Crystal Apple winners announced in virtual ceremony

Brad Nading

Six local educators were honored as Crystal Apple finalists in a ceremony Thursday night in Garden City High School’s auditorium.

The Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce held the ceremony virtually for the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, complete with ceremony participants wearing masks and observing social distancing.

Three GCHS teachers have been chosen as the winners of the award for 2020. They are Yuriy Drubinskiy, Biju Kalarikkal and Jane Schneider.

Several legislators, local business leaders and others, including Randy Watson, commissioner of education for the Kansas State Department of Education, gave brief recorded video comments as part of the ceremony. Principals from each of the schools represented by finalists also had video segments introducing the finalists from their schools.

Each winner gave an acceptance speech after receiving their award. Here’s a small portion of what each said.

“Being part of the education process gives me a special opportunity to have a positive effect on the lives of kids,” Drubinskiy said. “For me, one of the most challenging and exciting parts of this profession is that every day, every class period, brings something new. I’m constantly learning something new about my students, my profession and myself.”

He said he hopes that in a small way he can be a positive part of the generations that will shape the future.

Kalarikkal said he is thankful for the unlimited support he has received in his 15 years in Garden City, after coming from India.

“What a memorable day. I’m really honored. Thanks to present and past students for putting so much energy in me,” Kalarikkal said. “Thanks to this amazing community ... I flew in to Garden City from a better part of half the globe and got such a warm welcome.

“This award means a lot to me. This means more responsibility, more accountability and more energy — energy, no. That’s what my students bring to me.”

Schneider thanked family, friends and colleagues during her acceptance speech.

“Thanks to those that have made my teaching a much more fun experience and seeming so much more enriching. Thank you to the Crystal Apple committee for even considering me to be part of this wonderful group,” she said.

And to her students past and present, Schneider said, “If it weren’t for you, I really wouldn’t be here. I think you are the best and love you very much. I’m a better person because I spent time with you.”

Other finalists for 2020 were A’Lana Bates, Horace Good Middle School; Dianna Deniston, Jennie Wilson Elementary School; and Melissa Hensley, GCHS.

The Crystal Apple committee, made up of volunteers from the local business community, sorted through a total of 158 applications for this year’s contest. For the finalists, the process also involved interviews and classroom observation visits.

This year’s winners each receive an engraved crystal apple, a $1,000 cash award and an iPad tablet. The other finalists each receive a $250 cash award and a certificate.

This year marks the 25th year for the Chamber program, which has recognized 79 educators in Finney County through the years.