At the end of every month during the school year, students and staff at Lakewood Elementary School in Norwalk gather to recognize student achievement.
The Sept. 27 assembly was held outdoors because the Lakewood gymnasium was under construction.
The first thing fifth-grade teacher Matthew Ramthun ’02 noticed when he stepped outside was the presence of several cameras.
“I figured somebody was getting an award,” he said. “So I looked at the other staff members, trying to figure out who it might be.”
He had a much better idea when his wife, Hillarie, three daughters and two-week-old son arrived, followed by a former student and his mother.
A WHO-TV reporter announced that Ramthun was being awarded the station’s “Golden Apple” award for September. The award is sponsored by the station and IMT Insurance.
“I was very shocked, very surprised and very humbled,” said Ramthun, who has taught fifth-graders at Lakewood for 16 years. “There are so many deserving teachers out there, and I felt fortunate, lucky and honored that a student thought enough about me to go through that process. I felt very proud.”
Ramthun joins at least four other Simpson graduates who have received Golden Apple awards: Todd Jones ’95 (awarded in April 1997); Mike Fisher ’06, (September 2009); Shaen Polasky ’07 (April 2014); and Nicole Crawford ’06 (October 2015).
In his nomination letter, Sam Lemke, the former student, praised Ramthun for how he encourages students to believe in themselves.
Ramthun said that’s how he was taught at Simpson.
“Simpson had a huge impact,” he said. “With all the practicum and field experience that I had at Simpson, and the guidance and leadership of the professors, they encouraged me and made me believe I could be a phenomenal teacher.”
When he was in college, Ramthun said, not many males pursued careers in elementary education.
“Simpson encouraged me to believe I could do it.”
It’s a message he wants his students to take to heart.
“I try to be very positive and help them see the positive things in their lives,” he said. “I try to build relationships with them beyond academics. I want to get to know them as a person and what their interests are, so when it’s time to do schoolwork and get to work, hopefully I’ve earned their trust and respect.”
Ramthun’s classroom will soon contain a plaque and a golden apple to show that his approach is working.