Judith Horne, the first grade teacher at St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington, uses a teaching style called “responsive classroom” that features engaging lesson plans, including a “morning meeting” to prepare for the day. On April 12, that morning meeting was particularly exciting, because the school’s principal, Michael Thomasian, came to visit.

When Thomasian asked the students if they thought their teacher was special, they all responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” He told them that they are not the only ones who think so; because the Archdiocese of Washington thinks she is so special that they are giving her an award. As he said that, he pulled out a gold apple, and Horne realized that she was receiving a Golden Apple Award.

After the surprise announcement, the shocked Mrs. Horne was brought to the school’s main hall, where an assembly of students awaited her, seated at tables adorned with baskets full of apples. When she walked in, the students cheered, and started singing the song, “Celebrate.”

“Mrs. Horne’s love for her vocation is evident in her lesson planning, teaching, and her relationships with colleagues, parents, and most importantly, her students,” Thomasian said at the assembly.

Horne goes above and beyond her job description in several ways, including one time that Thomasian recalled when she went to a parent’s workplace for a parent-teacher conference, because the parent didn’t have time to come to the school.

Horne also attends dance recitals and concerts for her students, because while it may not always be easy for her students at home, Horne said, “I want my students to know they are valued, and I really appreciate them.”

St. Anthony is a member of the Consortium of Catholic Academies, which is a non-profit dedicated to supporting inner-city Catholic schools in Washington. Horne is the first teacher from St. Anthony or the consortium to receive a Golden Apple Award.

“There is a spark in Judith’s eye when she teaches,” said the consortium’s executive director, Marguerite Conley, who described Horne as “committed to meeting students where they are and guiding them forward, not just academically, but spiritually.”

Horne takes her own time and money to learn new teaching techniques and then brings them back to teach the faculty at St. Anthony’s. After learning about responsive classroom, she hosted a “wine and cheese” evening to teach other teachers.

“She is a lifelong learner that is creating lifelong learners every day,” said Conley.

Horne also goes out of her way to make sure she has the books that her students most enjoy reading in her classroom. Peter Sherman, who is one of Horne’s current students, said she bought him more Diary of a Wimpy Kid books because he and his friend enjoyed reading the series. Sylvia Hall, whose grandson was in Horne’s class last year, said he was having difficulty reading at the beginning of the year, but now, “all he wants to do is read.”

“I am happy my son wakes up every morning happy to go to school,” said Ifeyinwa Ikoli, who has five kids who all went to St. Anthony. As a mom, she appreciates that Horne prepares for parents who forget to send their kids to school with something they need, and on Valentine’s Day always has extra cards available for someone who forgot theirs.

“For Judith, religion class is taught throughout the day,” said Thomasian. “…It is incorporated in everything she does,” such as how she interacts with the students, how she disciplines, and how her students treat one another. Through her actions, Thomasian added, Horne is “a witness for the children in how Christians should treat one another.”

Horne tries not to say “no” to her students, because “I want them to know the ‘yes’ part,” she said. Her goal is for her students to learn to be respectful of one another and to, “Take that into the world and do the same thing,” she added.

“Even if just some of them do that, the world would be a better place if everyone was respectful and considerate of one another,” she said. “I want them to be leaders in that.”