Awards Gala

Known as the Academy Awards of public education, 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.


Nicole Peterson

West Fargo High School, West Fargo, ND
Grades 9-12, Physical Education / Health
2014, Fall

To improve the variety of dance offerings in her physical education classes, Mrs. Peterson will attend the National Dance Education Organization’s National Conference. While there, Mrs. Peterson will work with colleagues to improve her collaboration with other ... more »

Colleen McDonald

Cambridge Central School, Cambridge, NY
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. McDonald and Ms. Goss will create a diverse library that will support continued learning by providing accessible resources and targeted study topics. Teachers will be empowered to lead change through the development of professional learning communities, embrace ... more »

Joanne Szegedi

Lowell Elementary School, Bellingham, WA
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2014, Fall

Through “iPads as Instructional Tools,” elementary school para-educators will train middle school para-educators to use tablets as instructional tools. This model of learning and leadership will provide strong professional development for staff and continuity ... more »

Whitney Stafford-Najibi

Westmoore High School, Oklahoma City, OK
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2014, Fall

Mrs. Stafford-Najibi will improve her professional practice by attending the American Council on Teaching Foreign Language Convention. While there, Mrs. Stafford-Najibi will attend sessions focused on integrating global competence into curriculum. Upon completion, Mrs. ... more »

Adam Kinory

The School of the Future, New York, NY
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

Mr. Adam Kinory, New York

10th Grade Language Arts Teacher, The School of the Future

Partner: Mr. Joshua Hurley-Bruno

Grant Amount: $5,000

To directly address achievement gaps, Mr. Kinory and Mr. Hurley-Bruno will develop a school-wide culture of teacher-led professional ... more »

Susan Kellner

H.O. Brumsted Elementary, Holland, NY
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Fall

To learn strategies to assist struggling readers, Mrs. Kellner will work with a Fellow from the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Mrs. Kellner will use the Orton-Gillingham method of learning with her first grade students, particularly those who ... more »

Filomena Vine

Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Ms. Vine will attend the iNACOL Blended Online Learning Symposium, at which she will learn methods to individualize instruction. Ms. Vine will attend workshops that will enable her to implement competency-based learning programs that provide equity through innovative ... more »

Daniel Boster

Ralston High School, Ralston, NE
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

Mr. Boster and Mr. Jensen will work with educators in language arts classrooms in middle schools, high schools, and community colleges to study and develop mindful writing pedagogy. The cohort will create and maintain humane pedagogy that will prepare students for required ... more »

Jeanne Wiley

Miami R-I School District, Amoret, MO
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Fall

Ms. Wiley will attend a Comprehensive Orton-Gillingham training, which will enable her to train and support teachers to implement research-based instructional practices. Upon completion of the training, Ms. Wiley will share the process with colleagues and ensure fidelity of ... more »

Dr. Marlena Bravender

Saginaw Valley State University, University Center, MI
Higher Education, Lecturer
2014, Fall

Dr. Bravender and Ms. Martin will explore effective ways to integrate virtual simulations in Spanish foreign language lessons to mimic authentic foreign language experiences. Through this action research, the cohort will create and distribute lessons that engage middle ... more »

Kara Clayton

Thurston High School, Redford, MI
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To learn about models that allow students to use digital tools to improve literacy skills, Mrs. Clayton will attend the Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island. Mrs. Clayton will participate in seminars focusing on how to assist students in choosing ... more »

Tod Wolfgram

New Haven High School, New Haven, MI
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Fall

To explore the civic mission of schools in the 21st century, Mr. Wolfgram will join social studies educators from around the world at the National Council for Social Studies Annual Conference. While at the conference, Mr. Wolfgram will learn about the College, Career, and ... more »

Jennifer Espinoza

Banneker Middle School, Burtonsville, MD
Grades 6-8, Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. Espinoza and Ms. Holmes will develop leadership training and professional learning opportunities for Montgomery County Public Schools visual arts teachers. The program will support academic excellence, creative problem solving, and social emotional learning for all ... more »

Laura Brino

Wiley H. Bates Middle School, Annapolis, MD
Grades 6-8, Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. Brino, with the assistance of a group of highly qualified teaching artists, will lead a school-wide professional development program. Educators will use various arts techniques in their classrooms to provide natural, meaningful connections between art forms and other ... more »

