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.


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 »

Jill White

Malcolm X College, Chicago, IL
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Fall

Dr. White will investigate the experience of people of color with the Registered Dietitian Examination to understand barriers to successful completion. Dr. White will conduct a qualitative study by interviewing former students of color regarding their exam experiences. ... more »

Sandra L. Osorio

Illinois State University, Normal, IL
Higher Education, Science
2015, Fall

Dr. Osorio and Mrs. Sacco will collaborate to implement an action research study in three dual language classrooms. Teachers will look at their own teaching practices and how they relate to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). University professors will provide ... more »

Claire Gearen

Mililani High School, Mililani, HI
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Fall

To understand new spaces and institutional practices around writing, Ms. Gearen will attend the International Writing Centers Association Conference. While there, Ms. Gearen will attend sessions, deliver and receive feedback on proposed teaching methods, and forge ... more »

Christopher Gates

Broward Virtual School, Coconut Creek, FL
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Fall

Mr. Gates and Dr. Tukes will implement the “Early Years Teacher Academy,” a specially designed academic instruction and professional development program. Broward Virtual School teachers will be immersed in STEM project-based learning, as well as Learning Through ... more »

Kimberly DeLisa

West Woods Elementary School, Arvada, CO
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Fall

To ensure all students are able to achieve at high levels of learning, Mrs. DeLisa and Mrs. Kemper will implement change through professional learning communities (PLCs) at West Woods Elementary. PLCS will drive collaboration among teachers, assist with the creation of ... more »

Alana Cayabyab

Bijou Community School, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Grades K-5, English
2015, Fall

Ms. Cayabyab and colleagues will improve English Language Development (ELD) instruction at Bijou Community School and align it with the new Common Core State Standards ELD standards. Teachers will initially meet in vertical teams in which they will outline strengths, ... more »

Ann Asaro

La Mesa/Spring Valley School District, La Mesa, CA
Grades 9-12, Literacy
2015, Fall

Through “The Write Teachers,” Ms. Asaro will attend the Coaching Institute on Literacy Coaching and Whole School Reform through The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. The institute will offer opportunities to study the staff development strategies ... more »

Camie Walker

John Murdy Elementary, Garden Grove, CA
Grades K-5, Science
2015, Fall

To improve her knowledge of the Next Generation Science Standards, Mrs. Walker will attend the California Science Teachers Association Conference. While there, Mrs. Walker will present a workshop on integrating engineering with Common Core Standards. Additionally, she will ... more »

Kristy Corbett

La Tercera Elementary School, Petaluma, CA
Grades K-5, STEM
2015, Fall

Mrs. Corbett and colleagues will design three Project Based Learning units per grade level, focusing on the Next Generation Science Standards as the foundation for their units. The units will create a grade-to-grade alignment of all standards. Each unit will include ... more »

Cynthia Larson-Faragalli

View Ridge Elementary School, Bremerton, WA
Grades K-5, English
2015, Fall

Through “Researching Habitats,” English Language Learners will be partnered with highly capable students for research and inquiry project-based learning. Students will observe small habitat enclosures within the classroom, explore habitats in their natural ... more »

Julie Wickersham

Lincoln Middle School, Clarkston, WA
Grades 6-8, Education Support Professional
2015, Fall

By producing videos that feature Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) scenarios, students at Lincoln Middle School will embark on mini lessons that will foster wellness. Students will write scripts, analyze and produce lessons, and share their films with ... more »

Georgeanne Lavery

Radford City School, Radford, VA
Grades 6-8, STEM
2015, Fall

Through “A Living Roof,” students will learn of the importance of clean water and ways to protect finite resources. Mrs. Lavery and Mrs. Rehak will work with students as they construct a green roof shelter. Students will design, test, and create the roof and ... more »

Wendy McMillan

Ervinton Elementary School, Nora, VA
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2015, Fall

To increase students’ mastery of writing and critical thinking skills and enhance their cultural awareness, Ms. McMillan and Mrs. Lee will partner with foreign teachers to create virtual classrooms. Through the use of tablet technology, students will learn about peers ... more »

Karen Ciotta

Epes Elementary School, Newport News, VA
Grades K-5, STEM
2015, Fall

Through “Classroom on Wheels,” Mrs. Ciotta and Mrs. McEaddy will integrate a science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) program at Epes Elementary School. Students will visit several museums and theaters to engage in experiential learning. The ... more »

Amanda Varney

Vance Middle School, Bristol, TN
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2015, Fall

Through “Project 3D: Dream, Design, Develop,” students will improve their understanding of mathematical concepts, including proportional relationships and problem solving involving scale drawings and geometric constructions. Students will apply math skills to ... more »

