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.


Mary Enright

Vogel-Wetmore School, Torrington, CT
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

To strengthen her professional knowledge prior to the national board certification renewal process, Ms. Enright will attend the Connecticut Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages annual conference in November 2010. At the conference, Ms. Enright will learn the ... more »

Ana Behel

Weeden Elementary, Florence, AL
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Ms. Behel and Mrs. Whitely-Weston will implement a professional learning community in which teacher leaders will mentor their colleagues in data based professional development that will drive changes in instruction and improve the achievement of English Language ... more »

Maria Hase

Tavan Elementary School, Phoenix, AZ
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2010, Fall

Elementary school students at Tavan Elementary School will improve their work place skills by operating a “Treasures for Students” school store.   Students will collect and sell gently used items donated by parents, local businesses, and community ... more »

Lori Kim

California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Drs. Kim and Allison will lead the "Scholars Linking Theory and Practice" project, a collegial study that will evaluate a new teaching strategy for a research course in the Educational Administration Program, which trains future administrative leaders for K-12 ... more »

Dawn Poole

California State University Stanislau, Turlock, CA
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Twelve faculty members associated with CSU Stanislaus' new doctoral program in Educational Leadership will form a study group to advance skills and competencies associated with both qualitative and quantitative research practices.  The activity will contribute to ... more »

Kay Hones

Stevenson Schools, San Francisco, CA
Grades K-5, Arts
2010, Fall

Ms. Hones will lead colleagues in “Magic Touch,” a project that will verse participants in opera, mural art, and iPod Touch literacy.  Educators in the group will mentor and collaborate as they create lessons that combine critical thinking and technology ... more »

Elena Tinder

Orange Grove Elementary School, Anaheim, CA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Ms. Tinder and Ms. Padgett will collaborate to lead and develop a “Parents in Partnership Program.”  Once a month, kindergarten through sixth grade students and their parents will participate in classroom sessions to focus on specific skills.  Selected ... more »

Annette Garcia

Place Bridge Academy, Denver, CO
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2010, Fall

Ms. Garcia and Mr. Gordon will lead a learning community that will institute a comprehensive program of professional development for the school’s entire math staff.  The program will have three components: 1) whole group professional development activities ... more »

Maureen FitzPatrick

Huckleberry Hill Elementary School, Brookfield, CT
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

As participants in the “Book Club Review Crew,” third graders at Huckleberry Hill Elementary will develop higher level reading skills through the use of technology.  Student reviewers will read and assess self selected texts and use audio visual equipment ... more »

Elizabeth Fullerton

University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Drs. Fullerton and Guardino will collaborate with teachers to reduce challenging behaviors in inclusive classrooms.  Working collaboratively with six teachers in urban school settings, the group will redesign classrooms using research based modifications.  ... more »

Rebecca Sweezea

Round Lake Elementary, Mount Dora, FL
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2010, Fall

In an effort to increase students’ understanding and appreciation of American history, Ms. Sweezea and Mrs. Matulia will develop “Big Ideas and Essential Questions” to guide student learning through a social studies curriculum.  Students will use a ... more »

Donna Kesterson

Corner Lake Middle School, Orlando, FL
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

To better serve their diverse student body, science, social studies, and electives faculty at Corner Lake Middle School will complete the Florida Inclusion Network (FIN)’s Curriculum of Differentiated Instruction.  By addressing the individual needs of students ... more »

Leigh Crosson

Colleen Bevis Elementary, Lithia, FL
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Fourth and fifth grade science teachers at Colleen Bevis Elementary will participate in a seven week long collegial study group.  The focus of the study group will be reading, discussing, and developing literature based science lessons using the book Picture Perfect ... more »

Donica Cuspard

Redan Elementary, Lithonia, GA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2010, Fall

Ms. Cuspard and Mrs. Qualls will design and implement two projects to help students improve their skills in math and language arts.  “Paddles for Patterns” will focus on improving student skills in patterns, listing numbers in sequential order, providing ... more »

Lyssa Sahadevan

East Side Elementary School, Marietta, GA
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Mrs. Sahadevan will attend the Reader’s Workshop presented by The Daily Café, a website devoted to educator professional development.  Throughout the workshop, Mrs. Sahadevan will read relevant professional literature, play a lead role in book study, ... more »

Suzanne Nozaki

Pahoa High and Intermediate School, Pahoa, HI
Grades 9-12, Science
2010, Fall

Through their “Just Say No to Soda and Alcohol” program, Mrs. Nozaki and Mrs. Borges will address students’ sugar and alcohol consumption habits.  Through surveys and taste testings, high school students will learn to compare nutritional data, and ... more »

Deanna Murphy

Beach Park School District, Zion, IL
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

To increase the proficiency of the core curriculum, a group of educators will attend in service training to develop higher level questioning strategies to use in their classrooms.  Teachers will implement these higher level thinking strategies using learning center ... more »

