John Oleson Apple

2017 Teacher: John Oleson

John Oleson

5th Grade at
Vandenberg Elementary

“There’s a spark in each kid. They all learn differently, at their own paces and with their own styles. My job is to discover who they are as humans and as children. My job is to reach them, to form relationships. To form a connection with each one.”


At the age of 30, “Mr. O.” was diagnosed with Stage-4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After six months of intense chemotherapy, with a 50/50 chance of survival, he credits his recovery to his outlook on teaching—and on life in general.

“I am now 18 years’ cancer free, but what I got out of this was a new beginning to life,” John says. “I see life differently now, and I don’t take things for granted—which is what I bring into my classroom. I teach my students that each day is a new day, just like a slate; I can wipe it clean and start the next day with a better attitude and a new beginning. I teach my students to live life to the fullest and to never let anything slow them down.”

Mr. O. prepares for lessons late into the evening and provides school supplies, clothes, food, or just a listening role model. His biggest fan and support system is his wife, Alice. “From going to baseball games, hockey games, recitals, and concerts, there is nothing ‘Mr. O.’ wouldn’t do for his cherubs,” she says. “John embraces life’s journey, his faith and love for family, and all things that encompass education—all of which have made him into the amazing person he is today,” Alice adds. “He is an amazing father, husband, mentor, role model, friend…and one amazing teacher.”


Photo by Jesse Brown Nelson Photography