GOLDEN APPLE AWARD: Clarkdale Elementary's Gwen Rockette blooms where she's planted

Cheryl Owens / The Meridian Star

Clarkdale Elementary third graders Kayden Boutwell and Mallory Ethridge are helped with their assignment by teacher Gwen Rockette, the Golden Apple winner for November. 

Bloom where you are planted.

That is the philosophy of Clarkdale Elementary teacher Gwen Rockette – do your best, wherever you are. 

“I challenge my students to grow and I want to see them succeed and flourish as well, not just in my class, but when they leave,” she said.

It’s that kind of belief in her students that earned the third grade teacher the Golden Apple Award for November at a surprise ceremony at the school on Nov. 14.

In a nomination letter, Rockette was described as an inspiration to her students, her colleagues, and others in the community with her infectious smile, her soft voice, and her educational endeavors.

Rockette is a National Board Certified Teacher and serves as a mentor for other teachers working towards acquiring their National Boards.

She has conducted professional learning communities and NCBT summer sessions for the World Class Teaching Program which was sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation. She has also written grants to meet the needs in her classroom.

Rockette, who's been an educator for 15 years, said that even though she came from a long line of teachers and educators she didn’t decide to become a teacher herself until she was entering college.

“I actually considered journalism, because I really love to read and write,” Rockette said. “But, then I changed my mind because I wanted to be able to impact the younger generation and show them how rewarding it can be to have a life enriched by literature.”

Rockette said her favorite thing about teaching is when her students experience that “a-ha” moment.

“It is so gratifying to see the light bulb come on for them and to see them from the beginning of the school year, and the end of the school year –how much they grow in their capacity of knowledge and what they are able to do,” she said.

GOLDEN APPLE AWARD: Clarkdale Elementary's Gwen Rockette blooms where she's planted

Cheryl Owens / The Meridian Star

Clarkdale Elementary School teacher Gwen Rockette, left, accepts the Golden Apple Award from Neil Henry, Meridian Regional President for Citizens National Bank.

High marks

Clarkdale Elementary School Principal Angela McHenry said Rockette is an outstanding representative and truly shows what it means to be a great teacher in every way.

“Her concern for students, willingness to work for them and her passion for continuing to learn are all qualities she displays each day,” McHenry said.

Third graders Heidi Henderson and Kayden Boutwell both agree Rockette deserved the award. 

“She teaches us really good,” Henderson said.

“She is positive and can be really funny at times,” Boutwell said. 

'You play like you practice'

When asked about the third-grade Reading Assessment, Rockette described the tests as trying.

“I describe it to my students like eating an elephant, we do it one bite at a time,” Rockette said. “To know there is a standard, in the end, we must meet and we will get there if we do these certain steps along the way.

“One of my mentors once told me, 'You play like you practice,' so we practice those skills and those things needed to reach success every day.”

Rockette has this advice for anyone wanting to be a teacher: Be flexible and strive to be a life-long learner.

“Everyday you will encounter new challenges,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and use your resources. Don’t be afraid to try something new until you get what that particular group of students need to grasp the concept you are trying to teach them – basically don’t give up.”

The Golden Apple Award

Rockette received a Golden Apple Teacher of the Month Certificate, a $300 cash award, and a $1,000 continuing education voucher for MSU-Meridian, and $1,300 in school supplies.

The presenting sponsor for November was Citizens National Bank.

The eight monthly winners will be invited to the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year banquet and that winner will receive a special award on stage (The Meridian Star article), a custom-made Teacher of the Year Trophy, $2,500 cash to be used at their discretion and a $2,500 scholarship to be awarded to a deserving student in the teacher’s name.

Meridian Community College is the title sponsor. Golden Apple Award Partners in Education key sponsors are The Meridian Star, The Meridian Family of Stations Bounce TV and MeTV of Meridian, EMEPA, Mississippi Power, Citizens National Bank, Mississippi State University-Meridian, Avery Products, Woodstock Furniture. Participating sponsors are Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling, Labiche Jewelers, and College Savings Mississippi.

How to nominate an educator

Nominations for the monthly Golden Apple Award can be submitted by parents, faculty, or community members as well as past or present students. Candidates must be a current, full-time, faculty member in Pre-K through 12th grade (public or private) and work in the following counties: Lauderdale, Neshoba, Kemper, Clarke, and Newton in Mississippi; and Choctaw and Sumter in Alabama.

The nomination process consists of an essay (no more than 500 words) detailing why the person should be considered for the award. Nomination details and an entry form are available online at

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