While I like the symbolism of the person-bowing-deeply emoji, I don’t think it’s quite as intuitive or consistent with the other icons. The apple idea comes from leaving an apple on your teacher’s desk—which has a favorable legacy:
Held up as the paragon of moral fastidiousness, teachers, particularly on the frontier, frequently received sustenance from their pupils. “Families whose children attended schools were often responsible for housing and feeding frontier teachers,” according to a PBS special, titled “Frontier House, Frontier Life.” An apple could show appreciation for a teacher sometimes in charge of more than 50 students.
As such, the apple is a way of showing appreciation for sustenance—intellectual sustenance and engagement.
As I said in my post, I’d leave the ultimate decision up to Medium to choose the right iconography. I just wanted something that could sit next to the heart and chat bubble without being too complex or visually out of place.