Kristin Trapp

Collinsville High School, Collinsville, IL
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Mrs. Trapp will participate in continued training on trauma response that will provide her with the most recent, research based strategies and techniques offered by nationally recognized trauma experts.  This knowledge will be shared with colleagues in the Collinsville ... more »

Joy Hellman

Gosport Elementary School, Gosport, IN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Gosport Elementary teachers will learn brain based teaching strategies through CLASS: Connecting Learning Assures Successful Students.  CLASS is a research based program of teaching strategies that develops students' social, behavioral, and academic skills.  ... more »

Karen Mixdorf

Area Education Agency 267, Marshalltown, IA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Ms. Mixdorf and Ms. Williams will lead a study group on an in depth look at inquiry through the inductive model.  Participants will learn this research based model of teaching literacy as they further their understanding of the Iowa Core Curriculum (ICC).  ... more »

Michelle Lakhotia

Judice Middle School, Duson, LA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2010, Fall

Ms. Lakhotia and Mrs. Carney will implement a multisensory method for teaching algebra that integrates technology and the performing and creative arts.  Middle school students will use their creativity to develop presentations, rap songs, dances, and skits to ... more »

Ryan Swank

Molly Ockett Middle School, Fryeburg, ME
Grades 6-8, English
2010, Fall

Molly Ockett Middle School students will develop reading strategies, vocabulary skills, and nonfiction text awareness as they explore graphic novels.   Students will be connected in an extended network of learning collaboration with the use of Voicethread, an ... more »

Jill Conroy

Natick Public Schools, Natick, MA
Grades 9-12, Science
2010, Fall

Environmental studies students will expand their knowledge of biotechnology techniques by collecting, testing, and analyzing samples from local water sources.  Working with the town water and conservation commissions, students will determine more environmentally safe ... more »

Melissa Latham

Belmont High School, Belmont, MA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2010, Fall

The purchase of Rosetta Stone software will allow Ms. Latham and Ms. El-Gamel to expand their teaching of German, a course not regularly offered to students. The software will be used to support the teaching and learning of German to independent studies students as well as ... more »

Helen Wedin

Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Dr. Wedin will attend the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Mortar & Pestle Seminar to familiarize herself with updates on all major drug classification systems.  The seminar will cover topics related to frequently prescribed medications and the ... more »

Jacqueline Ballot

Noble Elementary School, Golden Valley, MN
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Mrs. Ballot and Mrs. Smith will spearhead “Neighborhood Bridges,” a Children's Theatre Company literacy program that empowers students to become the animators of their own lives.  Skilled and experienced teaching artists will use animation to transform ... more »

Diana Riggs

Saltillo Elementary, Saltillo, MS
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2010, Fall

Mrs. Riggs and Ms. Bruce will lead a lesson on Hurricane Katrina’s effects on the physical geography of the surrounding areas.  With the assistance of a visiting artist, students will learn through observation, group projects, internet research, hands-on ... more »

Abbigail Yellman

North Kansas City High School, Kansas City, MO
Grades 9-12, English
2010, Fall

Mrs. Yellman and Mrs. Carney will lead the “NKC_BookSpace,” an online student book club that will virtually connect readers via technology.  Students will sign up for the book club, read assigned texts, and post to discussions occurring online.  This ... more »

Courtne Thomas

Sojourner Truth Middle School, East Orange, NJ
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Ms. Thomas will conduct action research by examining gender isolation and academic performance.  To address the lack of focus that is often observed in pubescent students, Ms. Thomas will attempt to prove that separate learning environments for male and female sixth ... more »

Debra Levy Robbins

Prospect Park School 1, Prospect Park, NJ
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Prospect Park School 1 teachers and specialists will work together to incorporate a character education project titled "TERRIFIC (Trustworthy, Empathetic, Respectful, Responsible, Initiative takers, Fair, Integrity filled, Caring) Kids of Good Character.”  The ... more »

Amy Peterson

Patrick F Daily PS 15, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Public School 15, in collaboration with Brooklyn nonprofit Puppetry Arts, will host six puppetry workshops for fourth grade students during the 2010/2011 school year.  The workshops will help improve literacy and oral language skills of English Language Learners by ... more »

Jason George

The Renaissance Charter School, Jackson Heights, NY
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2010, Fall

Mr. George and Ms. Slingerland will mine the rich cultural and sociological influences prevalent in their ethnically diverse school community to develop a “Global Lab” study of race, class, and colonialism in Latin America.  This six-week unit will provide ... more »

Margaret Williams

Bohlen Technical Center, Watertown, NY
Grades 9-12, Science
2010, Fall

Under the tutelage of Mrs. Williams, three classrooms - the Life Skills Class, the Building Maintenance Class, and the Career Options Class - will work together to achieve a self sustaining garden with an attached multi use solar greenhouse.  Students will learn about ... more »

