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.

Watch the live stream of the gala on Friday, Feb. 12, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET), below!


Margaret Mauntel

Dubois Middle School, Dubois, IN
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Winter

Mrs. Mauntel and Mrs. Terwiske will teach their students to use algebraic equations to program robots. Students will learn basic programming language via calculations on TI calculators and will use that language to have their robots perform a variety of tasks. As ... more »

Kym Flowers

Arsenal Technical High School, Indianapolis, IN
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Ms. Flowers will lead a collaborative project between three high school teachers and the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute (INDI) at Indiana University--Purdue University Indianapolis. The proposed nanotechnology experience will include lectures, ... more »

Diane Abraham

Kualapuu School PCS, Kualapuu, HI
Grades K-5, History
2012, Winter

Students at Kualapuu School will learn about exploring for survival, discovery, and adventure through a lesson on the history of the ancient Polynesian voyaging that brought the first humans to the Hawaiian Islands. Students will document the process of building scale ... more »

Elaine Barreira

Hiram High School, Hiram, GA
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

To encourage student learning through the use of technology, Ms. Barreira and Ms. Gasque will introduce e-readers to their classrooms. The devices will be used at all learning levels, with particular focus on reluctant readers. The lead educators will study the impact ... more »

Teresa Arrouet

Johnson Middle School, Melbourne, FL
Grades 6-8, Gifted and Talented
2012, Winter

Through the STAR program, educators will meet the needs of accelerated and gifted students. STAR will offer students assistance with developing higher level thinking skills, accelerated pacing in math and foreign languages, and the exploration and understanding of ... more »

Jane Duggan

Adams 14 School District, Commerce City, CO
Grades K-5, Special Education
2012, Winter

Special education teachers in the Adams 14 school district will utilize a research-based math program to address math achievement gaps for at-risk elementary students with identified disabilities. They will be trained in coaching to utilize the core K-5 program and ... more »

Cynthia Lake

John Muir High School, Pasadena, CA
Grades 9-12, Sociology
2012, Winter

Through Imagine Mars, Mrs. Lake and Mr. Bond will implement a design-based learning project to encourage students to actively participate in problem solving through the backward thinking design process. The project will integrate standards-based lessons in multiple ... more »

Marilyn Farrens

Salida Elementary School, Salida, CA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Turning the Key to Literacy will increase reading and writing proficiency by integrating technology into the classroom. Ms. Farrens and a team of colleagues will use response clickers to monitor and evaluate student responses to multiple choice questions. To increase ... more »

Jaimie Graham

Ontario High School, Ontario, CA
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Montoya will introduce new lab learning opportunities to chemistry students at Ontario High School. Through rigorous laboratory activities, students will increase their understanding of core concepts through hands-on instruction. Students will be ... more »

Melynda Wescott

Mountain View School, Waddell, AR
Grades K-5, Special Education
2012, Winter

Ms. Wescott and Ms. Goodwin will introduce Project Math-I-Khan, a three-component, math intervention. The program will incorporate mathematical differentiated learning to increase student skills and understanding. Students will create math videos to be disseminated ... more »

Debbie Halstead

Garfield Elementary School, Spokane, WA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Mrs. Halstead will attend Columbia University's Teacher College Summer Writing Institute to learn best strategies for implementation, including crucial structures and routines that allow teachers to meet the differentiated needs of all student writers. Mrs. Halstead ... more »

Aubrey Ludwig

Langley High School, McLean, VA
Grades 9-12, English
2012, Winter

Educators from Virginia and Illinois will collaborate to explore the educational uses of the Tumblr microblogging platform. Ms. Ludwig and Ms. Richardson will use the platform to create overviews, reviews, and document based questions. Additionally, educators will ... more »

Andrew Jones

Mount Abraham Union High School, Bristol, VT
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

To effectively meet the needs of learners with diverse abilities and backgrounds, Mr. Jones will attend the Universal Design for Learning: Reaching All Learners institute at Harvard University. The program will prepare Mr. Jones to implement Universal Design for ... more »

Kathey Hoover

Wylie High School, Wylie, TX
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Ms. Hoover will travel to Belize to explore terrestrial, coastal, and coral reef communities. While there, she will join researchers to learn about conservation programs involving species including harpy eagles, jaguars, manatees, and howler monkeys. Additionally, Ms. ... more »

Joni Acuff

University of North Texas, Denton, TX
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Dr. Acuff will work with educators at a middle school in Columbus, Ohio in a participatory action research project. The cohorts will assess and revise their school curriculum based on reflections from the 2011-2012 academic year. Data obtained from the research will ... more »

Susanne Rasely-Philipps

East Stroudsburg Area High School South, East Stroudsburg, PA
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

To improve the quality of education for ESL and Hispanic heritage students, Ms. Rasely-Philipps and her colleagues will develop an academic group at school that will foster personal and cultural connections as well as academic and career choices. The group will study ... more »

