ERIKA (MATSON) STEPP, a 2013 graduate of DePauw University, has been awarded a 2018 WTHI-TV Golden Apple Award for her distinguished teaching at South Vermillion (IN) Middle School and High School. The award was presented during a  ceremony at Ivy Tech in Terre Haute on May 4.

One of five recipients this year and the youngest teacher so far to have received the award, Stepp was recognized for her outstanding teaching from a field that included an original list of 280 nominees. 

“I have always seen the Golden Apple Award as the top honor for any teacher in our area,” Stepp stated. “My most outstanding teachers in school were winners of this award, and I always held them on a pedestal, both as teachers and mentors to me. I never dreamed in a million years that I would receive this award. Receiving a nomination alone meant the world to me as it meant that I made a difference to at least one student. To be selected as a winner shows me that I’ve created a welcoming place for education where students are enjoying music, and that is all I could have ever asked for! I want all of my students to find the determination to work hard towards their goals, knowing they will be supported in the process to success.” Typical of Stepp’s influence on her students, Laynie Pitts, in her nomination of her teacher, wrote, “She taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes and taught me to believe in myself.”

While working towards her Bachelor of Music Education degree at DePauw School of Music, Stepp served as president, vice president, and treasurer for the DePauw NAfME collegiate chapter. She has also worked with schools in Crawfordsville, Cloverdale and Edgewood. “I greatly enjoyed my studies in performing, especially in the saxophone quartet and large ensembles including the University Band and Jazz Ensemble,” said Stepp.

Currently in her fifth year of teaching in South Vermillion schools, Stepp teaches middle school band classes for grades 6, 7 and 8, and directs the marching, jazz, concert and pep bands at the high school. Her leadership, however, goes well beyond her responsibilities in the music department at South Vermillion. “I am a part of the leadership team, which does many things for the school corporation including promoting for the schools, creating new programs for teachers and students, and building morale for all staff, students and community.” Ultimately, though, Stepp hopes to teach her students life lessons through music: “I want them to appreciate different types of music. I want them to continue to listen to it and talk about it. But I ultimately want them to be responsible. I want them to be good citizens, so when they go out into the world they’re leaders. I want them to be leaders of the next generation.”

The Golden Apple Award, in its 29th year, is a program to recognize outstanding teachers in the Wabash Valley. Applications are available for students, parents and community members to nominate their favorite teachers for the award. A panel of judges, composed of retired teachers and past Golden Apple winners, interview each of the 23 selected finalists, leading to their choice of five winners. The award recipients then are surprised in their classrooms the following week with the award presented by the staff of WTHI.