is always appreciated. 

The Texas native with previous teaching years in Texas, Kansas and Illinois is known for her stories, her brownies and her energy.