Elizabeth Tardif

Englewood Elementary, Salem, OR
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Through Techie Teachers, Mrs. Tardif will undergo Smart Notebook Certification Training. The training will provide Mrs. Tardif with the skills necessary to fully utilize her school’s technology equipment as educational tools. Upon completing the training, Mrs. ... more »

Constantine Farmakidis

Southeast Local School District, Ravenna, OH
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

To improve technological proficiency among educators within the Southeast Local School District, Mr. Farmakidis will share with colleagues a series of teaching models which focus on integrating technological applications into teacher pedagogies. Throughout the course of ... more »

Denver Fowler

Licking Heights Central Middle School, Pataskala, OH
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Mr. Fowler will attend the New and Aspiring School Leaders program at Harvard University. Through the program, Mr. Fowler will gain new tools, frameworks, leadership techniques, instructional practice techniques, and ideas to more effectively build and sustain learning ... more »

Mary Lyons

Morris Grove Elementary School, Chapel Hill, NC
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Ms. Lyons will attend the Reading and Writing Project at the Columbia University Teachers College. Through the program, Ms. Lyons will deepen her understanding of the implementation of effective reading workshops and the integration of the Common Core Curriculum. The ... more »

Jesse Applegate

M.S. 447, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mr. Applegate will read, "The Complete Learning Disabilities Handbook: Ready-to-Use Strategies and Activities for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities," and attend the Learning Disabilities Association of America's annual conference in Chicago. Using the ... more »

Bryce Cahn

Tompkins Square Middle School, New York, NY
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Winter

Mr. Cahn will take part in a year-long learning experience through the Mindful Education Institute. Through the study, Mr. Cahn will create student centered social and emotional learning curriculum and staff development strategies grounded in research-based ... more »

Kelly Swanson

Pinewood Elementary, Mounds View, MN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Ms. Swanson will embark on a six-week stay in Guatemala through Casa Xelaju’s Spanish Immersion Program. Through the program, Ms. Swanson will further her knowledge of Latin American culture and languages via experiences in schools, site visits, and a home stay ... more »

Katherine Hedrick

Greenville Middle School, Greenville, MI
Grades 6-8, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

To provide quality writing instruction for students at Greenville Middle School, Ms. Hedrick will attend a one-week internship at the Center for Teaching and Learning during which she will observe, discuss, and reflect on the teaching practices used by educators ... more »

Catherine Cushard

Susick Elementary School, Troy, MI
Grades K-5, English
2012, Winter

Ms. Cushard will attend the What’s Different about Teaching Reading to English Language Learners institute at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. Upon completion of the training Ms. Cushard will lead a study group that will equip colleagues with ... more »

Susan Hansen-Barber

Canyon Elementary Science Magnet School, Cataldo, ID
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Using curriculum from the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry, Mrs. Hansen-Barber and Mrs. Joslyn will facilitate ten professional study workshops for educators in the Wallace and Kellogg School Districts. The first five workshops will introduce teachers to the benefits ... more »

Bejanae Kareem

Parkside Elementary, Atlanta, GA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Ms. Kareem will travel to a diverse, high performing school in Toronto, Ontario. While there, Ms. Kareem will investigate professional learning communities and parental involvement initiatives aimed at increasing student achievement. The strategies and knowledge gained ... more »

Brett Geier

University of South Florida–Polytechnic, Lakeland, FL
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Dr. Geier and Mrs. Davis will implement professional development for K-12 administrators at the county school district level. The learning will aim to improve STEM concept knowledge for administrators as they evaluate educators teaching these concepts. The ... more »

Adina Alexandru

Glastonbury High School, Glastonbury, CT
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Dr. Alexandru will conduct multiple sessions with foreign language teachers within her school district. The sessions will focus on curriculum development that will incorporate efficient interpretive reading strategies in daily instruction that will be reflected in all ... more »

Kevin Crosby

Independence High School, Bakersfield, CA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Winter

Mr. Crosby will attend a workshop that will focus on the development of individualized instruction across all levels of student need using the Common Core Standards. Mr. Crosby will also attend various professional development strands that cover specific educational ... more »

Amber Lancaster

June Jordan School for Equity, San Francisco, CA
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2012, Winter

To improve her Spanish speaking skills to better communicate with Spanish speaking students and their parents, Ms. Lancaster will spend four weeks in intensive language classes in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Through small group classes, individual tutoring sessions, and ... more »

Kory Bootsma

Rancho Verde High School, Moreno Valley, CA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mrs. Bootsma and Mrs. Vansant will introduce vertically-teamed, collaborative AP social studies and AP English classes at Rancho Verde High School. Eight collaborative team teachers will be granted self initiated workshops that will enable them to vertically align both ... more »

Michelle Pauken

Rockwall High School, Rockwall, TX
Grades 9-12, Arts
2011, Fall

Dr. Pauken will travel to Belize, where she will experience archeological field work, contribute to ongoing research, and gain a deeper understanding of Mayan culture. She will work with archeologists and anthropologists, and will learn how to use the required tools and ... more »

