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.


Julianne Evangelista

Mt. Baker School District, Maple Falls, WA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2010, Fall

Mrs. Evangelista and Mrs. Marshall will lead the creation of “Intervention Kits.”  The kits will provide an alternative, sensory based curricula for at risk learners throughout the district.  After presenting professional development sessions to ... more »

Julie Hauck

Longfellow Elementary School, Sheboygan, WI
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

“Kindles for Kids” will act as a supplemental reading program intended to increase reading motivation and strengthen skills in third grade students.  Students in Mrs. Hauck’s and Mrs. VanWyk’s classrooms will be placed in small, flexible reading ... more »

Frank Spina

Robinson Elementary School, Starksboro, VT
Grades K-5, English
2010, Fall

Spina and colleagues at Robinson Elementary School will participate in a collaborative arts professional learning community, “Arts Come Alive!” (ACA), held at the Flynn Center for Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont.  ACA is based on research ... more »

Louis Lessor

Westside Elementary School, Sun Prairie, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2010, Fall

Lessor will attend a SMART Training certification event in Chicago, Illinois, which will allow him to be trained on the use of Notebook software and the SMART Board interactive whiteboard.  Upon completing the training, Mr. Lessor will conduct professional development ... more »

Paula Pounders

Russellville Elementary School, Russellville, AL
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2010, Fall

In the “Math Masters” program, third, fourth and fifth grade students use Digitz interactive devices to gain mastery of basic math skills.  With the ability to be used in the classroom and at home, “Math Masters” also promotes parental ... more »

Sheryl Schaaf

Quillayute Valley School District, Forks, WA
Grades K-5, Science
2004, Fall

Collaborating with the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership of Western Washington University, Ms. Schaff, Ms. Carroll, and Ms. Rohrer explore, create, and implement innovative science content and professional development models. Participants study ... more »

Jennifer Rosenthal

Mt. Anthony Union High School, Bennington, VT
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2004, Fall

Ms. Rosenthal, who was formally trained in chemistry but teaches physics, enrolls in several courses to increase her content knowledge of physics. Using what she learns, Ms. Rosenthal broadens the topics in her course and develops lab work and problem-solving ... more »

Holly Marie Kochalka

Cambridge Elementary School, Jeffersonville, VT
Grades K-5, English
2004, Fall

Ms. Kochalka leads grade-level study groups to investigate best practices for literacy instruction. The group analyzes student data, research-based instructional approaches, and develops an action plan for enhancing the reading and language arts program. Throughout ... more »

Julie McMillan

Hillcrest Junior High School, Murray, UT
Grades 6-8, English
2004, Fall

Ms. McMillan and her partners establish a study group to examine best practices for implementing literacy instruction across curricula. Collaborating with a consultant, the team designs action research projects and assesses the effect various reading strategies have ... more »

Cheryl Craig

University of Houston, Houston, TX
Higher Education, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Dr. Craig and her partners form a study group to learn about teacher portfolios. The group, which includes new teachers, analyze research and reflect on their instructional strategies to develop portfolios. To share what they learn with colleagues, participants make ... more »

Renee Oscarson

South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD
Higher Education, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Ms. Oscarson and her partners examine their courses to incorporate geriatric studies into curricula. During monthly meetings, participants discuss and compare pedagogical strategies and learning resources for teaching gerontology. Team members also share examples of ... more »

Amy Peterson

C. M. Musser Elementary School, Sharon, PA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2004, Fall

Ms. Peterson and her partners examine how to best use personal digital assistants (PDAs) to support and assess student learning. After learning how to use the technology, the participants implement a local history project in their classes. Participants use PDAs to ... more »

Mary Manges

North Star School District, Stoystown, PA
Grades K-5, English
2004, Fall

Ms. Manges leads a study group to learn best practices in language arts instruction. Using a literature circle format, the team reads and discusses research-based strategies that improve writing and reading skills. The participants share their knowledge with ... more »

Rebecca Mallatt

LaPine Elementary School, LaPine, OR
Grades K-5, Literature
2004, Fall

Ms. Mallatt and her partners establish a study group to learn how to use guided reading for a balanced literacy program in the classroom. The group reads and discusses several texts on guided reading and shares successes and challenges of implementing literacy ... more »

Libby Huff

Granite Falls Middle School, Granite Falls, NC
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2004, Fall

To help students understand technology choices and the effects of technology on society, Ms. Huff researches Amish society and culture to develop a unit on technology and Amish culture. She observes and interviews people in Amish communities to explore why they have ... more »

Maura Goggins

Grandview Elementary School, Monsey, NY
Grades K-5, English
2004, Fall

To gain fluency in Spanish and support her English language learners, Ms. Goggins attends the Cervantes Institute in Manhattan. At the institute, she enrolls in several advanced Spanish courses to develop her oral and written communication skills. Because few ... more »

Jennifer Bradshaw

Smithtown High School, Smithtown, NY
Grades 9-12, English
2004, Fall

The language arts teachers at Smithtown High School form a study group to analyze effective strategies for collaborating with secondary special education teachers on writing instruction. The participants collaborate with university writing center directors, use peer ... more »

