Huffington Post Blog: A Good Start for Schools and Students

By Harriet Sanford
President & CEO
The NEA Foundation

“It’s no surprise that too many students start each school year without the supplies they need, or walk into classrooms that don’t have the resources required for a productive year. For anyone who knows a teacher, it’s also no surprise that they reach into their own pockets to help meet these needs. The extent to which they do so, however, never fails to astound me.

According to a 2013 study, teachers spent $1.6 billion of their own money on supplies for their classrooms

Lessons Learned: On second chances and hope— through education

Tell us about your plans for your NEA Foundation funded grant project.

The grant provided funding for me to attend the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) Convention. For four days, I was immersed in learning and surrounded by people who

Lessons Learned: Relationships with students and families shine positive light on classroom environment

Tell us about your plans for your NEA Foundation grant project.

"STEM Scientists" is a program that has created a hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classroom environment for kindergarten and ESL classes. Students have

Lessons Learned: Grantee Jenna Hixson says her students can’t just watch a movie anymore

Tell us about your plans for your NEA Foundation grant project.

Half of my students are economically disadvantaged and have no access at home to literature. So I decided to use my NEA Foundation grant to combine the higher-level thinking skill

Grantee wins Kindle Fire for “flipping” students’ world

What does it mean to flip a classroom? Emily Brill, of Keystone Oaks School District in Pittsburgh, PA, found out after attending workshops hosted by the Flipped Learning Network and funded by a $2,000 NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grant.


Grantee wins Kindle Fire for anti-bullying video

Nate Edwards, a mathematics teacher at Poplar Bridge Elementary School in Bloomington, MN, realized while traveling the world that he could use puppets to connect with people across language and cultural barriers.

Why not use puppets to help his

Lessons Learned: Grantee Leslie Chekin shakes up Shakespeare for English Language Learners

Tell us about your plans for your NEA Foundation grant project.

Our NEA Foundation grant project is “Using Shakespeare to Teach Vocal Technique to English Language Learners.”  While producing an adapted version of Shakespeare's

Lessons Learned: Grantee Susan Anglada Bartley challenges students to enroll in AP courses— and succeed

Tell us about your plans for your NEA Foundation grant project.

We have used our NEA Foundation grant to support our nationally recognized Advanced Scholar Program (ASP). The ASP students take four or more Advanced Placement (AP) courses throughout

Lessons Learned: Grantee Mary Ann Giasson hooks students with SciFi

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The NEA Foundation grant has been used to fund our “March Community Read.” This event allowed us to put Rick Yancey’s novel, “The 5th Wave” into the hands

Four places for ESPs to find funding

By Jesse Graytock
Grants Manager

Education support professionals (ESPs) play a vital role in America’s public schools, and like their colleagues in the classroom, they often find themselves without the funds necessary to implement great ideas. School nurses, para-educators,

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Celebrate the best of public education with us. Reserve your seats now!

Watch the event!

Did you miss the live stream of the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 13, 2015? Now, you can watch the event in its entirety right here!


As one of the most prestigious awards events in public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala attracts more than 800 national education leaders and supporters to honor these educators each year in Washington, D.C. 


Did you attend the gala? View and purchase photos from the event.


Celebrating 39 educators from across the country

This year, 39 educators selected by their peers received the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. In addition to these awards, the following top honors were presented.


Who won the evening’s top honor?

Terri Butts, a curriculum effectiveness specialist for the Richland 2 Child Development Center in Columbia, SC, and a member of the South Carolina Education Association, received the evening's top honor: The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000. This award recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession.


Butts and four other educators also received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. These five educators were finalists for the evening's top award.


Watch Terri Butts' acceptance speech below. 




Photo (left to right): Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Terri Butts; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation




Five educators receive top awards

These five extraordinary educators from across the country received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, and found themselves finalists for the evening’s top award. And their students have already benefitted. Each class received digital arts training from Scena Media to produce a video, which premiered at the gala, to honor their award-winning teachers.


