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Awards & Certifications

We are proud of the recognition our students, faculty, academic program, and facilities have garnered over the years. Below find just a sampling of some recent GEMS World Academy Chicago successes and certifications.


  • International Baccalaureate World School: GEMS World Academy Chicago is an International Baccalaureate World School for the IB's Primary Years Program (preschool through grade 5) and Middle Years Program (grades 6 through 10). Being an IB World School means our approach and performance meet the IB's rigorous standards. 
  • Apple Distinguished School: GEMS World Academy Chicago was designated as an Apple Distinguished School in 2016 and renewed in 2018. The designation celebrates the creative way we utilize technology throughout the curriculum and our continued commitment of leading through innovation.
  • GEMS World Academy Chicago is a candidate for NEASC accreditation. 

Student Honors

GEMS World Academy Chicago students have been honored for their work in a variety of ways. Here are just a few recent examples:

  • The National Merit Scholarship Program has recognized senior student, Melanie R., for outstanding performance on the PSAT. Melanie’s academic achievement is held by less than 1.5% of students nationally. Every year, senior students who scored in the 99th percentile of test takers in the country are awarded with the National Merit Commendation. 2020
  • Jeelani S. '24 won Outstanding Delegate at the Model U.N. conference. Eight students participated with four receiving Honorable Mention, 2019
  • Ivy C. '24 qualified for the National MathCon competition. In total, there were 47,194 students competing online across the United States, and 900 students were invited to advance to finals in Chicago, Illinois, 2019
  • A fifth grader earned multiple honors as a member of the GEMS Math Team, culminating in his qualifying for the Math League National Championship at Texas A&M University, 2019
  • GEMS ninth grader chosen to be part of a curated art show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 2018
  • GEMS ninth grader part of winning team in Global Design Challenge, 2018
  • Two seventh graders win first-place prize in Google film festival, 2018
  • Three sixth graders were named finalists in global innovation contest, 2017
  • Six middle school Spanish students earned superior rankings at the annual poetry contest organized by the Chicago chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, 2016
  • Photographs taken by two sixth graders were selected as "noteworthy photos" in an international photography class called Phonar Nation, 2015

Faculty Honors

  • Dr. Kim Hedlin, Middle School Literature Teacher, was selected to participate in a 5-day intensive summer seminar hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center. The seminar is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “Landmarks of American History and Culture” program. Click here to read more. 
  • Congratulations to Cindy Rigling, Head of Lower School, and Tracey Wood, Head of Upper School on their recent publication!
    International Schools Journal recently published their article: "Commitment to Culture, Conventions and Creativity during the Coronavirus Pandemic: A School’s Journey."
    The article provides an overview of the work our faculty did to make our remote learning experience successful and the school’s commitment to maintain GEMS values and high standards for teaching and learning. Here is a link to the article.
  • Peg Keiner, our director of innovation, was named an Apple Distinguished Educator. Apple created the ADE program in 1994 to honor those educators who use technology in innovative ways to transform learning.
  • Several teachers have earned National Geographic Teacher Certification or are working toward it: Martha Seixas, Ben Hollister, Heather Prekop, Peg Keiner, and Taneal Sanders.
  • French teacher Suzanne Giacotto won the 2019 Prix d'Excellence du Chapitre award for excellence in teaching from the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF).
  • Spanish teacher Sandra Tapia-Diaz won Golden Apple Teacher-Scholar and National Spanish Exam and The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) Scholar. 

Facilities & Design

The striking, vertical GEMS World Academy campus in the Lakeshore East neighborhood has won several prestigious architecture awards and commendations since the school opened in the fall of 2014.

  • The Mies van der Rohe Citation of Merit for Innovation from the Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
  • The Award of Merit in the K–12 Education category of the annual Engineering News Record (ENR) Midwest's Best Projects Competition.
  • Featured site at the Open House Chicago Architectural Tour, an event organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
  • Selected as ASA Chicago’s Outstanding Project of 2014–2015.
  • Featured article in Architectural Record Magazine titled “Schoolhouse Rock: A private day school in downtown Chicago makes the most of its park-side southern exposure to bring light into the building.”

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