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John B. Murphy Elementary School Teacher Wins Golden Apple Award And $5,000

“It’s a tremendous honor and I hope to do you all proud," Jenine Wehbeh told colleagues Friday morning.

Jenine Wehbeh has been teaching social studies to 7th and 8th grade students at John B. Murphy Elementary School, 3539 W. Grace St., for the past four years.
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IRVING PARK — John B. Murphy Elementary School teacher Jenine Wehbeh has won a Golden Apple Award thanks to her passion for social justice.

Wehbeh was among the 30 finalists in the state nominated for a Golden Apple award this year. 

Golden Apple is a nonprofit committed to supporting teachers recognized for their lasting, positive effects on students’ lives and school communities. This year’s finalists were selected from a field of 732 nominations received from 64 counties in Illinois. 

Wehbeh has been teaching social studies to 7th and 8th grade students at John B. Murphy Elementary School, 3539 W. Grace St., for the past four years. 

Credit: alex v. hernandez/block club chicago
Jenine Wehbeh

“It’s a tremendous honor and I hope to do you all proud. The people at my school are the reason I can be the educator I am. They encourage me on a regular basis,” Wehbeh said in a Zoom call with other Murphy teachers Friday. “Sometimes my ideas are off the wall but they back me 100 percent.”

Wehbeh bases her curriculum around her students’ experiences and the questions they have about the world around them. This has led to class discussions on immigration, preserving DACA, restorative justice and restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people. 

She’s established a peer conference student group and helped train the students to mediate conflict and reduce harm in their school community. She also helps facilitate student-led projects like a mock trial of Christopher Columbus. 

Immigration is also a topic that hits close to home for Wehbeh. She’s Palestinian and was born in Lebanon. Her family lived in Syria before they came to the U.S. as refugees in 1995 when she was seven.

Wehbeh credits Murphy’s dedication to being a neighborhood school that doesn’t shy away from restorative justice and pushes equity as why she’s been successful as a teacher.

“I’m truly humbled and blessed to be part of the Murphy community. It means a lot to me,” Wehbeh said.

Fellow educators, students, parents and community members nominate teachers for the awards. Teachers may not self-nominate.

“We look forward to Jenine Wehbeh joining our mission to prepare the next generation of highly effective teachers for Illinois schools through our Scholars and Accelerators programs,” Alan Mather, Golden Apple’s president, said in a statement.

Golden Apple recipients receive a $5,000 cash award. Northwestern University, Golden Apple’s partner, will also provide a spring sabbatical to award recipients at no cost.

“Both Northwestern and Golden Apple are dedicated to developing teachers who will transform the lives of their students and we are proud to host these master teachers on the next step in their professional journeys in education,” said Timothy Dohrer, director of the Master of Science in Education program at Northwestern University.

3 North Side Teachers With A Passion For Social Justice Nominated For Golden Apple Awards

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