Photo (left to right): John Stocks, NEA Executive Director; Crystal Brown; Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Awardee Allison Riddle (UT); Awardee Anna Baldwin (MT); Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of the Horace Mann Educators Corporation; Awardee Crystal Williams Gordon (LA); Awardee Terri Butts (SC); Awardee Richard Erickson (WI)


Watch all of the student-made videos below. 


Beloved children’s book author, the late Walter Dean Myers, and author and illustrator son, Christopher Myers honored

The NEA Foundation also presented award-winning children’s author, Walter Dean Myers, posthumously, and his son, award-winning illustrator and author, Christopher Myers, with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, honoring their lifelong contributions to children’s literature. 


The father-son duo collaborated on stories for and about children of color who don’t see themselves reflected in children’s literature. According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, only 93 of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 were about black people. In an op-ed for the New York Times in March 2014, Walter Dean Myers wrote, “What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?”


Their collaborative works include “Jazz,” a winner of the Coretta Scott King award for illustration, “Harlem,” a Caldecott Honor book, “Blues Journey,” and “We are American: a tribute from the heart,” to name a few.


This award recognizes individuals and organizations for their lifelong commitment to advancing public education and is typically presented to those who work outside the field. Awardees have included former President Bill Clinton, Title IX advocate Billie Jean King, and Sesame Workshop.

In honor of Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers, and their wonderful family, First Book dedicated a gift of 5,000 brand new books to children in need across the country. First Book is a social enterprise that currently serves more than 155,000 programs and classrooms serving children in need ages 0-18 years of age. First Book hopes that everyone serving children in need will join their network and continue to grow the Myers' family legacy of high quality, diverse content for all children.


Watch Christopher Myers' acceptance speech.  


 Photo (left to right): Donna Meacham Blackman, Member of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Crystal Brown, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Honoree Christopher Myers, award-winning illustrator and author; Lily Eskelsen García, NEA President; Stephen Eulie, Executive Vice President Consumer Banking of First National Bank of Omaha



Hosted by actress and activist Anne-Marie Johnson

Anne-Marie Johnson, who most recently appeared in the TNT series, "Murder in the First," and is best known for her role as Althea Tibbs on the hit television series, "In the Heat of the Night," and as a cast member of the sketch comedy series, "In Living Color," hosted the event.  


Johnson helped celebrate exceptional public school educators alongside more than 50 student performers— many of whom are past NEA Foundation gala stars, invited back for an encore.


Photo (left to right): Awardee Allison Riddle (UT); Awardee Anna Baldwin (MT); Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of the Horace Mann Educator Corporation; Anne-Marie Johnson, actress and activist; Awardee Crystal Williams Gordon (LA); Awardee Terri Butts (SC); Awardee Richard Erickson (WI)


Students take the stage for return performances

From Montgomery County, Maryland, the Sogo African Rhythm Ensemble of 35 drummers and dancers from Forest Knolls Elementary, who performed at last year’s gala, took the stage under the direction of educator, Lou Persic.


Also returning this year was Blessed Sheriff, a young poet, who performed two original poems with last year’s gala host, Tony Award-winning actress, Phylicia Rashad, of “The Cosby Show” fame. Sheriff performed her tribute to the Walter Dean Myers alongside Joseph Morag, a violinist and first chair and concertmaster of the New York Youth Symphony. A second tribute to Myers came from young writers from Lee County, Florida, who performed an interpretation of Walter Dean Myers’ acclaimed book, “The Story of the Three Kingdoms.”


Memorable performances also include Brooklyn-based singer and Princeton musicology doctoral student, Cory Hunter, who is lead soloist of the Boys Choir of Harlem, as well as the Counterpoints, directed by Michael Raunik, from Indianapolis, Indiana, who have been ranked the nation’s top concert show choir.


Watch Blessed Sheriff and Joseph Morag's performance below.


Photo (left to right): Cory Hunter, student performer; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Blessed Sheriff, student performer


A special thank you to all who helped us celebrate the best in public education! Save the date for next year’s gala on Feb. 12, 2016.