Perseverance and the silver lining were very much the themes to Stephanie Langstraat’s nomination letters for the Golden Apple award, a recognition given out once a month to an Iowa educator who performs above and beyond the call of duty.
The middle school principal from the Prairie City-Monroe district was held up high by nine different students who, when assigned to think of a strong leader in the community, selected Langstraat for her work in the school.
Each student compared Langstraat to a different historical leader, one drawing a parallel to Harriet Tubman as she discussed her fearless demeanor in the face of the school’s bomb threat last school year.
“When we had the bomb threat, she was calm and kept us on our toes,” the letter read. “She took charge and made sure we were all safe. Following the plan set in place with her in charge made us very safe, and I feel comfortable saying I trust her with my life, as we very well did that day.”
Other students acknowledged the principal’s strength in the face of the Stage IV lung cancer she battled last year, talking about how her concern remained with her students throughout the process and how she kept them up-to-date on her treatment and successes.
As for Langstraat, she was visibly shocked at the thunderous applause that greeted her upon entering the award ceremony. When she took the stage, her first move was to share the credit with the rest of the faculty and staff of the district.
“I don’t take credit for a whole lot of things … I’m a team player,” Langstraat said. “Those shirts they’re wearing, ‘No one will fight for our students like us,’ that’s the truth … All those teachers in the back, they deserve this too.”
She went on to explain the school is her second family, education her true calling, and that she saw herself as being the fortunate one for getting to wake up each day and go to a job she loved.
The Golden Apple Award is given by WHO-HD and Allied Insurance once a month to an educator who is nominated by his or her students. The organizations receive thousands of letters each year, judge each one, and have to narrow the field to the person who they deem is the best fit for the recognition.