CHICAGO (CBS) — Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching award winners are being announced this week, and among the first was a teacher on the city’s South Side.

Gillespie School 1st grade teacher Monica Prinz was surprised by Mayor Emanuel who gave her the word she’s won a Golden Apple for excellence in teaching.

The mayor noted that, although the award comes with $5,000 and a chance to study for a semester at Northwestern University, “None of the rewards measure up to the reward you do for the city of Chicago.”

Prinz says she loves what she does. Until 10 years ago, she says she was in the healthcare field but says her passion for young people led her to teaching.

Gillespie Principal Michelle Willis says Prinz constantly is going above and beyond, receiving a grant for five thousand books for her school, another grant for a field trip to the zoo and planting a garden on school grounds to teach about different healthy foods.

Monica Prinz’s husband, Jim, says his wife often stays up until 11 at night grading papers and coming up with new ideas for her classroom.

Monica Prinz is modest about it all, saying, “I don’t know that I’m really all that special, honestly. I just really enjoy the kids and try to do my best every day.”

The Golden Apple award ceremony for Monica Prinz and nine other Chicago area teachers is in September.

Watch & Listen LIVE