David Brian Lasher

Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Erie, PA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2015, Fall

Mr. Lasher and Mr. Luthringer will enhance Collegiate Academy’s International Relations class. The class will combine current events with theory and use discussion, Socratic Seminars, and gaming scenarios to promote critical thinking, collaboration, and problem ... more »

Diane Ward

Clearmount Elementary School, North Canton, OH
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2015, Fall

Mrs. Ward and Ms. Donley will set up math work stations in portable boxes and utilize various math manipulatives and games. Students will work with partners, independently, and with teachers to solve problems and practice math concepts. The project will also incorporate ... more »

Cale Garber

Gahanna Middle School South, Gahanna, OH
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2015, Fall

Students at Gahanna Middle School South will use tablets to investigate the social studies curriculum, engage in historical research, and become active participants in ongoing formative assessment. Students will examine primary source documents that have been digitized, ... more »

Erin Simons

Vaughan Elementary School, Macon, NC
Grades K-5, Special Education
2015, Fall

To increase parental involvement, Ms. Simons and Ms. Konicki will work in partnership with the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project team to train teachers in bi-annual home visits. Through the home visits, teachers will create partnerships, develop trust, and identify common ... more »

Nancy Kaplan

Edward B. Shallow JHS 227, Brooklyn, NY
Grades 6-8, Language Arts
2015, Fall

Mrs. Kaplan and Mrs. Dinkins will have their grammar students use investigative techniques to compose writing pieces, including oral histories, memoirs, interviews, and essays. The program will enhance and enrich the educational experiences of the school’s large ... more »

Karen Kennely

North Babylon UFSD High School, North Babylon, NY
Grades 9-12, Arts
2015, Fall

To address the implementation of the National Core Arts Standards at North Babylon High School, Mrs. Kennely and Mr. Lombardo will create a professional art gallery. Students will create works and build levels of understanding that will allow them to gain insights into the ... more »

Dena Wagner

Norris Middle School, Omaha, NE
Grades 6-8, Language Arts
2015, Fall

Mrs. Wagner and Mrs. Moore will provide middle school students with the motivating tools necessary to become critical thinkers and writers. Within a writer’s workshop setting, students will explore, analyze, and reflect on mentor texts, create writer’s ... more »

Stacey Whitwood

Edgerton Elementary School, Maplewood, MN
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2015, Fall

Through “We Code, What’s Your Superpower?,” Ms. Whitwood and Mrs. Mittelbrun will attempt to close the gender and diversity gap in computer science. All of their students will use Chromebooks to learn computer science concepts and coding. Students will be ... more »

Sherry Kempf

St. Paul Public Schools, Saint Paul, MN
Grades 9-12, History
2015, Fall

“Through Dakota Eyes” will allow students to experience familiar places through a Dakota lens. Students will study local history and culture and understand multiple perspectives of the native peoples of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The project will culminate with ... more »

Katie Squires

Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI
Higher Education, Literacy
2015, Fall

To address the language and literacy needs of preschool children in a low socioeconomic area of Michigan, a universal screening will be utilized to determine the tier of differentiated instruction each child will receive. Students in all three tiers will participate in ... more »

Erin Feldpausch

Messalonskee High School, Oakland, ME
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2015, Fall

To engage students in reading and collaborative conversations, Mrs. Feldpausch and Mr. Podey will implement literature circles in their classes. Students will be exposed to free choice reading assignments that will lead to improved literacy skills. Reading activities will ... more »

Melanie Ramey

Meade Memorial Elementary School, Williamsport, KY
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2015, Fall

To adopt a flipped classroom with blended instruction of online content and small group instruction, Mrs. Ramey will implement “Flipping with QR Codes and Screencasts.” Students will use quick response (QR) codes to view content and answer questions about ... more »

Nancy Smith

Bentwood Elementary School, Overland Park, KS
Grades K-5, STEM
2015, Fall

Through “Engineering Explorations” Mrs. Smith will enhance her science curriculum with the Next Generation Science Standards of engineering. Different engineering concepts will be introduced each month, and students will design challenges, participate in outdoor ... more »

Jordana Scher

Gallatin County Community Unit School District #7, Junction, IL
Grades K-5, Literacy
2015, Fall

“Learning Literacy Through Lyrics” will engage students in an in-depth study of music through the use of computers, books, and apps that will enhance both music and reading curriculum.  Students will bolster their mastery of music and reading while ... more »

Janet Key

Lowell Elementary School, Milwaukee, WI
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

Key will attend the Category 1, 2, and 3 Primary Years Program Workshops, where she will learn methods of Action and Assessment that will enable her to fully implement the Primary Years Program in her classroom. Key will work with teachers in her school to align their six ... more »

