WTHI-TV personality Mark Allen interrupted a Clay Community Schools (CCS) teacher who was taking attendance earlier this week to give her what her co-workers and students call a much-deserved reward.
Northview High School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Joanna Connors was awarded the 2012 Golden Apple Award after NHS senior Emma Nicoson and several co-workers gave a nomination and recommendations.
"It's an indescribable feeling. Honored isn't even enough to describe how I feel about it," Connors said, as she fought back tears.
Connors, who's been employed with CCS since she began her teaching career as a FACS teacher at Van Buren High School in 1972, said she would never have been able to accomplish what she has without others helping her pave the way.
She credited her mentors DeAnne Leohr and Nancy McCullough for making her the great teacher she is today.
"When I taught at Van Buren my first day, I taught everything I knew in one day," she laughed, "and when I went home that night I wondered what I was going to talk about the next day. I don't know what I would have done without them."
Connors also gave praise to her husband Mike Connors for all his sacrifices and unselfish attitude toward her career.
"He had a very important job as a pilot. It was very intense," Connors explained. "He always told me that my job was so much more important to him. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without his love, support and encouragement through everything."
Connors' love and interactions with others, especially her students, has driven her to go above and beyond when it comes to reaching out.
NHS FACS teacher Michelle Burk said Connors played a very big role in her young life and the decisions she made as an adult.
Connors was Burk's FACS teacher at the beginning of her career at Van Buren.
Burk said she was debating between pursuing two passions -- interior design and teaching -- and she couldn't decide which to choose.
"She gave up her prep period to teach one student. I was enrolled in an independent study course with her that focused on interior design," Burk told The Brazil Times. "I chose interior design but came back to teaching, and now I have the privilege of working alongside Mrs. Connors, who was my favorite teacher, everyday."
Years later, Connors is still going the extra mile to reach students like Nicoson, NHS freshman Kade Carter and NHS senior Ashlen Buck.
"Not only does she teach us about textiles, interpersonal relationships and educational subjects, but she is also teaching us about virtuous things," Nicoson said. "If she hears us gossiping, she'll say, 'Always use kind words.' She's always asking about our home life and making sure to interact with us on a person-to-person level to show she cares."
Nicoson added she cried when she found out Connors won.
"Out of more than 200 teachers she was chosen, and this was the second year I had nominated her," Nicoson explained. "It makes it all the more special that it's my senior year."
Carter said even though this was his first year at NHS, he knew it'd be a good year because of the kindness and warmth Connors showed the first day of school.
"She's so warm and fuzzy, and she's always positive," Carter said. "She doesn't have to overload you with homework to teach you something. I feel like I learn more in her class about a lot of subjects than I do in many others."
Buck added, "She's one of my favorite teachers because she's so much more personal, and she teaches us about life lessons."
NHS Principal Lynn Romas said Connors exemplifies characteristics of a "master teacher."
"She volunteered to supervise Tuesday night schools a few years ago, and most teachers just sit there and read a book and make sure the kids stay quiet and out of trouble," Romas explained. "Well, I found out she went around to each student and helped them with all their homework in many different subjects and made sure they got everything done."
Romas added her greatest asset is Connors loves kids and nurtures them.
"She also does more than asked when she hosts the annual We Wish You Well program," Romas said. "It's really helpful to the young women here who are about to graduate."
More than 200 teachers from around the Wabash Valley are nominated by their students to receive the Golden Apple Award every year.
A panel of judges from WTHI chooses the top 20 to interview, and five are chosen.
Last year, Clay City Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Joannie Mitchell received the honor, and NHS's last recipient was choir teacher Steve McCullough in 2003.
"It's meant so much that my students, colleagues and former Golden Apple recipients have chosen me for this," Connors said. "Many teachers in this building deserve it. I'm just the lucky one."