Jill Hukee

McKinley Elementary School, Owatonna, MN
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2004, Fall

To improve student achievement, instructional strategies, and curriculum presentation, Ms. Hukee leads a study group on the needs and feelings of immigrant children. Participants read professional books and discuss best practices for instructing English language ... more »

Patti Tibaldi

Traverse City Eastern Elementary School, Traverse City, MI
Grades K-5, Physical Education
2004, Fall

Ms. Tibaldi, Ms. Gotshall, and Mr. McGee form a lesson study group with physical education teachers in all grade levels throughout the district to analyze and refine lessons on cardio-respiratory endurance and the benefits of physical activity. The team meets ... more »

Annette DeJong

Cherry Knoll Elementary School, Traverse City, MI
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2004, Fall

To help staff make the best use of available technology, Ms. DeJong forms a study group to research best practices for integrating technology into the classroom. Participants work across content areas to inform their colleagues on available technology and effective ... more »

Suzanne Strauss

Northampton High School, Northampton, MA
Grades 9-12, Literature
2004, Fall

To incorporate Russian and Ukrainian literature into her world literature classes, Ms. Strauss travels to Odessa, Ukraine, to establish an international exchange program. She studies Russian literature while teaching American literature, particularly focusing on ... more »

Frederick Koerber Jr.

Brunswick High School, Brunswick, ME
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2004, Fall

To tie local historic assets to the social studies curriculum realignment, Mr. Koerber conducts archival research at state historical repositories. Mr. Koerber studies local history within the broader context of national history. From what he learns, he teams with ... more »

Dona Durham

Lincoln Middle School, Portland, ME
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Ms. Durham and her partners establish a study group to improve methods for recognizing, understanding, and teaching students with learning differences. Analyzing Dr. Mel Levine’s phenomenological approach to understanding learners’ neurodevelopmental ... more »

Carla Thomas

Iroquois Middle School, Louisville, KY
Grades 6-8, English
2004, Fall

To support their high-risk learners, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Crawford study the most effective strategies for reading instruction. The participants analyze research-based approaches, conduct action research in their classrooms, assess their instruction, and develop a ... more »

Angela Hofer

Welton Elementary School, Welton, IA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2004, Fall

Ms. Hofer and her partners, who include special education teachers, form a lesson study group to improve mathematics instruction. Participants analyze research-based approaches to develop lessons on geometric problem solving. After teaching and observing each ... more »

Bryan Braack

North Scott Junior High School, Eldridge, IA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2004, Fall

Mr. Braack leads a team of seventh- and eighth-grade mathematics teachers in lesson study on problem-solving and fractions. Participants conduct classroom observations and collect and analyze data on student learning. Based on these data, the team develops and ... more »

Cathy Hamilton

Prosser School of Technology, New Albany, IN
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2004, Fall

To increase her students’ drafting skills, Ms. Hamilton studies the Rhino Level 4 Advanced Nonuniform Rational B-Splines modeling. Ms. Hamilton integrates this computer-aided modeling software into her curriculum and shares her knowledge with colleagues.

Ana Gackenheimer

Wabash High School, Wabash, IN
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Ms. Gackenheimer and her partners collaborate to develop individualized professional development plans. After reading professional literature on best practices for instructional strategies, participants use classroom data and research to modify classroom instruction. ... more »

Meghan Browne

Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, Indianapolis, IN
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2004, Fall

Analyzing data from the Northwest Evaluation Association and the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, Ms. Browne and Ms. MacBain identify differentiated instructional strategies that improve reading and mathematics skills. The teachers provide ... more »

Carrie Smith

Carmel Valley Middle School, San Diego, CA
Grades 6-8, Science
2004, Fall

Ms. Smith and her partners engage in lesson study to improve their science curriculum design and instructional strategies. The participants examine which inquiry-based activities enhance student learning, then videotape and analyze their instructional approaches. To ... more »

Linda Wamboldt

West Milwaukee Middle School, West Milwaukee, WI
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Through “Honoring the Past to Preserve our Future,” Ms. Wamboldt and Mr. Liska implement a historical preservation project to increase the problem-solving and historiographical skills of their eighth-grade students. Students research, write tour descriptions, ... more »

Dorothy Maria Jones

Robert J. Frank Intermediate School, Oxnard, CA
Grades 6-8, English
2004, Fall

Ms. Jones and her partners collaborate with university professors to analyze reading and writing strategies that improve student achievement across disciplines. After identifying strategies, participants incorporate instructional approaches into their curricula and ... more »

Helen Gallagher

General A. M. Winn Elementary School, Sacramento, CA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2004, Fall

Collaborating with California State University—Sacramento, Ms. Gallagher leads a study group on web design using Microsoft FrontPage®. The members of the group use their knowledge to create class websites with resources their bilingual students can use to ... more »

Joseph Meersman

Toppenish High School, Toppenish, WA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Mr. Meersman and Mr. Roybal increase the writing and communication skills of their English language learners through a unit that combines history and technology. Students create storyboards and use video cameras and video editing software to record their own speeches, which ... more »

