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The award presented to Kim Tate on Tuesday comes with a $5,000 check.

CHAMPAIGN — On Day 2 of National Teacher Appreciation Week, 500 hooting and hollering kids joined the grown-ups to honor one of Illinois’ finest.

At a surprise school assembly Tuesday morning in a packed gym, officials with the Golden Apple Foundation presented International Prep Academy’s Kim Tate with the education non-profit’s highest honor: the Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Nearly 600 teachers in grades 4 through 8 were nominated. Ten were chosen for their “dedication, creativity and impact.”

“In this day and age, we need more like Miss Tate,” Unit 4 Superintendent Shelia Boozer said, drawing a roar from the crowd of students and staff. Then she turned to Tate, who was overcome with emotion.

“I just want to say to you, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you for choosing Unit 4, for doing what you do for us. Our kids are better because of you.”

When it came Tate’s time to speak, this being the school with the district’s lone building-wide dual-language program, she opened with “buenos dias” and a few words in Spanish.

She thanked her teaching role model (mom), her family, her colleagues and everyone else on hand — most importantly, her fifth-graders.

“As my kiddos know,” she said, pointing in their direction, “No student …”

“… left behind,” they yelled on cue.

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Newly named state teacher of the year Kim Tate addresses a schoolwide assembly Tuesday morning at International Prep Academy.

Tate “inspires her students through her positivity, belief that any student can learn and her dedication to creating a classroom with a culture of learning,” the Golden Apple Foundation said in Tuesday’s announcement.

“Throughout the years, Tate has structured her classroom to integrate more collaborative learning opportunities. This has culminated in the students coming together to present unique final projects.

“Tate’s lessons empower her students to celebrate their cultural and linguistic heritage and have even sparked inspiration beyond the classroom, prompting some parents to pursue adult education courses in their community.”

In 2021, Golden Apple bestowed the same honor upon Dr. Howard Elementary kindergarten teacher Dominique McCotter.

Prior to that, the last time a C-U educator was honored was 2008, when three were among 20 Illinois teachers selected for Golden Apple awards — Urbana’s Elaine Harmon (Thomas Paine Elementary) and Champaign’s Shameem Rakha (Franklin Middle School) and Hillary Sawyer (Booker T. Washington Elementary).