Sharon Eanes

Double Eagle Elementary School, Albuquerque, NM
Grades K-5, Special Education
2011, Fall

Mrs. Eanes will attend the Davis Dyslexia Correction Methods, a training that will provide insight into how the dyslexic brain works.  At the four day training, Mrs. Eanes will learn theories, principles, and procedures regarding dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ... more »

Meredith Cummings

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AK
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Ms. Cummings and Ms. Parsons will participate in the mentoring program of the Journalism Education Association, which will enable them to provide ongoing training and support for new journalism teachers and advisers. Acting as mentors, Ms. Cummings and Ms. Parsons will ... more »

Erica Kogely

Hayward Elementary School, Sioux Falls, SD
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Using iPads, the speech therapy team at Hayward Elementary will enhance student motivation, improve collaboration among educators, and increase student productivity. The technology will bring speech and language therapy into classrooms that previously have not had access to ... more »

Hope Shirley

Central Elementary, Central, SC
Grades K-5, Science
2011, Fall

Mrs. Shirley and Ms. Forbes will introduce Plants, People, and Our Planet which will allow third and fourth grade students to explore the environmental factors that negatively affect plants and humans. Students will develop a garden and outdoor reading courtyard to ... more »

Katy Norris

Welsh Valley Middle School, Narberth, PA
Grades 6-8, Arts
2011, Fall

Eighth grade students from two diverse schools in the Lower Merion School District will collaborate on a yearlong service learning project through Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. Students will work collaboratively to explore social issues effecting ... more »

Eileen Wuthrick

Washington Elementary, Alliance, OH
Grades K-5, Special Education
2011, Fall

Ms. Wuthrick and Ms. Hall will incorporate iPads into the classroom so that students will identify, analyze, and comprehend issues inherent in diverse ecosystems. The learning will enhance students’ understanding of the ways in which living ecosystems function and the ... more »

Alana Chill

Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, Washington, DC
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2011, Fall

To improve student literacy and public speaking, Ms. Chill and Ms. Peck’s fourth grade students will host daily news programs for the entire school. The broadcasts will focus primarily on social studies themes, allowing students to report on both past and present ... more »

Susan Anglada Bartley

Franklin High School, Portland, OR
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

To address an influx of students at Franklin High School due to the closure of another school within the district, Mrs. Anglada Bartley and Ms. Garrett will expand the Advanced Scholar Program, which requires students to commit to taking four advance placement classes ... more »

Travis Anderson

Lawrence-Lawson Elementary School, Sparta, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Lawrence-Lawson Elementary students will become actively engaged in technology using iPod Touch devices. Feeding the 21st Century Learner with Technology will motivate students to increase their knowledge of reading and math skills while differentiating instruction to meet ... more »

Susan Persson

Barnet Elementary School, Barnet, VT
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Ms. Persson and Ms. Boardman will incorporate the use of laptop computers into their classrooms to support the integration of the arts and technology with the disciplines of science, language arts, and social studies. Student work in the core curriculum will connect with ... more »

Kimberly Foland

Spring Hill Elementary School, Knoxville, TN
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2011, Fall

Educators at Spring Hill Elementary will introduce Discover Intensive Phonics with the objective of helping at-risk students increase their decoding and reading skills. Ms. Foland and Mrs. Pena will implement the program and monitor improvements in students’ reading ... more »

Lani Banner

Hudson City Schools, Hudson, OH
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

The Hudson Appalachia Project will provide students with a service learning opportunity in rural Ohio. Students will participate in a week of service which includes volunteering at several nonprofit and educational organizations. Through classroom instruction and community ... more »

Ryan Harwood

Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2011, Fall

Through Connecting Cultures Across the World, students at Mendenhall Middle School will correspond with their peers in a sister school in Tema, Ghana. Students in each school will create videos about their school, town, region, and country. Video versions of ... more »

Adi Madden

Fairmount School, Hackensack, NJ
Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented
2011, Fall

Students will explore the realities of extreme poverty in their communities and at the global level through Eradicating Global Issues through 21st Century Technology. Students will identify latent issues and produce videos about the issues and ways to eradicate them. Mrs. ... more »

Patricia Piscetta

Belmont Middle School, Belmont, NH
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Mrs. Piscetta and Ms. West will upgrade Belmont Middle School’s Accelerated Reader Program with AR Enterprise, a web based application which will enhance their ability to reach all students. The program is designed to encourage independent reading and measure student ... more »

Jeff de Varona

Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy, Niles, MI
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2011, Fall

To increase student engagement and provide differentiation for students in math classes, Mr. de Varona and Mr. Watson will create a new course that integrates algebra and geometry and focuses on project based learning. Students will create and post high quality online ... more »

Watch the event!


Tonight, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET), 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. We'll be live streaming the entire event right here!


Join us in celebrating 42 public school educators as they 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.