Andrew Hirshman

Mundelein High School, Mundelein, IL
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Mr. Hirshman and Mr. Anderson will lead an interdisciplinary team of educators in developing a “Future Selves” curriculum intervention and train fellow educators on its potential classroom uses. The training will focus on enabling educators to encourage students ... more »

Dr. Sandy Cameli

West Hawaii School District, Kailua Kona, HI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Through “iMentor,” veteran educators will use tablet technology to work with first-year teachers to record evidence and collect classroom data. The project will bridge generations of educators and allow them to collaborate to improve learners’ futures. ... more »

Valerie Ledford

Lake Nona High School, Orlando, FL
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Mrs. Ledford will lead a collaborative team of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the use of lesson study to practice and analyze differentiated small group strategies in mathematics. Student data will be analyzed throughout, with the goal of seeing an overall ... more »

Karen Dipres

Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Bear, DE
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Fall

Mrs. Dipres, Mrs. Barnett, and their colleagues will plan, create, reflect, and revise lessons in accordance with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The group will align Smarter Balanced vocabulary, formatting, and depth of knowledge to increase instructional ... more »

Katherine Franssen

North Arvada Middle School, Arvada, CO
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Fall

Mrs. Franssen and Mrs. Clarke will lead an action research program that will study the effectiveness of ALEKS and Khan Academy as online supplemental math interventions. The cohort will determine which supplement is the most effective in raising scores, causing growth, and ... more »

Dr. Diane Sharken Taboada

Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Concord, CA
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Fall

Through “Yo Soy Bilingue–I am Bilingual,” Dr. Taboada and Ms. Vizcay will establish written protocols for the analysis of student writing in Spanish and English, which will in turn guide the development and distribution of a set of model literacy lessons ... more »

Dr. Mark Walling

East Central University, Ada, OK
Higher Education, Lecturer
2014, Fall

Through “Walking the Brain,” Dr. Walling’s capstone course students will track academic success with the amount of work completed on treadmills. During the class, Dr. Walling will monitor student achievement and the time students spend on the treadmills. ... more »

Peter Moran

Frenchtown School, Frenchtown, NJ
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mr. Moran’s students will monitor the Delaware River for cleanliness and sustainability for natural inhabitants. Student will work collaboratively to investigate the effects local farm runoff has had on the wildlife in and near the river. Upon completion of the ... more »

Karen Sizemore

Rocky Branch Elementary, River Falls, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mrs. Sizemore and Mrs. Lenneman will introduce tablets for computer programming instruction. Students will learn basic practices, including coding, looping, decomposition, and abstracting. Ultimately, students will use their newly acquired skills to accomplish individual ... more »

Marc Coyner

Horizons Elementary School, Lacey, WA
Grades K-5, Librarian
2014, Fall

To promote school wide positive behavior, Mr. Coyner and Ms. Cameron will assist students in making short films. Students will be encouraged to seek out unique places and perspectives for filming and will plot, script, film, edit, and upload their creations. The films will ... more »

Karen Ciotta

Epes Elementary School, Newport News, VA
Grades K-5, English
2014, Fall

Mrs. Ciotta’s and Mrs. McEaddy’s English language learners (ELLs) will participate in daily learning opportunities that incorporate innovative education apps via a set of classroom tablets. Apps designed specifically with ELLs in mind will allow students to ... more »

Stefanie Root

Dixon-Smith Middle School, Fredericksburg, VA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Fall

Ms. Root, Ms. Carson, and colleagues will use iPads to implement the Khan Academy app as a student centered remediation tool. This series of activities will allow students in special education and general education settings to receive a tiered intervention plan specific to ... more »

Kerrin Flanagan

CP Smith School, Burlington, VT
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Fall

Mrs. Flanagan, Mrs. Tetrault, and colleagues will develop an emergent reading program for kindergarten students. The program will allow students to progress at their own pace and improve overall literacy skills. Through parent volunteers, the reading program will create ... more »

Michael Fricko

Redbank Valley School District, New Bethlehem, PA
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mr. Fricko and Mr. Bundy will introduce live-streaming, authentic and virtual set design, animation, and additional aspects of video production in their broadcast journalism curriculum. Daily news production, in-depth reporting, and special event broadcasting will be ... more »

Dave Boyer

Kernersville Middle School, Kernersville, NC
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Fall

