Coppola Given Golden Apple
Rick Coppola, a long-time associate of the LSRI and 7th-grade teacher at South Loop Elementary, is one of 10 Illinois winners of the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Coppola, who also is seeking his PhD, won it with his colleague, 4th- grade teacher Helen Chan. It’s the first time two teachers from the same school won the award in the same year, according to the foundation.
“My concentrated and focused work in Learning Science has made me appreciate the intentionality that is required when designing curriculum and instruction for students,” he said.
Coppola said that when he first began working on his master’s degree, he’d had the privilege of being taught by a Golden Apple award-winning teacher.
“As a career changer, I decided that I would aspire to be that good in my work as a teacher.”
“For me,” he added, “the Golden Apple was only possible because of everyone who supported and uplifted me along the way. The best part was being able to share that moment with so many people who contributed to making me a better teacher.”
In 2008, he enrolled in UIC's College of Education, where he was introduced to LSRI. He’d been an 8th-grade teacher working at John B. Drake when his school announced a partnership with UIC to create a school-wide, staircase curriculum aligned to our shared vision for an 8th-grade graduate.
But then he was introduced to Susan Goldman and MariAnne George, and from 2008 to 2011 worked on Partnership READ. Coppola said he was then asked to be a literature design team member on Project READI, where he worked from 2011 to 2016.
“Project READI gave me such a profound platform to honor the ways of knowing that come with being a teacher,” he said. “It helped me understand that this vantage point allows me to see things that others cannot. It also gave me a seat at the table, where I was transformed by the depth of thinking of those who sat alongside me.”
Later, he said, his work at LSRI evolved into working on the Teachers as Learners Grant, which he continued until 2019.
Coppola said his favorite memory at LSRI was sitting at the conference table at a literature design team meeting.
“Carol Lee and I were discussing the project, which was filtered through our unique roles and experience,” he said. “She was in the process of cutting her food and the butcher knife she was using became an extension of her hand as she wielded it in my direction as she responded to me.”
“It made me wonder if disagreeing with the researcher was a good idea,” he quipped.
Golden Apple winners were awarded $5,000 and a free spring sabbatical provided by Northwestern University.
With the award, Coppola says he plans to focus on his dissertation after more than 10 years in school.
“I am what is known as a forever doc student,” he laughed.
In the fall, he said he plans to teach 7th-graders by day, Advanced Educational Psychology to adults on Thursday nights, and working as a co-editor of Language Arts. Perhaps he’ll make strides on his first book.
“You know, small goals,” he said.