Gold-coated members of the Upper Arlington Civic Association recently surprised Wellington middle school teacher David "Berc" Backhurst with a shiny Golden Apple award.
"I was tremendously surprised and honored," Backhurst said. "When I received the award, most of the students in the dining room were standing to see what was happening and they cheered when my name was announced.
"In my mind, the award is a tribute to them," he said. "I have been so fortunate to work with such great students."
Students, parents and community members nominated 90 Upper Arlington-area teachers for Golden Apple awards this year, which were given to teachers in surprise ceremonies between April 11 and April 16, UACA director Matthew McConnell said.
Backhurst was among 12 teachers receiving 2014 Golden Apple awards. The other recipients are: Debra Amling, Barrington Elementary; Cheryl Cartwright, Greensview Elementary; Lisa Lloyd, Hastings Middle School; Gregg Moul, Jones Middle School; Michelle Persichetti, Tremont Elementary; Molly Hinkle, Wickliffe Progressive; Emily Adams, Windermere Elementary; Joe Endres, Upper Arlington High School; Janette Crowley, St. Agatha; Donna Reo, St. Andrew's; and Jodi Coleman, Upper Arlington Lutheran Christian Preschool.
"All the winners are invited to ride on the Upper Arlington Civic Association float during the Fourth of July parade," McConnell said.
He said the association reaches out to the community and the schools and asks for nominations early in the year, then closes the nominations in March.
McConnell said he is the second-year director in charge of the program and Geoff Young is the first-year director.
"We gather and sort the nominations by school, then present them at a meeting so that all the directors may vote for the winners," he said. "Then the fun begins."
The fun includes setting up surprise visits to each school in April to give out the awards.
"The presentations are awesome and can get really emotional," he said. "We try to talk about what is important about being a teacher in Upper Arlington and about some of the heartwarming things that students have said about the teachers (in their nominations)."
He said the presentation to Crowley, St. Agatha's award winner, was the first time the award was given via a videoconferencing program.
"She was on medical leave, so we had a first this year in giving out the award at the school in FaceTime," McConnell said.
Backhurst has taught and coached at the Wellington School for the past nine years. He grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich., and attended University Liggett School, which he said is "a forward-thinking preschool through grade 12 private school, much like Wellington."
His undergraduate degree is from DePaul University and he is currently completing his masters in psychology of education from Eastern Michigan University.
Last summer, Backhurst received a Wellington Student Engagement Grant to attend a design thinking workshop in California through Stanford University. He will attend Harvard University's "The Future of Learning" workshop this summer.
"I am continuously stretching my educational experiences and seeking to discover practices which are ahead of the curve," he said.
He said he wants his students to become "innovative learners."
"I would like them to build the skills of collaboration and effective communication to be successful in future endeavors," Backhurst said. "I also strive to create an environment that is open-minded, safe and fun so all students grow and are continuously challenged."
McConnell said the selection process is not about who gets the most nominations.
"We like to see how a teacher has impacted the lives of students," he said. "It's fun to read what students, parents and community members say about a teacher and it is an incredibly rewarding experience to be a part of when you see how much it means to our teachers."