Central Elementary School kindergarten teacher earns Golden Apple Award of Excellence in Teaching – Plainfield School District 202

Alyssa Milano, kindergarten teacher at Central Elementary School, is a 2024 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Central Elementary School kindergarten teacher Alyssa Milano (right) laughs with Alan Mather, President of the Golden Apple Foundation (middle), and Illinois Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel after Milano was surprised to learn she was one of 10 recipients of the 2024 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Staff members with the Golden Apple Foundation surprised Milano at school on April 29, 2024.


She arrived in the school’s gymnasium to thunderous applause and cheers from the whole student body, family, friends, and fellow staff members.


“I turned the corner with my principal and looked at her and said, ‘Are you kidding me?’,” Milano said.


Milano was chosen from more than 600 applicants who teach kindergarten through third grade. She learned in February she was in the top 30. Alicia Hays, a special education teacher from Central Elementary, also was a top 30 finalist this year.


Central Elementary paraprofessional Lisa Bischoff nominated Milano. The application process began in November 2023.


Members of the Golden Apple Foundation visited Milano, who has been at Central for five years, during classes to see firsthand how she taught.


“Milano goes beyond traditional teaching by recognizing the significance of connecting students with their community,” wrote those who observed her.


“By inviting local community members to share their insights and fostering collaborative projects with multi-needs students, she cultivates a sense of pride and belonging among her students.”


Milano said she was inspired to become an educator when she was in school and struggled with reading.


“I had quite a few teachers who helped and supported me to be successful in school,” she said.


“And my mom being a teacher definitely had an impact on my future career goals.”


Her mom is Beatrice Milano, a fourth-grade teacher at District 202’s Creekside Elementary School.


Alyssa Milano said she wants her students to come into a warm and loving environment every day.


“Just knowing they love me as much as I love them,” she said of her students.


Milano also wants teachers to know how much of an impact they have on their students.


Teachers fuel every career, she said.


“No matter what you’re going into you have teachers in your life,” Milano said.


The Golden Apple Foundation’s mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence.


Milano will receive $5,000 and a spring sabbatical provided by Northwestern University.


She also becomes a member of the Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators, who help prepare the next generation of teachers.


Wallin Oaks Elementary School teacher Lee Parrott won the award in 2015 when he taught at Wesmere Elementary School.