Teacher honored with Golden Apple award


Salem kindergarten teacher Kristi Arnoto holds a bouquet of flowers and the first ever Golden Apple Award presented by Salem Rotary members from left, Brad Stephens, President Ryan Crowell, Golden Apple Award Committee Chair Geoff Goll, Gina Dermotta, Kate Oesch and Salem Rotary Foundation President George W.S. Hays. The award was created last fall to honor an outstanding teacher in the Salem City School District. Rotarians, including Superintendent Sean Kirkland and Buckeye School Principal John Lundin, surprised Arnoto at her home Tuesday afternoon. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier

Buckeye kindergarten teacher Christi Arnoto received the sweetest Golden Apple ever Tuesday.

Salem Rotary Club and the Salem Rotary Foundation surprised her with their first ever Golden Apple Award, an honor to recognize “outstanding individuals who devote their lives to teaching in the Salem City School District.”

“The Salem Rotary Club recognizes and deeply appreciates the unique charge these teachers have to the development of each student,” a press release about the award said.

“I am honored. I am so appreciative. I love what I do and it’s a reward in itself,” Arnoto said after the surprise.

Superintendent Sean Kirkland had arranged to stop by her home at noon. Little did she know he would bring a bunch of fellow Rotarians with him, or that Buckeye Elementary Principal John Lundin would lead a parade of 25 cars past her house with people honking, flashing their lights and waving congratulations.

“I couldn’t be prouder of Mrs. Arnoto. She’s a teacher who truly cares about her students and their families. She truly lets her light shine every day,” Lundin said.

“Let your light shine” is a key phrase and practice adopted by the Buckeye staff.

Kirkland said the Golden Apple Award is a great initiative of Salem Rotary. He said he’s honored to be a part of it and likes the fact that they want to honor district teachers such as Arnoto.

“She truly cares about her kids and what’s best for them. When it’s genuine like that, people recognize it,” he said.

Arnoto is Salem born and bred. A lifelong resident, she graduated from Salem High School in 1998, earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Youngstown State University in 2003, and received a Master of Education degree in reading specialization from Kent State University in 2008.

She was first hired by the Salem school district in 2005 to teach third grade when it was still at Buckeye, then in 2006 she joined the team of kindergarten teachers at Buckeye and has taught kindergarten the past 14 years.

Her sister, Kelly Paxson, also teaches kindergarten, in the Leetonia school district.

Arnoto and her husband, Mat, live in the Salem school district and are raising three sons.

With the schools shut down and operating through distance learning the last few months, she said she missed her students. “That’s the best part of the job, the kids,” she said.

Golden Apple Award Committee Chairman Geoff Goll presented her with the Golden Apple Award. She was also given a bouquet of flowers and red and black balloons from the committee, which included Gina Dermotta, Brad Stephens, Kate Oesch and Joe Hovorka.

George W.S. Hays, president of the Salem Rotary Foundation, presented Kirkland with a check for $500 to be used to help upgrade her classroom. Ryan Crowl, president of the Salem Rotary Club, presented Arnoto with a separate check for $500 as part of her award.

Goll read from the nomination form, saying that “literacy is a constant goal in Mrs. Arnoto’s classroom. She has created a program to supply each of her students with a collection of Scholastic books. The collection is distributed throughout the school year and becomes the property and responsibility of each child. As a volunteer at Buckeye, I have seen the excitement and enthusiasm for reading that this effort creates in Mrs. Arnoto’s students. The Scholastic program is her own effort and not currently funded by any school district dollars.”

The press release also said that “Goll reiterated that the apple award was presented for generations past, present and future and that the apple is an expression of respect, gratitude and love for those special people that have helped guide us, shape us and make a difference in our lives. The Salem Rotary Club wishes Mrs. Arnoto good health and joy.”

Before leaving, a group of Rotary members gave Arnoto signs that she had her students sign as a thank you to the Rotary for a previous good deed. They felt she should have them back.

She couldn’t stop thanking them.



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