Out of 140 entries in the 2005 WTHI Golden Apple Award, Staunton Elementary fourth-grader Desiree Hartman's letter to the judging committee led to her teacher being one of the five award winners.
"I just wish that every student could have her for a teacher," Hartman wrote in her nomination letter. "She's the winner of the Golden Apple Award in my eyes, and her other students, even if she is not chosen. Thank you for considering Mrs. Evelyn Greenwood as the best teacher ever."
The letter was the first step in the nomination process.
Greenwood then had to submit her philosophy of teaching and recommendations from others to get to the interview portion of the finalist round for the 20 contestants chosen.
"I figured that I blew it during the interview portion," Evelyn Greenwood said. It was the first time she had heard Hartman's entire letter read, and it made her cry. "It was all so emotional."
Greenwood feels that it is her job to help inspire students each year to reach beyond whatever limitations they might feel and aspire to achieve their dreams.
"My philosophy of teaching is my philosophy for life," Greenwood said of her award. "Be happy when you have truly done your best. Teaching is not an eight-hour job, it's a way of life."
Greenwood embraces teaching and is grateful for all the opportunities it has given her to touch the lives of her students and others with the joy of learning.
"Once a child is in my classroom, that child is one of my students forever," Greenwood said of the children she has taught during her 13 years of teaching. Taking the time to get to know each individual student's background, interests, needs and abilities, she learns what makes that child capable of great things. "My goal is to help students discover what they are capable of once they put their mind to doing something. It's the biggest thrill for a teacher, seeing that light go on in a student's eyes, when a student finally gets it. That is the biggest payoff for me."
With "smiley faces" plastered all over the room, Greenwood believes in giving praise and encouragement to students at every opportunity while teaching responsibility and the lesson of having a positive attitude no matter what the difficulties of life may be.
"When I watch a child give 100 percent of themselves, no matter what the grade might be, they have already achieved a great success in my eyes," Greenwood said. "I know no more satisfying sense of accomplishment than when a student is able to use knowledge gained from my classroom to better their own life, to be the teacher that helps them be all they can be."
Greenwood, along with the other four winners, will be honored in a ceremony at the Indiana Theater in Terre Haute on Friday evening at 7 p.m.