CHICAGO – May 9, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today surprised Elizabeth Luna, a kindergarten teacher at Murray Language Academy, with a 2012 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. The governor presented the award, which is one of the education community’s most prestigious, during National Teacher Appreciation Week. As part of his commitment to protect and improve education in Illinois, the governor also emphasized the need for legislative action this spring to stabilize the state’s Medicaid and pension systems to ensure adequate funding for education.
“An outstanding teacher can have more influence on a student than almost anyone else,” Governor Quinn said. “The best economic tool a state can have is a solid education system. That’s why we must work together to address our financial challenges today, so that we can invest in education and the futures of our children tomorrow.”
Governor Quinn recently proposed bold plans to restore fiscal stability to Illinois, which would protect funding for education. Governor Quinn recently proposed a plan to fundamentally restructure the Medicaid system and save it from collapse by creating $2.7 billion in savings. The governor’s plan cuts waste, fraud and abuse, and raises the price of cigarettes to bring back dollar for dollar federal matching funds and help make people healthier. The governor also recently proposed a bold plan to stabilize the pension system, which is expected to save taxpayers $65 to $85 billion, eliminate the unfunded liability and allow public employees who have faithfully contributed to the system to continue to receive pension benefits. Pension and Medicaid costs currently account for 39 percent of the budget, which will continue to grow and take away resources from education. If nothing is done this spring, they will account for 50 percent of the budget next year.
Luna began teaching in Chicago Public Schools in 2003 as a substitute, leaving the restaurant industry for a second career in education. After joining Murray Language Academy to teach intermediate grades, she was placed in kindergarten, a move that allowed her to find her calling in early childhood education. Luna is also a teacher of future teachers. She works with The University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program (Chicago UTEP) as a mentor teacher. Luna is one of ten teachers to win the award, out of 560 Pre-Kindergarten-3rd grade teachers nominated this year in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties.
Golden Apple winners receive an honorarium, a tuition-free semester sabbatical at Northwestern University and become lifetime members of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, which supports and assists teachers in developing their skills and encourages students to pursue a career in education. John Quinn, the Governor’s younger brother and long-time history teacher and boys basketball coach at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, received the Golden Apple award in 1992.