When Isabella Ibarra ’18 says she dreamed of becoming a teacher, she means that literally.
She was a freshman at Elmhurst College planning to study criminal justice when she had a dream that “I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing,” and that she should become a teacher instead.
Now that Ibarra, of Oak Lawn, has been named a 2016 Golden Apple Scholar—the second honoree from Elmhurst College this year—she says that dream is coming true.
The Golden Apple Foundation, which develops and supports teacher excellence, especially in “schools of need,” honored 200 Illinois high school and college students this year, including Ibarra and fellow Elmhurst student Geoffrey Rozo. Ibarra, who already works part time as a preschool teacher in Chicago, will receive $5,000 in annual tuition support and be able to attend paid summer institutes. She also will receive mentoring from award-winning teachers, as well as post-college job placement assistance and support. In return, she has committed to teach for five years in schools with an economic or academic need.
“I feel like I’m going into teaching to make a difference, so why not go into a program that really needs me most?” said Ibarra, who is preparing for a career in early elementary education. “I’m looking forward to whatever experiences are there for me.”
This summer, she is living at DePaul University and teaching summer school in the Chicago Public Schools.
Associate Professor Linda Dauksas, director of early childhood and special education at the College, describes Ibarra as someone with a passion to work with young children, particularly those with economic or social needs.
“You can’t teach empathy; that’s just something some people have,” she said, adding that Ibarra’s ability to relate to young children has made her a good fit for Elmhurst College’s education program, where students start working right away with children in actual classrooms, for an authentic learning experience.
Julie Gonzales, assistant director of the Education Enrichment Programs at Elmhurst’s Center for Professional Excellence, describes Ibarra as a “very intellectual free spirit” who worked with the resources at the CPE to figure out her avocation.
“I’m so happy to see her in education,” Gonzales said. “She really wants to do good things with her life.”