Highland Park Neighbors Magazine Articles


Sarah Douglas – A Truly Exceptional Teacher!

Highland Park Community Foundation (HPCF) is honored to recognize Sarah Douglas as the 2024 recipient of the HPCF Golden Apple Award! HPCF and a local family foundation initiated the award in 2010 to recognize outstanding teachers in the Highland Park public school system. Nominees must have completed four full years of teaching, and nominations rotate among the elementary, middle, and high school levels of teaching. This year, teachers who work full-time at Highland Park High School were eligible for nomination.

“A Selection Committee, comprised of exemplary current and retired educators, administrators, and former HPCF Golden Apple Award recipients evaluate applications and complete a full day of observation for each of the finalists. The final recipient of the award is chosen based on instruction, content knowledge, student and staff interaction, and contribution to school and community,” said Sara Sher, Chair of the HPCF Golden Apple (HPCFGA) Committee. The committee received many impressive nominations, and after a rigorous and intensive review process, narrowed the nominations to two finalists: Sarah Douglas and Remington Clark. Sarah Douglas was ultimately selected as this year’s recipient.

Sarah Douglas teaches physical education, adaptive physical education, team sports, and traffic safety at Highland Park High School for grades 9-12. With a background in general education, she has gone above and beyond what is expected of her, stepping into the role of a special education teacher as an inclusion modification specialist. As a colleague noted, “Sarah has a gift for making sure that every student, regardless of physical limitations, participates in a meaningful way. She orders special adaptive equipment, makes adaptive equipment out of household items, and celebrates the big and little accomplishments of her students. She made a hockey stick, for example, using part of a typical hockey stick, a pool noodle, and other supplies for a student in a wheelchair.” Recently, Sarah applied and was awarded a grant for a special driving simulator so that all students in her traffic safety class could practice driving in a safe and controlled environment, especially those without access to “at home” supervised practice time.

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“Sarah not only promotes inclusion, but she fosters it in a way that helps students accept inclusion as the norm. Her level of care for her students reaches beyond the classroom; she encourages and sets an example,” stated Sarah’s observation team. A parent also noted how Sarah’s forges “new pathways” for other general education teachers to increase inclusive measures.

Her dedication to inclusivity is not just noticed and appreciated by parents and teachers; the general education students she teaches value her steadfast belief in inclusivity and accept inclusion as the norm. Sarah Douglas has made a lasting impression in the Highland Park High School community, earning the respect of her colleagues, students, and parents through her commitment to ensuring all students feel included and are appropriately challenged in her classroom. As another parent noted, “when a teacher believes in you like Sarah does—she’s like Mary Poppins. She magically makes it happen. Some teachers have it, and Sarah has it.”

Sarah Douglas and Family Members at Surprise Celebration

HPCFGA finalist Remington Clark teaches orchestra and guitar at Highland Park High School. He is known for his engaged and energized classroom environment, which students are drawn to. “His classes have a collaborative feel—like he’s a student with the other kids, and they’re all in this together. He is kind of like the Pied Piper—kids are always following him around,” remarked a parent of one of Remington’s students. Through an enriching teaching style, he enhances both his students’ lives and their academic journeys. “The Mr. Clark effect is his ability to light up a room with his humor, focus, and love for music and the kids,” noted a student.

The HPCF Golden Apple Selection Committee met in early May to determine this year’s recipient and semi-finalist. Sarah Douglas learned that she had been selected as this year’s recipient at a surprise celebration on May 9th, where she was presented with a golden apple statuette and The Sara Sher Excellence in Teaching Prize – a $2,000 honorarium and $500 Apple Store gift card.

HPCF recognizes exemplary teachers to demonstrate the importance of a strong education system in helping young people reach their full potential and in shaping lifelong learners. For more information about past recipients, visit hpcfil.org/awards/golden-applewinners.