Mr. Boyer and Mr. Shu will guide students through an inquiry-based learning project that will allow students to answer questions about soil formation, classification, measurement, and stewardship. Labs will get students engaged and excited about learning and provide ... more »

Karen Paine

James PB Duffy School #12, Rochester, NY
Grades K-5, English
2014, Fall

The English for Speakers of Other Languages Department at James PB Duffy School #12 will develop language learning center kits for classroom teachers who have beginning-level newcomers. Ms. Paine will train her colleagues to use the materials during a professional ... more »

Kristen Gloumakoff

IS 259 William McKinley, Brooklyn, NY
Grades 6-8, Librarian
2014, Fall

Ms. Gloumakoff and Mr. Speranzo will collaborate on a pilot research skills program using the Independent Investigation Method. In the year-long class, students will learn research skills, responsible use of technology, and presentation skills. Students will be encouraged ... more »

Steven Quinn

Milford School, Milford, NJ
Grades 6-8, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Mr. Quinn's classroom will monitor the Delaware River for cleanliness and sustainability for natural inhabitants. The class will use a hands-on approach when testing the river water, and students will work with neighboring schools along the Delaware River and across the ... more »

Jacqueline Winn

Concord High School, Concord, NH
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Fall

Through “Opening New Doors,” English language learners will travel beyond the school campus for vivid learning experiences that will make use of their cognitive capacities regardless of their level of English language proficiency. Students will learn about the ... more »

Dana Boam

Desert Rose High School, North Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To improve struggling readers’ skills, Ms. Boam will lead the “Reading Teachers” initiative at Desert Rose High School. Educators will collaborate on implementing explicit phonics instruction, high interest literature, field trips, and training on focus ... more »

Regan Miller

Shelton Elementary School, Shelton, NE
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2014, Fall

Ms. Miller and Mrs. Meyer will encourage student-directed learning by allowing students to act as teachers. Individual and groups of students will research a topic, create a lesson, and then present the lesson to a group of peers or younger students. The students will ... more »

Elodie Sontgerath

Jackson Elementary School, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. Songerath’s and Mrs. Vang’s fourth grade classes will participate in the “Neighborhood Bridges” program in cooperation with the Minneapolis Children’s Theater. The program will allow students to work with a teaching artist and develop ... more »

Rebecca Biel

Center for Instruction and Professional Development, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Saint Paul Public Schools and the Minnesota International Center will partner to provide standards aligned social studies for students in schools that have the greatest difficulty scheduling social studies and have high percentages of students who receive free and reduced ... more »

Kayla Trundle

Swartz Creek Middle School, Swartz Creek, MI
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2014, Fall

To improve the Community Based Instruction opportunities for her students with cognitive impairments, Ms. Trundle will enable students to receive instruction at 10 different community locations.  Students will learn functional skills that apply to the Michigan Extended ... more »

Christina Sutter

Rockville High School, Rockville, MD
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Fall

Through the “GRIT” (Growth, Resiliency, Intelligence, and Tenacity) program, Ms. Sutter and Ms. Roit will use the growth mindset theory and specific classroom activities to help students who’ve experienced multiple academic failures. Students will learn ... more »

Lisa Liace

Thayer J. Hill Middle School, Naperville, IL
Grades 6-8, School Counselor
2014, Fall

Through the use of the Second Step program, Ms. Liace and Ms. Sharp will establish an effective, research-based social-emotional curriculum. The program will be conducted in classrooms and small groups in order to provide school-wide support and targeted, intensive ... more »

Catherine Urban

Lincoln Elementary School, Belvidere, IL
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Fall

Through the use of iPads, students at Lincoln Elementary School will apply knowledge from their core curriculum and fine arts curriculums to create Claymation films. Students will work in small groups with their classroom teachers to create a curriculum related story and ... more »

Angela Scott

Alton High School, Alton, IL
Grades 9-12, School Social Worker
2014, Fall

Ms. Scott, Mrs. Wittman, and a team of colleagues will develop weekly group counseling sessions for at-risk high school girls. The group will use multiple relational aggression (RA) curriculum materials to increase awareness of RA, encourage empathy and tolerance, and ... more »

Dr. David Lazerson

The Quest Center, Hollywood, FL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Fall

Dr. Lazerson and Mrs. Frost will assist students with profound special needs (including Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy) in becoming recording and performing rock stars through their own personal music videos. Using adaptive switches, assistive technology, and ... more »

