Western teacher wins Golden Apple Award

Updated: Apr. 28, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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BARRY, IL (WGEM) - Western High School history teacher Ali Oitker was awarded the April WGEM Golden Apple Award.

Oitker has spent her entire 23 year teaching career at what is now Western School District. She grew up attending school in the Barry School District, which is now part of the consolidated Western School District.

She says she strives to teach her students to keep an open mind and respect others’ views.

“My goal is not to think for them, but to get them to think for themselves,” Oitker said. “They have an opinion or they come in with a preconceived opinion, but we talk about the other sides of that and other perspectives.”

“No matter if we’re having a debate, I’m actually in her political class and right now that’s an issue for people, and she’s never been one to shut someone down or say how she feels. She’s supportive of anyone and all,” junior Natalie Harris said.

Guidance counselor Stefanie Rennecker said Oitker is a leader in the school, always working to find solutions and help kids reach their highest potential.

“She is the one that comes and asks me what she can do to help the kids I’m working with, and how we can kind of make them the best that they can be and more successful in her class,” Rennecker said.

Some students call Oitker their “school mom”. It’s a role she said she takes on happily.

“I feel like I build the relationship first with the kids and that they can trust me and they know anything that they might possibly need they are safe to come see me about that,” Oitker said.

“She listens to everybody and she gives everybody a reason to speak up and show their emotions,” junior Skylar Bainter said.

Oitker’s leadership and compassion are setting the bar for her students.

“We are all in this together. It’s not just me and my room. This is our second family for the kids and the teachers,” Oitker said.

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