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.

Grantees

Aaron Slodounik

Queensborough Community College, Bayside, NY
Higher Education, Lecturer
2013, Winter

Jennifer Kibler

East Aurora School District, East Aurora, NY
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Melissa Stein

Theunis Dey Elementary School, Wayne, NJ
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Eboni Walker

Sargent Shriver Elementary, Silver Spring, MD
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Grand Pacheco

Bradbury Heights Elementary School, Capitol Heights, MD
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Winter

Jamie Purnell

Messalonskee High School, Oakland, ME
Grades 9-12, Science
2013, Winter

Jackie Kessler

Mount Washington Elementary School, Mount Washington, KY
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Winter

Anthony Svozil

Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Flossmoor, IL
Grades K-5, Science
2013, Winter

Lillian Santiago

Fulford Elementary School, North Miami Beach, FL
Grades K-5, Math and Science
2013, Winter

Alison Awai

Curtner Elementary School, Milpitas, CA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Winter

Barbara Gosney

Fireside Elementary School, Phoenix, AZ
Grades K-5, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2013, Winter

Linsay DeMartino

Pueblo Magnet High School, Tucson, AZ
Grades 9-12, Exceptional Education
2013, Winter

Natalee Van Gelder

Rincon High School, Tucson, AZ
Grades 9-12, Exceptional Education
2013, Winter

Robyn Myrum

Joy Elementary, Fairbanks, AK
Grades K-5, Physical Education / Health
2013, Winter

Dr. DeShannon McDonald

Booker T. Washington Magnet High School, Montgomery, AL
Grades K-5, Law
2013, Winter

Erica Winkler

Eisenhower Elementary School, Green Bay, WI
Grades K-5, School Social Worker
2013, Winter

Shana Ferguson

Peter S. Ogden Elementary School, Vancouver, WA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Winter

Shana Ferguson

Peter S. Ogden Elementary School, Vancouver, WA
Grades K-5, Librarian
2013, Winter

Shannon Wyant

Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School, Lake Stevens, WA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Winter

Dr. Leslie Chekin

Annandale High School, Annandale, VA
Grades 9-12, English
2013, Winter

Dr. Evelyn Dwyer

Love Chapel Elementary School, Erwin, TN
Grades K-5, Music
2013, Winter

Sandy Williams

Burke Elementary School, Burke, SD
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Erin Walsh

Central Bucks West High School, Doylestown, PA
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2013, Winter

Vanessa Strassner

Hyde Elementary School, Coraopolis, PA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Winter

Michelle Peake

César Chávez School, Portland, OR
Grades K-5, School Counselor
2013, Winter

Shellie Herrmann

Legend Elementary School, Newark, OH
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Jodi Dobben

Ella Canavan Elementary School, Medina, OH
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Jessica Nugent

Keene Central School, Keene Valley, NY
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Winter

Danielle Lerro

CIS 303, Bronx, NY
Grades 6-8, Teacher
2013, Winter

Aileen Florio

Pearl R. Miller Middle School, Kinnelon, NJ
Grades 6-8, English
2013, Winter

Mary Robinson

Fremont Public Schools, Fremont, NE
Grades K-5, Teacher of the Blind
2013, Winter

Lisa Partney Nicholson

Prairie View Elementary, O’Fallon, MO
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Mary Theresa Schmitz

Hassan Elementary School, Rogers, MN
Grades K-5, School Social Worker
2013, Winter

Robert Zbikowski

Hibbing Community College, Hibbing, MN
Higher Education, Science
2013, Winter

Jennifer Strickland

Laingsburg High School, Laingsburg, MI
Grades 9-12, English
2013, Winter

Mary Jo Erickson Connor

Nessacus Regional Middle School, Dalton, MA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2013, Winter

Stephen Sell

Clarksburg High School, Clarksburg, MD
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Winter

Tamara Hofer Voegeli

Riverside Elementary School, Sioux City, IA
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Tim Sanders

Loogootee Intermediate School, Loogootee, IN
Grades 6-8, Teacher
2013, Winter

Cara Garmon

Judith Giacoma Elementary School, Westville, IL
Grades K-5, Physical Therapist
2013, Winter

Judy Shipman

Jefferson Early Childhood Center, Moline, IL
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Winter

Jennifer Rizzo

Bradley East Elementary School, Bradley, IL
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Angela Scott

Alton High School, Alton, IL
Grades 9-12, School Social Worker
2013, Winter

Orly Garcia

Miami Beach Senior High School, Miami Beach, FL
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2013, Winter

Donna Phoenix

Michael F. Wallace Middle School, Waterbury, CT
Grades K-5, Physical Education
2013, Winter

Erin Pasillas

Selma Unified School District, Selma, CA
Grades K-5, Resource Specialist
2013, Winter

Georgette Whitbred

Niles Elementary School, Fremont, CA
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Kathleen Bailey

Oakland Technical High School, Oakland, CA
Grades 9-12, English
2013, Winter

Nancy Garcia

UCLA Community School, Los Angeles, CA
Grades K-5, Teacher
2013, Winter

Nicole Cunha

Firebaugh High School, Firebaugh, CA
Grades 9-12, Education Support Professional
2013, Winter

Join us on February 10, 2017!

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.