Dr. Donna Pasternak

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

Pasternak and Peterson will create a professional learning community in which participants will increase their pedagogical knowledge of writing instruction. Participants will strengthen their writing instruction skills to improve their work with instructional staff within ... more »

Veronica Cook

Shorecrest High School, Shoreline, WA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2015, Spring

To expand her skill set for working with students with Autism, Cook will attend the 2015 Autism Society International Conference. While there, Cook will examine the unique characteristics of students with Autism and ways to address specific learners within this population. ... more »

Katrina Moreno

Wheatley School of Early Childhood Programs, Port Arthur, TX
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2015, Spring

To improve the communication skills of struggling learners, Moreno, Young-Jones, and colleagues will introduce an Art and Photography workshop in their Early Childhood Program. Conducting action research, the group will observe students as they are encouraged to use cameras ... more »

Christina Mendenhall

Gilcrease Elementary School, Tulsa, OK
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2015, Spring

To become familiar with other societies, cultural norms, educational systems, and curriculum, Mendenhall will attend seminars offered through the National Consortium of East Asia Studies. Mendenhall will learn Mandarin Chinese and complete classes through the Global ... more »

Nancy Kunsman

Gore High School, Gore, OK
Grades 9-12, English
2015, Spring

Kunsman will attend the Smithsonian Art Institute’s “Teaching Humanities through Art,” where she will learn to develop ways to provide a fuller learning experience in her classroom. During the institute, Ms. Kunsman will work with art experts and education ... more »

Melanie Byers

Kettering Middle School, Kettering, OH
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

To better understand how to use cognitive science to improve and inspire student learning, Mrs. Byers will attend a “Learning and the Brain Conference” centered around educating world-class minds. While there, Byers will learn from distinguished faculty how to ... more »

Cathy Frastaci

Edon Northwest Schools, Edon, OH
Grades 9-12, Music
2015, Spring

To provide her students with authentic musical experiences, Frastaci will travel to Ghana’s Dagbe Cultural Institute and Arts Center to participate in an intensive cultural immersion. While there, Frastaci will study the traditional African arts of drumming, dancing, ... more »

Wendi Pillars

Jordan-Matthews High School, Siler City, NC
Grades 9-12, English
2015, Spring

Pillars will attend the International Forum of Visual Practitioners to improve her use of visual note taking in the classroom. At the Forum, Pillars will attend workshops and sessions focused on the art and science of engaging learners with visual note taking and graphic ... more »

Julia Vaughan

Koontz Intermediate School, Asheville, NC
Grades 6-8, Science
2015, Spring

To improve her knowledge of ecological and global issues, Vaughan will attend a climate change seminar at Glacier National Park. While there, Vaughan will participate in a learning seminar focusing on climate change and its effects on glaciers. Upon completion, Vaughan will ... more »

Karen Cook

PS 77 Lower Lab, New York, NY
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

To enhance her role as a leader in her school and district, Cook will become a National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) Certified Coach. Cook will attend the NSRF summer institute, where she will learn methods to empower educators by providing professional development that ... more »

Watch the event!

On February 12, 2016, educators from across the country will trade their classrooms for a night on stage among more than 850 national education leaders and supporters in Washington, D.C.


Watch the live stream, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET), right here, to see 42 public school educators receive the 2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, recognizing their innovation in teaching and advocacy for the profession. 


7:30 PM


  • Opening remarks and performances by Furia Flamenca and classical guitarist Torcuato Zamora


8:20 PM


  • Student performance by English Language Learners who participated in a NEA Foundation-funded, high school theater program in Annandale, Virginia


  • 2016 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence presented


8:55 PM


  • Performance by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City


  • 2016 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence (continued)


  •  2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence


9:45 PM


  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund accepts the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education


  • One educator wins the evening’s top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000!



These five educators — Dirk Andrews (WY), Debra McDonald (OH), Mohsen Ghaffari (UT), Heather LaBarbara (KY), and Pam

Wells (SD) — are all finalists for the evening’s top award.


Five of those educators will also receive the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and $10,000.


And stay tuned for the evening’s highly-anticipated finale, when one of the five educators above will be announced the winner of the top award and $25,000!



The NEA Foundation will also present the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for its efforts to address a growing population of Hispanic American students.



Esai Morales, the award-winning actor who has appeared in the biopic “La Bamba,” the HBO series “The Brink,” and can currently be seen on CBS’ “Criminal Minds”,” will host the night’s celebration.


He’ll also help us cheer on student performers, including English Language Learners from a NEA Foundation-funded, high school theater program, and others.


Don’t miss any of these special moments! Tune in, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET).


Prepare to be entertained by host, Esai Morales, an

accomplished actor and co-founder of the National

Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.


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.