Vazanna Recognized for Outstanding Teaching

Aniyah Clemons, Staff Reporter

The Golden Apple Award is the name of an high profile award given to some of the top educators in the
Every year since 1986 Golden Apple has selected outstanding teachers who go above and
beyond for their students.

Teachers are nominated by students, fellow educators, parents or community members.
This year Shepard’s very own Jeff Vazzana English teacher has been recognized as a Golden
Apple Award finalist. Vazzana was  nominated for this outstanding award this year.

Vazzana grew up in Palos Heights and went to Amos Alonzo Stagg High School. After graduating
from Stagg High School, he attended The University of Illinois for his undergraduate and later
went to Olivet Nazarene University for his masters.

This is Vazzana’s eleventh year teaching. During his time at Shepard he has taught Honors
English I, English I, English II, Honors English II, AP Language, Modern English, and
Creative Writing.
For Jeff Vazzana teaching is in his blood. “I went into the family business, as they say.”,stated
Vazzana. “My dad was a teacher at Oak Lawn High School for 34 years. My sister was a teacher,
and my mom was an academic advisor at Moraine. ”

Vazzana credits many people for helping shape him into who he is today.
“My dad, in particular, was a great motivating figure to be a teacher,” said Vazzana, “and I’ve
been lucky to have been blessed with so many fantastic teachers in my life. For example, Ms.
Czworniak, who tutors here in the Writing Center, was my AP US History Teacher. She’s the
most difficult – and best- teacher I’ve ever had. One day, I hope I’ll be as good of a teacher as
she was.”

Here are some things Vazzana’s colleagues had to say about him:

“Jeff was an incredible cooperating teacher when I was student teaching, and I aspire to show
his warmth and compassion to students every day when I’m teaching.
-Taylor Burmeister
English Teacher


“Jeff is always looking for ways to engage students in learning. From integrating technology in
the classroom to implementing creative projects, he is able to foster creativity and challenge

-Laura Friesema
Ex English teacher/ instructional coach


“Mr. Vazzana’s teaching style isn’t bound by the clock or classroom walls. His students carry the
lessons learned with them throughout the day in powerful ways that impact the landscape of
Shepard through research in action; from student led discussions with staff on equity to
fundraising for more eco-friendly hallway water-filling stations.”

-Jen Pollack
Associate Principal


“Jeff Vazzana has been my classroom next door neighbor for the past few years. He has helped
me in many ways especially with Membean questions. I have worked with I’m as a
colleague for along time and he is currently my supervisor in PD 2020. He was encouraging and
helpful throughout the process. Jeff being honored as a Golden Apple Award is well deserved,
but comes as no surprise to me. His students think the world of him and that says everything.”
-Michael Smith
English Teacher

“Mr. Vazzana was always wiling to question ideas that he did not believe in and was willing to
change his practice when he recognized that what he was doing was wrong”

Justin Clark former Shepard assistant principal and current Eisenhower Associate Principal


Mr. Vazzana and I planned Honors English II together last year and we had a blast. I miss collaborating with him every week; he is definitely my go to person for help with developing outside-the-box activities!

Nicole Sonne

English Teacher



Mr. Vazzana as a Golden Apple finalist is further affirmation of what ABS already knows. We know Mr. Vazzana to be a thoughtful dedicated teacher who is focused on helping his students and our school be as successful as we can be.

Andrew Deines

Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction