Awards Gala

The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools and of the unique bonds that educators and students share.


Amy Krauthamer-Maloney

Huegel Elementary School, Madison, WI
Grades K-5, Resource Specialist
2016, Winter

To close the gaps in opportunity that lead to disparities in achievement, Mrs. Krauthamer-Maloney and Mr. Wilder will form book study groups using Ross Greene’s “Lost at School.” Facilitators will guide staff through the rigors of improving the skills of ... more »

Beth Smith

Frank Elementary School, Kenosha, WI
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

Through “Co-Teaching in the K/1 Looping Classroom,” Mrs. Smith will lead a study group for kindergarten and first grade inclusion classroom teachers and special education support staff. The group will provide educators with tools needed to develop a co-teaching ... more »

Teresa Vance

McLoughlin Middle School, Vancouver, WA
Grades 6-8, School Counselor
2016, Winter

To understand how to implement a framework of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in a middle school better, and how PBIS supports students with disabilities and mental health needs, Ms. Vance will attend the International Positive Behavior Support ... more »

Sonya Grace Saad

Sabin Schellenberg Professional Technical Center, Milwaukie, OR
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

Mrs. Saad will attend a “Making Parenting a Pleasure” training, the Oregon Parenting Educators Conference, and the Zero to Three Conference, which will allow her to train and support teachers in PACE, a program for pregnant and parenting teens. Upon completing ... more »

Beth Mitchell

Ross High School, Hamilton, OH
Grades 9-12, Science
2016, Winter

To promote the use of inquiry and research-based science education, Ms. Mitchell will attend an Earth Expedition field study hosted by Miami University and the Dragonfly Project. Through traveling to one of the global study sites and working side by side with research ... more »

Grant Gigstad

Fargo Public Schools, Fargo, ND
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2016, Winter

Through “Transforming Social Studies Classrooms,” Mr. Gigstad and colleagues will attempt to radically alter student learning through strategic changes in the instructional practices of social studies educators. Teachers will be challenged and guided to alter ... more »

Christine Sugrue

Simon Baruch School, New York, NY
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

To improve student reading, spelling, and writing skills, Mrs. Sugrue and a team of colleagues will participate in the Orton-Gillingham practicum. The learning will be partnered with action research that will assess the most successful methods for improving nonfiction ... more »

Heidi Springborg

MN ISD 196, Apple Valley, MN
Grades K-12, School Counselor
2016, Winter

To help build shared knowledge about ways in which schools can support whole-person identity development, Ms. Springborg will present a session at the National Association of School Psychologists’ annual convention. Participants in the session will learn about an ... more »

Melissa Fija

West Brookfield Elementary School, West Brookfield, MA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2016, Winter

Ms. Melissa Fijal, West Brookfield

4th to 6th Grade Special Education Teacher, West Brookfield Elementary School

Partner: Ms. Nicole Guimond

Grant Amount: $5,000

Ms. Fijal and a group of colleagues will facilitate a study group focusing on co-teaching in the classroom. ... more »

Joanna Gonsalves

Salem State University, Salem, MA
Higher Education, Lecturer
2016, Winter

Dr. Gonsalves will expand a research group that will investigate service learning as a method to support college retention and success, with a focus on first-generation students, low-income students, and students of color. The consortium will be comprised of ... more »

Christine Staugler

Tenney Grammar School, Methuen, MA
Grades K-5, English
2016, Winter

Mrs. Staugler and Ms. Furbush will establish a professional learning community to chart a developmentally appropriate trajectory of academic language, spanning the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The group will examine the intersection of three ... more »

Dr. Lisa Maucione

DeMello School, Dartmouth, MA
Grades K-5, Literacy
2016, Winter

To expand her professional knowledge, Dr. Maucione will attend the International Literacy Association Conference. While there, she will attend workshop that will allow her to learn additional strategies for meeting the needs of diverse learners as they become proficient ... more »

Amanda Murphy

Crofton Middle School, Crofton, MD
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

To improve the performance of struggling learners, Ms. Murphy will provide teacher training on Classroom Response Systems (CRS) throughout the school. During the training, Ms. Murphy will conduct action research in which participants will work to strengthen formative ... more »

Elisabeth Gambino

Bard High School Early College, Baltimore, MD
Higher Education, Arts
2016, Winter

To increase her leadership skills and learn methods of cross-curricular instruction in problem solving, Ms. Gambino will attend the National Art Education Association National Convention. While there, Ms. Gambino will focus on methodology for cross curricular project-based ... more »

Leslie Sutherlin

South Dearborn Community School, Aurora, IN
Grades K-12, Librarian
2016, Winter

To gather techniques, lessons, and curriculum that assist teachers and library paraprofessionals with promoting literacy and meeting standards via technology, Mrs. Sutherlin will attend the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference. Mrs. ... more »

David Carroll

Maplebrook Elementary School, Naperville, IL
Grades K-5, Music
2016, Winter

Mr. Carroll will apply research-based literacy strategies with a randomly assigned sample of band students to investigate whether explicit literacy instruction can improve music reading, and whether music reading can help improve text reading. Mr. Carroll will observe the ... more »

Dr. Brian Whitney

Hidden Springs Elementary School, Garden City, ID
Grades K-5, STEM
2016, Winter

Dr. Whitney will engage with colleagues in a hybrid model of action research through the use of social media, live interactive blogging, conference participation, and collaborative professional development. Live blogging will be used to engage colleagues remotely and allow ... more »

Virginia Schick

Boulder High School, Boulder, CO
Grades 9-12, Arts
2016, Winter

To share three decades of art instruction experience, Ms. Schick will present two workshops, “Boulder Arts Focus Pathway” and “Weaving Math to Make Art,” at the National Art Education Association National Convention. At the convention, Ms. Schick ... more »

Janet Payne

Sycamore Elementary School, Simi Valley, CA
Grades K-5, Literacy
2016, Winter

Using the third grade Units of Study for Reading, Ms. Payne will transform her classroom into a richly literate reading workshop where all students will experience success. By attending the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Summer Institute at Columbia ... more »

Amy Brothers

Miller Elementary School, San Diego, CA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2016, Winter

Ms. Brothers and Ms. Kincaid will lead a team of educators in a collaborative study of mathematical “Big Ideas” to promote conceptual understanding of mathematics as a coherent, connected system for problem solving. The cohort will create a visual representation ... more »

Lisa Esse

Maple Hill Elementary School, Diamond Bar, CA
Grades K-5, STEM
2016, Winter

Mrs. Esse will attend the statewide and national Lead the Way conferences, where she will interact with educators and business leaders to learn best practices in implementing the Project Lead the Way science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum. Mrs. Esse ... more »

David Cedor

Collier Elementary School, Avondale, AZ
Grades K-5, English
2016, Winter

To become immersed in East African and Persian Gulf societies and their Indian Ocean-based historical connections, cultural norms, and educational systems, Mr. Cedor will participate in the Oman-Zanzibar Fulbright-Hays Study Group's seminars, coordinated by the University ... more »

Eli Rosenberg

Main Street Middle School, Montpelier, VT
Grades 6-8, Science
2016, Winter

Mr. Rosenberg and Ms. Chabot will introduce Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling (ARIS), a user-friendly platform for imaging, creating, and playing interactive stories and place-based games on mobile devices. Students will integrate their study of local natural ... more »

Sally Steward

Huntingdon Area Middle School, Huntingdon, PA
Grades 6-8, Library Media Specialist
2016, Winter

To create student innovators and leaders, Mrs. Steward and Ms. DeMatteo will implement Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum through the “STEM Connecting School to Life” program. The team will create classrooms that excite students and ... more »

Salena Minkler

Ocean Crest Elementary School, Bandon, OR
Grades K-5, Special Education
2016, Winter

Through the “I’m Ready!” project, Mrs. Minkler and Ms. Felber will use Ocean Crest Elementary School’s garden to foster greater project-based learning opportunities for students with disabilities. The garden project will act as a catalyst for ... more »

Denise Atkinson

Charlotte Choice Charter School, Charlotte, NC
Grades K-12, Literacy
2016, Winter

Ms. Atkinson and colleagues will introduce the Barton Reading and Spelling Program in their classrooms. Through the program, low performing students will be exposed to curriculum that will assist them in improving performance in reading, spelling, and writing. Student ... more »

Shannon Kelly

Howard T. Herber Middle School, Malverne, NY
Grades 6-8, Science
2016, Winter

Ms. Kelly and colleagues will redesign science curricula according to the Next Generation Science Standards.  The redesign will lead to a Regents-level course based on an inquiry model, wherein students will seek to arrive at their own conclusions based on data ... more »

Denise Leonard

PS 15, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-12, History
2016, Winter

Ms. Leonard and Mrs. Pantuliano will host local history and government puppetry workshops at PS 15. The workshops, which will follow New York State Scope and Sequence Guidelines, will help improve the literacy and oral language skills of English Language Learners by linking ... more »

Judy Cruz

PS 314X, The Fairmont Neighborhood School, Bronx, NY
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2016, Winter

To improve students’ financial literacy skills, Ms. Cruz and Ms. Bellamy will introduce a stock market game and the “Earn Your Future” curriculum to third and fourth grade students.  The programs will help students improve academic performance through ... more »

Susan Benjamin

Little Falls Community Middle School, Little Falls, MN
Grades 6-8, Science
2016, Winter

To improve their abilities to solve problems, students at Little Falls Community Middle School will build and program robots. Students will use an iterative process of designing, testing, redesigning, and retesting as they complete a series of robotics challenges. Students ... more »

Donna McWilliams

Adams STEM Academy, Ypsilanti, MI
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2016, Winter

Through “Mobymax for Emotionally Impaired Students,” Mrs. McWilliams will introduce software that will meet students’ academic, emotional, and social needs. The software will help Mrs. McWilliams mainline emotionally impaired students and support them in ... more »

Lindsey Parker

Adrian Public Schools, Adrian, MI
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2016, Winter

To encourage visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning, Ms. Parker and Ms. McCarbery will introduce tablets in their special education classrooms.  Students will work with a number of apps that will provide alternative forms of mathematics and literacy instruction. ... more »

Kenneth Barnes

Rich East High School, Park Forest, IL
Grades 9-12, Science
2016, Winter

To increase student interest in science, Mr. Barnes will transform his traditional classroom into an inquiry-driven learning environment.  Inquiry-based activities, labs, and assessments aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards ... more »

Christine O’Brien

Minooka Community High School, Channahon, IL
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2016, Winter

To empower students to become lifelong readers, Ms. O’Brien and Mr. Beklen will introduce a library of young adult literature to their classrooms.  Students will study contemporary works of fiction and read and write character analysis.  Multidimensional ... more »

Karen Fothergill

Filer High School, Filer, ID
Grades 9-12, Arts
2016, Winter

Ms. Fothergill and Ms. Pierce will work with students to plan and create a mural at Filer Middle School.  Students will celebrate diversity and history while building a greater appreciation of visual art.  Students will experience the value of art education as ... more »

Charity Tirado

Poinciana Elementary School, Key West, FL
Grades K-5, STEM
2016, Winter

To improve problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills, kindergarten and fourth grade students will work together to complete a rigorous wind turbine project. Students will research turbine designs, record data, and create a movie to document their learning ... more »

Jonathan Georgitis

Centennial Middle School, Boulder, CO
Grades 6-8, Library Media Specialist
2016, Winter

Mr. Georgitis and Ms. McDaniel will create a dedicated, flexible “Makerspace” in Centennial Middle School’s media center. The learning space will allow students and staff to access new technologies while participating in hands-on projects. Additionally, ... more »

Ahbra Sargent

Calle Mayor Middle School, Torrance, CA
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2016, Winter

Mrs. Sargent and Mr. Cunningham will implement the Unique Learning System, a research-based online curriculum developed for students with moderate to severe disabilities. The curriculum will use age-appropriate books to focus on students with cognitive abilities several ... more »

Dr. Barbara Sorter

Val Verde Unified School District, Moreno Valley, CA
Grades K-12, Special Education
2016, Winter

To increase oral language development for students with autism and/or intellectual disabilities, Dr. Sorter and Mrs. Anderson will create a parent resource literacy room.  The resource room will provide parents with training on how to improve students’ ... more »

Joanne Breffle

Templeton High School, Templeton, CA
Grades 9-12, Science
2016, Winter

To further their understanding of robotics, neuroscience, and programming, Templeton High School students will build robots controlled by neuro-cognitive commands. Students will gain hands-on knowledge of robot building and will gain insight into the fields of neuroscience ... more »

Emily Dietrich

Howard Elementary School, Green Bay, WI
Grades K-5, Special Education
2015, Fall

To respond to the needs of select groups of learners, Ms. Dietrich and colleagues will attend Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking training. Through this work, the cohort will gain insight on effective research-based strategies to ensure that students have the ... more »

Jolyn Collie

Clark County Vocational Skills Center, Vancouver, WA
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Fall

After attending the Expeditionary Learning Conference, Mrs. Collie will lead a team of colleagues in developing stronger project based learning (PBL) curriculum for the school. In implementing PBL, Mrs. Collie and her colleagues will look to develop enjoyable, deeper ... more »

Katherine Kauffman

Norwin School District, North Huntingdon, PA
Grades 9-12, Library Media Specialist
2015, Fall

To become more adept at collaboration with teachers on Pennsylvania Core Standards, Ms. Kauffman will attend the American Association of School Librarians Conference and the Pennsylvania Library Association Conference. While attending these conferences, Ms. Kauffman will ... more »

Jennifer Kibler

East Aurora School District, East Aurora, NY
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2015, Fall

Ms. Kibler will lead “Math Beyond the Books,” a highly motivating professional development and instructional initiative aimed at increasing student growth in operations and algebraic thinking. Ms. Kibler will attend the Future of Education Technology Conference, ... more »

Elaine Maldonado

Fashion Institute of Technology - SUNY, New York, NY
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Fall

Through “Pathways to Global Communication,” Ms. Madonado and Dr. Fallon will harness existing global perspectives and resources to the meet the challenge of communicating across cultures on campus. During a series of workshops, faculty will learn teaching ... more »

Christina Gauss

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, Rumson, NJ
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2015, Fall

Ms. Gauss will travel to Cuba for an immersive cultural experience designed specifically for educators. While there, Ms. Gauss will enhance her Spanish language skills while developing a cultural understanding of the Cuban people and their perspective on being at the ... more »

Sharon Galt

Sterling High School, Somerdale, NJ
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2015, Fall

Ms. Galt will create a rigorous curriculum for Spanish students at every level by integrating language into a variety of contexts. Using the Advanced Placement (AP) Themes as a guide, Ms. Galt will travel to South America to immerse herself in language, collaborate with ... more »

Sharry Sparks

Rye Junior High School, Rye, NH
Grades 9-12, Education Support Professional
2015, Fall

Through “Envisioning Stronger Para-Professionals,” Mrs. Sparks and Dr. Richardson will conduct leadership training with para-professionals from multiple school districts, with a focus on districts that lack professional development opportunities. The academy ... more »

Elisabeth Olivera

Springfield Conservatory of the Arts, Springfield, MA
Grades 9-12, Arts
2015, Fall

Ms. Olivera and Dr. Bode will improve their teaching practice through the study of culture, history, and the arts via professional workshops for peer-faculty. After completing the workshops, faculty will establish courses in Afro Caribbean Dance and Music, as well as ... more »

Lisa Savage

RSU #74, Solon, ME
Grades 9-12, Literacy
2015, Fall

To improve writing instruction for all students, Ms. Savage and her colleagues will receive training in using mentor texts and digital platforms. Author Margy Burns Knight and author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien will conduct in-service learning sessions based on ... more »

Join us next year!

Educators from across the country traded their classrooms for a night on stage, where they were honored by more than 850 national education leaders and supporters in Washington, D.C.


Did you attend? Now, you can purchase photos from the evening.



Celebrating 42 educators from across the country

It is our pleasure to distinguish these extraordinary educators with the 2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. These prestigious awards recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. All deserve our recognition and sincere thanks, but we had to choose one for our highest honor.


And the award goes to...

Photo: Esai Morales, award-winning actor and gala host; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Debra McDonald; Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits.














In the evening’s finale, Debra McDonald, an early childhood education instructor at Wayne County Schools Career Center in Smithville, Ohio, took home the top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000! 


Watch Debra McDonald’s acceptance speech below.



Five educators receive top awards

Photo: Dirk Andrews, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (WY); Pam Wells, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (SD); Debra McDonald, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (OH); Crystal Brown, The NEA Foundation Board Chair; Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President; Heather LaBarbara, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (KY); Mohsen Ghaffari, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (UT)





Of the 42 educators honored that night, five also accepted the 2016 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and $10,000, as finalists for the evening’s top honor. Their students could not be more proud of them!


Watch all five videos, which premiered during the gala, that students created using iPads to honor their award-winning educators.


Harriet Sanford shares story of hearing from former student—40 years later

Watch Harriet Sanford, the NEA Foundation's President and CEO, share a heartfelt story about a blast from her past — a text message she received from a student she taught 40 years ago — below.



Hispanic Scholarship Fund honored

Photo: Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Esai Morales, award-winning actor and gala host; Crystal Brown, NEA Foundation Board Chair; Fidel A. Vargas, President and CEO of  the Hispanic Scholarship Fund; Stephen Eulie, Executive Vice President of Consumer Banking, First National Bank of Omaha










The NEA Foundation also presented the Hispanic Scholarship Fund with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, paying tribute to their distribution of more than $470 million dollars in scholarships Latino college-bound students since 1975.


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.


Watch Fidel A. Vargas, President and CEO, accept the award of the behalf of Hispanic Scholarship Fund below.



With host, actor and activist Esai Morales

Photo: Esai Morales, award-winning actor and self-described "actorvist," reads tweets from the audience live on stage: "@MarkMautone: @Esai_Morales you rocked it! Thank you for supporting educators."














This year, Esai Morales, an accomplished actor who appeared in the biopic “La Bamba,” the HBO Series, “The Brink,” and the television series “NYPD Blue” and “Criminal Minds,” served as charismatic emcee and host. Morales cofounded the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, following in the activist footsteps of his mother, who was an organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.


That night, he led guests and those watching the live stream from home or at viewing parties in cheering on the night’s biggest stars.


Special guests take the stage

Photo: Students from the Young People's Chorus of New York City, which now has 1,400 students from New York, ages 7 to 18, participate annually.















With students at the center of public education, a group of English Language Learner students, who participated in a NEA Foundation-funded, high school theater program in Annandale, Virginia, also took center stage to perform Shakespeare. The Young People's Chorus of New York City wowed audiences with renditions from "The Sound of Music," and audiences also enjoyed the music and dance of Furia Flamenca and Torcuato Zamora, an accomplished flamenco guitarist from Spain.


Watch the Young People's Chorus of New York City perform the evening's finale below.



A special thank you to all who helped us celebrate the best in public education! Save the date for next year’s gala on February 10, 2017.