Katharine Foster

International Studies Academy, San Francisco, CA
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Ms. Foster and her partners team with Project Spera, an organization that promotes global education, to develop curricula on international topics and issues. Participants develop plans for incorporating international issues into existing lesson plans. Team members ... more »

Christopher Kelly

Thomas Dale High School, Chester, VA
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2004, Fall

Mr. Kelly, Mr. Hornick, and Mr. Sable develop students’ problem-solving skills while preparing them for careers through a unit on technology and global information systems. After studying the history and applicability of global positioning systems (GPS), students use ... more »

Yevgeny Pevzner

Kearns Junior High School, Kearns, UT
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Ms. Pevzner and Ms. Carson connect science to their students’ everyday lives while improving reading and writing skills. Students conduct scientific experiments using common products, such as bubble gum and paper towels. With the data analyses from these experiments, ... more »

Cynthia Gingold

South Park Elementary School, Memphis, TN
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Dr. Gingold and Ms. Lawson integrate art, literature, and science to teach students about the solar system. Students read nonfiction books, write reflective essays and poetry, create murals and mobiles, and stage dance productions about the universe. At the project’s ... more »

Lorraine Moore

Cowpens Elementary School, Cowpens, SC
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2004, Fall

Ms. Moore, Ms. Kirby, and Ms. Noblin, first-grade mathematics teachers, collaborate to improve students’ problem-solving skills. Students investigate geometry problems with Geoblocks, a set of wooden rectangular and triangular prisms and pyramids designed in ... more »

Gail Calloway

Williams Middle School, Florence, SC
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Ms. Calloway and Ms. Rae have created the interdisciplinary unit “China: Bridging the Wall” to increase students’ higher-level thinking skills and global understanding. In literature circles students read and discuss articles and stories about Chinese ... more »

Ann Altman

Newberry Middle School, Newberry, SC
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2004, Fall

Through hands-on activities and cooperative learning, Ms. Altman and Ms. Floyd enhance the problem-solving and mathematics skills of their eighth-grade students. Students apply geometric properties as they design and paint ceramic tiles, create dream catchers and ... more »

Samuel Reed III

D. Beeber Middle School, Philadelphia, PA
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Mr. Reed and his partners implement a program called “Who Am I? Using Multimedia and Performing Arts for Self Discovery and Making Literacy Connections” to improve their students’ reading and critical-thinking skills. Teachers collaborate with parents, ... more »

Debra Pieri

East Fallowfield Elementary School, East Fallowfield, PA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2004, Fall

Ms. Pieri, Ms. Fowler, and Mr. Hober combine storytelling and the arts to create an intergenerational and cross-cultural curriculum. Communicating with a sister school in Germany and local World War II veterans, students explore the story of Lieutenant Arthur Sauler, a ... more »

Carrie Myers

Lehigh Carbon Community College, Schnecksville, PA
Higher Education, English
2004, Fall

Ms. Myers and Ms. Mayberry collaborate with local high schools to offer a poetry writing workshop. Students explore poetry by attending a coffeehouse where professional writers and poets read their work.

Robert Morrow

Valley High School, New Kensington, PA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Mr. Morrow, Ms. Ryce, and Mr. Shaner collaborate with local businesses to prepare students not planning on college for technical careers. Working in teams, students research, design, and construct a television production van that serves as a teaching tool. Students in ... more »

Paul Longwell

Hollidaysburg Area High School, Hollidaysburg, PA
Grades 9-12, Science
2004, Fall

Mr. Longwell and Mr. Hartman implement “Heart-Pounding Physics,” an interdisciplinary project that explores the bio-mechanical processes and stresses of physical activity. After a sports-science professor explains the relationship between science and physical ... more »

Brenda Chow

Community School East, East Petersburg, PA
Higher Education, Mathematics
2004, Fall

Collaborating with the American Heart Association, Ms. Chow and Ms. Bryce prepare their students with learning and emotional disabilities for first-aid certification. Students apply mathematical and problem-solving skills to common medical and traumatic emergencies. Through ... more »

Eric Bell

Pennsylvania State University—Hazelton Campus, Hazleton, PA
Higher Education, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Dr. Bell and Ms. Grebski relate technology to everyday life by introducing elementary students to simple machines. Collaborating with university engineering professors and parents, elementary teachers design activities and materials about simple machines that are used for ... more »

Melody Beitzel

Susquenita Elementary School, Duncannon, PA
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2004, Fall

Ms. Beitzel, Ms. Beckley, and Ms. Foy establish the Community Resource and Lending Center in their district to provide developmental and educational materials for community students. The resource center contains materials that support grade-level curriculum and encourage ... more »

Adam Kirsch

Crescent Valley High School, Corvallis, OR
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2004, Fall

High school and college students in science classes collaborate with the Oregon Department of Energy to develop a plan to use fuel cell technology to convert excess landfill gas to electrical energy. Students analyze the levels of excess gas that a local landfill is ... more »

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.