Unander and Tyler were two of ten Golden Apple recipients this year, chosen from 550 Illinois teachers nominated for their hard work and dedication. This is the first year the Golden Apple Foundation extended the competition state-wide.
Unander, who teaches math at Lake View on Chicago's North Side, said she almost called out on Tuesday due to a foot injury.
"I needed to be there for them. We were doing similar triangles today. I couldn't miss that," Unander said.
"There was a moment yesterday when I heard Erin was injured. I was afraid she wasn't coming to school today, but Erin said, 'No, I have too much to do with my students. I can't possibly miss school,'" said Paul Karafiol, Lake View's principal.
While Unander didn't expect the honor, her students were not surprised at all.
"I'm really proud of her. I know she's been working really hard for this. She's been trying everything. Even with the boot, hurt and all, she's been working really hard," said Mia Racines, a sophomore at Lake View.
"What I think is most important is that Erin is now going to become a member of the Academy of Educators. So what that means, is that she will be helping prepare that next generation of teachers in Illinois to teach in schools of need," said Alan Mather, president of the Golden Apple Foundation.
Judy Tyler, who teaches AP Biology at Maine East in north suburban Park Ridge, was also surprised with her Golden Apple award. She was completely shocked and moved to tears.
"A lot of people in this building deserve to be recognized, because they're hardworking, dedicated - this building is so dedicated to their students. I share it with everyone," Tyler said.
District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace said Tyler is "the epitome of a teacher."
Unander and Tyler received a spring sabbatical from Golden Apple partner Northwestern University at no cost and a $5,000 cash prize.
To find out more about the Golden Apple Foundation and this year's winners, visit www.goldenapple.org.