Janis Poole

Memorial Elementary School, Arcadia, FL
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Fall

Mrs. Poole and Mrs. Stauffer will introduce inquiry based science experiments in their fifth grade classrooms. Labs will be open to students and will allow them to think critically and logically. The inquiry method will ensure that all students within a mobile population of ... more »

Melinda Barron

Segerstrom High School, Santa Ana, CA
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To increase students’ knowledge of research methods, technology, and global skills, Ms. Barron and Mrs. Gerdes will create a blended learning classroom through the use of tablet technology. Students will work autonomously and collaborate with peers to improve their ... more »

Yvonne Brown

Annalee Avenue Elementary School, Carson, CA
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Through “Westward Movement,” students at Annalee Avenue Elementary School will learn about the perspectives of multiple cultural groups that have migrated to western parts of the United States. Students will research the motives for these groups’ ... more »

Kim Floeter

Riverview Elementary School, Wautoma, WI
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

Through the use of “Assisting with Early Literacy Instruction: A Manual for Paraprofessionals,” Mrs. Floeter and her colleagues will deepen their understanding of early literacy instruction. By reading, discussing, and practicing literacy skills outlined in the ... more »

Rhonda Chalone

Huegel Elementary School, Madison, WI
Grades K-5, Music
2014, Spring

Ms. Chalone will complete the Orff Certification Level One, a methodology of teaching students music which includes rhythmic speech, singing, body percussion, elemental movement, and improvisation. Upon completing the certification, Ms. Chalone will reorganize her ... more »

Carrie Hale

Kimball Elementary School, Seattle, WA
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

To gain valuable skills and improve her teaching practice, Ms. Hale will attend the Columbia University Teachers College Summer Writing Institute. Upon completing the institute, Ms. Hale will use her newly acquired knowledge to strengthen student engagement, collaborate ... more »

Leon Reed

Woodbridge Senior High School, Woodbridge, VA
Grades 9-12, History
2014, Spring

To learn of the Roman and Byzantine civilizations, Mr. Reed will conduct research in Turkey and Italy. While there, Mr. Reed will photograph places and museum artifacts and use the materials to complete a series of photo history books on the Roman Empire and Middle Ages. ... more »

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Did you miss the live webcast on the Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 7, 2014?


Now, you can watch the entire program and catch all of the best moments-- from host and Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad to student performers from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools and the 36 educators from across the country who were celebrated on stage.  




The 2014 NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, featuring host Phylicia Rashad

More than 800 national leaders in education, philanthropy, and business gathered at the National Building Museum in the nation’s capital on February 7, 2014 to celebrate excellence in public education.

Phylicia Rashad, the Tony Award-winning actress best known as Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” hosted the event and helped celebrate the work of exceptional public school educators alongside student performers from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools.

In addition to the 36 educators honored with the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, the following top honors were presented.


California educator Kimberley Gilles receives the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence

Kimberley Gilles, an English teacher at Monte Vista School in Danville, CA and member of the California Teachers 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.


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


(Left to right: Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of The NEA Foundation; Gary Phoebus, President & CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Kimberley Gilles, NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence recipient; Mark Chichester, Chair of The NEA Foundation Board of Directors)


“He was my son who happened to be gay,” his father states. His mother is grateful that “he was surrounded by friends—the sun, the wind, and the smell of sage brush” as he died, badly beaten and tied to a fence. In between these statements and others made by local residents interviewed by the playwrights, a Tibetan singing bowl mournfully chimes.

With this choral reading of The Laramie Project, students in Kimberley Gilles’ class learn what happened to Matthew Shepard on the day he was murdered. Afterwards, she invites them to share their thoughts and the comments are honest and profound. One student simply asks, “Why?” Gilles shares her passion for social justice and inclusion with her students with this lesson that intentionally provokes and, she hopes, invokes in them a love of reading and writing. She tells them that the purpose of writing is to communicate their inner truths and encourages each student to find his or her unique voice.

Gilles has taught high school since 2003 and was previously a humanities and leadership teacher at the middle school level. In June of 2014, Rethinking Schools will publish her work, “Bringing LGBT Issues Out of the Curricular Closet: Teaching The Laramie Project.” She was awarded a B.A. cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles and a M.Ed. in Instruction and Curriculum, Specialization: Integration of the Arts in 2012 from Lesley University.

