Palos Heights School District 128 paraprofessional, Moira Touhy, was selected to be a part of the Golden Apple Accelerator Program. She is pictured (right) alongside Independence Junior High sixth-grader, Isaac Ceja. (Supplied photo)

Palos Heights School District 128 paraprofessional, Moira Touhy, was selected to be a part of the Golden Apple Accelerator Program. She is pictured (right) alongside Independence Junior High sixth-grader, Isaac Ceja. (Supplied photo)

District 128 teacher joins Golden Apple Accelerator Program

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By Kelly Whitepalos heights sd128 logo

A Palos Heights School District 128 educator was selected to be a part of the Golden Apple Accelerator Program.

Also, a District 128 alum, Moira Touhy, a paraprofessional at Independence Junior High School, 6610 W. Highland Dr., Palos Heights, will be participating in the 15-month online program specifically geared toward obtaining a license in special education.

“Moira was hired as a paraprofessional in District 128 with the intent of pursuing her certification in physical education,” Supt. Merryl Brownlow said. “After working with our students with special needs, Moira’s natural talents and passions became obvious. Her disposition to see everything as an opportunity for her students rather than a barrier makes her stand out. She embraces the concept of going from disabilities to possibilities. I believe that is why she stood out as one to be selected for the Golden Apple program.”

The very selective Golden Apple Accelerator Program is designed to provide a path to teaching for those who are willing to commit to serving a targeted school districts in Illinois. The Accelerators program was designed to meet the teacher shortage crisis head on by recruiting, preparing and mentoring candidates looking to make a difference in classrooms across the state.

While D128 is not a targeted district, school officials said they are very proud that Moira was selected to serve the wider community of students in need across Illinois.

“In Moira’s first year with us at Independence Junior High School she has immediately made a tremendous impact in our community,” Kevin Kirk, Principal at Independence Junior High School, said. “As a paraprofessional who works specifically with students with special needs, Moira consistently displays a great deal of compassion. Her encouraging words and patience with students have helped the students she works with feel safe and welcomed in our school community.”

Kirk said, aside from a natural ability to working with students, Touhy demonstrates excellent communication and flexibility — two crucial skills in a field where each day is different from the next.

“In working closely with classroom teachers, case managers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers, Moira has played a pivotal role in making this year one of great success for the students she supports each day,” Kirk said. “I am extremely excited for Moira in being accepted into this program and cannot wait to see what great things are ahead in her future.”

The Golden Apple Accelerators Program provides a path to teaching for career-changers and college seniors who commit to living and teaching in targeted school districts in Illinois for four years after obtaining their teaching license. This program was designed to meet the teacher shortage crisis head on by recruiting, preparing, and mentoring college seniors and non-educators with bachelor’s degrees in Illinois looking to make a difference in classrooms right in their communities

“To be a part of the Golden Apple is an honor,” Touhy, of Palos Heights, said. “What is another amazing aspect of the program is that my journey with them does not end in the short amount of time that I am in the accelerators program. Once the program is completed while teaching and coaching, I will continue to be a part of the Golden Apple Foundation where I can attend conferences and retreats to further my knowledge and exchange with other scholars’ ideas to help the crisis in education. I also will be able to help mentor future Golden Apple Scholars.”

Touhy, who attended the University of Dayton and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications with a focus in Public Relations, has lived in District 128 for her entire life.

“My mom was on the school board so being able to come back and work for the district that helped me immensely throughout my academic journey and has continued to help guide me is such a privilege,” Touhy said.

The application for the Golden Apple Accelerator Program started in December of 2023.

Touhy was selected for the Golden Apple Accelerator Program through a rigorous application process that included interviewing with the Golden Apple Selection Committee. During these interviews, which spanned from January through March, Touhy was required to develop impromptu lesson plans, complete performance tasks centered around race, equity, equality, and liberation and respond to school-based scenarios.

Touhy said this would not have been possible without the unconditional love and support from not only District 128 but also from her family, made up of her mother and father, Mary Pat and Ed; brother, Patrick; and sister, Mariclare).

“Especially my dad who has supported and stood behind every decision from attending Dayton to coaching at Mother McAuley to now being a Golden Apple Scholar,” Touhy said. “Him and my mom work tirelessly and laid the foundation down for my brother, sister, and myself that above everything what’s important is to be kind and compassionate.”

 

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