When Principal Phyllis Cavallone-Jurek entered the cafeteria of St. Therese Chinese Catholic School in Chinatown on March 23 she faced a dozen news cameras and CBS anchor Rob Johnson who broke the news that she won the Golden Apple Stanley C. Golder Award for Excellence in Leadership. Immediately the over 300 students gathered behind the media started cheering and screaming. It was a surprise announcement. Earlier in the day Cavallone-Jurek’s husband pretended he had an appointment he wanted her to attend and took her away from the school for a few hours while preparations were made. Reacting to the announcement Cavallone-Jurek broke out in tears and covered her face with her hands. The students waved gold pompons and flags with both the school and Golden Apple logos. Johnson asked her how she felt. “I feel so blessed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said. Both Cardinal Cupich and Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic Schools, were on hand to congratulate her. Cavallone-Jurek is the first Catholic school principal to receive the award. In his remarks, Cardinal Cupich recognized the valuable work of all teachers and principals. “Let us always remember that the work that they do is very honorable, that it is preparing the next generation and building up society,” he said “As we treasure their work, let us always be grateful for the many sacrifices that they make.” In her remarks to the students and staff she said she was shocked they were able to pull off the surprise announcement and was moved by the gesture. “You touch my heart and you touch my soul. I’m so happy to come to work each day,” she said. Cavallone-Jurek is credited with saving St. Therese Chinese Catholic School. She came to the school in 2004 when enrollment was just 140 children. Today the school has over 300 enrolled and a waiting list. Under her leadership the school has received numerous local and national awards for excellence including the Blue Ribbon School Award in 2011. As part of the Golden Apple award, Cavallone-Jurek receives $10,000 for her own professional development and a school project of her choosing. On May 20, she will join the 10 teachers who won Golden Apples this year on WTTW/Channel 11 for a special broadcast featuring the winners.