As an active member of the Hayward Education Association, she played an integral part in leading a strike and then afterwards helped mend the fences and bind the wounds that had been created. Gilles currently serves as a union representative at her school in the San Ramon Valley Education Association and is a regular advocate for educators at school board meetings and community events. She is a State Representative to the California Teachers Association and currently serves on the Civil Rights in Education Committee. She received the CTA Members Human Rights Award in 2012.

Five educators receive the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence

Five extraordinary educators from across the country received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. Their students have already benefitted from the award. Each class received digital arts training from Pearson Foundation to produce a video, which premiered at the gala, to honor their award-winning teachers. Watch the videos below.


(Left to right: Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of the NEA Foundation, Christopher Stone (CT), Kathleen Sims (MN), Kimberley Gilles (CA), Marita Zuraitis, President & CEO of Horace Mann Educators Corporation, Eileen Sheehy (MT), Brian Sites (WA), Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President)



Student-made videos honoring their teachers premiere at the 2014 Gala

Timothy Shriver accepts the Security Benefit Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education on behalf of Special Olympics

The NEA Foundation presented the 2014 award to Special Olympics. Dr. Timothy Shriver, chairman of the orgazination, accepted the award on its behalf. Watch Dr. Shriver's speech.


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.


 Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.


This gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.







Students of Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools take the stage for cultural performances













The gala began with an original piece titled, "This is what my teachers said," by Blessed Sheriff, an eleventh-grade student at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD, and an award-winning poet. Watch her performance above.


In the evening's finale, host Phylicia Rashad joined Sheriff on stage. Watch Sheriff perform her original poem titled, “On the definition of hope," with the help of Rashad above.


Nearly 80 students from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools took us on a virtual world tour through the performing arts— from salsa dancing and madrigal singing to African drumming.


Thank you to all who helped celebrate the best in public education. Save the date for next year’s gala on February 13, 2015.



Original poems written and performed by Blessed Sheriff:


Be bold. This classroom will be a womb 
And it will deliver courage
And it will deliver voices
And it will deliver your courage
And it will deliver your voices

Strive. These books are a pedestal
They will lift you beyond your potential
And you will know things worth knowing
And see things worth seeing
They will teach you how to spell words like believe,

(Remember the “i” comes before the “e” except after “c”)
So that you will one day believe in a higher cause beyond yourself.

Listen, to me. This classroom will be the silence you need,
A worthy citadel for your thoughts
So let them roam free
And when you find one worth catching
Bring it back to me.
I want to see.


This is something they cannot steal.
The mind, like a thunderstorm
Stands dignified as the only God-sent instrument amidst humanity
And we
Each of us
With our own minds…
Our own eternal infinity.
Ideas don’t die, people do.

Understand that courage, kindness, wisdom, and love transcend time and when we go
What we made of them will still be here.
Make something of them
And this is how:

(This is what my teachers said to me:)
One day you will rise and I may be a distant memory
But for now
Take your seat.
Class is in session.

One syllable.
Four letters:
Noun. A feeling of expectation and desire. Derived from Old English hopa or hopian meaning to wish, expect, to look forward to. A word of German origin, connected as well to the Dutch language.
A word with so many sounds, so many souls, it doesn’t get by on just one syllable.
It’s the words of a man, a King, with a dream. It’s attached to the faces of the one’s who are screaming
For freedom.
Four letters? More like six – and it’s spelled like

And do you see now what I mean?
Where there is no vision the people perish-
we are a species defined by our progress-
from the moment we climbed up off our knees and onto our feet…
and we’ve been doing it ever since.
Off our knees and onto our feet.

Hope. A noun in action,
And whether we are shuffling, mumbling, or running at breakneck speed it makes
sure that we are moving.

Hope. Derived from the one who makes all things new -
a spirit that lives on the inside,
like a wish waiting to come true. It’s true,
we are made of stardust. So the next
time you see a shooting star turn around and look inside you:
You’re on fire.
Know that the only things that burn are the things that last forever.
Know that fire ignites, and we’re called to leave this world in ashes more
beautiful than the icebergs before.

Hope. A word which has its origins in the smile of a newborn child, and in the spark of
a newborn mind which has the power to change a generation.

And if there’s one thing important enough to remember about what hope is,
It’s that H.O.P.E stands for one thing W.E: and that is WE.
We are hope.