Coni Clark

Wahl-Coates School, Greenville, NC
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Wahl-Coates School's third graders will explore history through a child's eyes with lessons utilizing field research, data gathering, and writing across the curriculum.  Hands-on activities include visits to the site of a historic Native American village, a ... more »

Linda Kilkenny

Haw River Elementary School, Haw River, NC
Grades K-5, Arts
2010, Fall

Mrs. Kilkenny and Mrs. Squires will lead a project designed to provide music education through technology-based learning.  Realizing that free reign is often the most effective way for children to develop cognitive skills, Mrs. Kilkenny and Mrs. Squires will produce an ... more »

James Pate

Bee Log School, Burnsville, NC
Grades K-5, Science
2010, Fall

The "Electrified" project will immerse students in the process of building and furnishing a new home.  To prepare students for the twenty first century, the project will use critical thinking skills, promote the use of technology across curriculum areas, and encourage ... more »

Cathi Creviston

Elgin Junior High, Green Camp, OH
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2010, Fall

Recognizing the need to actively engage all students in meaningful, real-world math activities, Mrs. Creviston and colleagues plan to implement a standards-based project learning program.  Students will study various mathematical concepts and then develop math-related ... more »

Laura Gentile

Indian Hill Elementary School, Cincinnati, OH
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Ms. Gentile and Mrs. Sprang will lead yearlong professional learning community intent on investigating the impact of formative assessment on student learning.  In an effort to support teacher learning in a way that is manageable and sustainable, faculty at Indian Hill ... more »

Ami Reynolds

Union High School, Tulsa, OK
Grades 9-12, English
2010, Fall

Students in the new Music in Literature class will use all genres of music, from jazz to hip hop, to connect with literature on both an intellectual and emotional level.  Students will analyze lyrics and poetry as well as other literary works in order to obtain an in ... more »

Rachel Stagner

Madison High School, Portland, OR
Grades 9-12, Science
2010, Fall

Ms. Stagner and Mrs. Adajian will offer students experiences in sustainable gardening and agriculture in the Intro to Sustainable Agriculture class.  Goals of the project include linking science standards to the real life concerns of finding and growing healthy food, ... more »

Kelly Hoffman

West Middlesex Area School District, West Middlesex, PA
Grades 9-12, Physical Education
2010, Fall

Mrs. Hoffman and Mr. Novosel will establish a new lifetime sport unit in physical education class by introducing Frisbee to the seventh through twelfth grade students.  Students will analyze the sixteen different basic types of Frisbee games and the physics of how a ... more »

Bethany Fenyus

Steel Valley Middle School, Munhall, PA
Grades 6-8, English
2010, Fall

Ms. Fenyus and Mrs. Huber will lead their colleagues in curricular change and professional development focusing on teaching practices that improve critical literacy.  The project will revolve around the theme of war and how the theories of critical literacy can ... more »

Patty McGinnis

Arcola Intermediate School, Norristown, PA
Grades 6-8, Science
2010, Fall

Mrs. McGinnis will participate in the Earthwatch Expedition, “Climate Change and Caterpillars in Arizona.”  Working alongside a field ecologist, Mrs. McGinnis will learn to field protocols related to caterpillar identification, which she will apply to the ... more »

Andrea Alewine

Keowee Elementary School, Seneca, SC
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2010, Fall

Ms. Alewine will attend the “Learning and the Brain” conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which will incorporate the neuroscience of the brain with the learning styles and abilities of students.  Experts and specialists in the fields of education and ... more »

Judy Peeble

Manassas High School, Memphis, TN
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2010, Fall

Participants in the “Students' Good News Station” project will produce monthly thirty minute newscasts highlighting the positive, inspiring, and heartwarming stories of children and youth in Memphis.  Students will create 30 second Public Service ... more »

Anita Sutherland

South Side Elementary School, Johnson City, TN
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Mrs. Sutherland will participate in the Trainer of Trainers Academy, a three day institute in Comfort, Texas that will provide her the knowledge and understanding necessary for the proper use of visual and kinesthetic manipulatives during instruction.  The workshop ... more »

Amanda Ronan

NYOS Charter School, Austin, TX
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Ms. Ronan and Ms. Kimble will lead “Write On!,” a unique opportunity for NYOS Elementary staff to meet in a K-5 vertical team to deepen and improve their knowledge of writing instruction with the goal  of improving the writing skills of NYOS students.  ... more »

Patti Golden

Southern Hills School, Wichita Falls, TX
Grades K-5, Science
2010, Fall

Mrs. Golden and Mr. Brox’s fifth grade students will choose environmental topics and conduct research on their chosen issues.  In this multimedia project, students will use iPods to view green videos, listen to podcasts related to green topics, and text and email ... more »

Wendy Goldfein

Newington Forest Elementary School, Springfield, VA
Grades K-5, Science
2010, Fall

Through “Get Caught Engineering,” students will become investigators for engineering problems that are integrated into the daily curriculum.  Activities will be introduced in grades kindergarten through sixth that support the school’s STEM ... more »


Register today at!

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.