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.


Michael Rozalski

State University of New York at Geneseo, Geneseo, NY
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Through a collaborative partnership with county emergency medical services, Dr. Rozalski and Dr. Urso will be prepared to train pre-service teachers to respond to emergency situations and to manage safe environments for medically fragile children in school settings.  ... more »

Joseph Pizzo

Black River Middle School, Chester, NJ
Grades 6-8, English
2011, Winter

Mr. Pizzo and Mrs. Aiello will lead a professional learning community to reinforce writing as a skill integral to all curricula.  Exemplary lead teachers in the district will team with professionals from the College of Saint Elizabeth not only to provide training for ... more »

Christina Brockett

Kirk L. Adams Elementary School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Mrs. Brockett will lead a professional learning community in the study of differentiated instruction.  The project will support teachers by allowing them to explore specific site based educational needs.  Group members will collaborate regularly to identify ... more »

Megan Gruis

Pioneer Ridge Middle School, Chaska, MN
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Mrs. Gruis and Mrs. Rother will introduce Where Everybody Belongs (WEB), a middle school transition program that helps sixth grade students feel comfortable throughout the first year of their middle school experience.  WEB will foster a belief that students want to and ... more »

Michael Reeser

Central Lakes College, Brainerd, MN
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Mr. Reeser will attend the Certified Welding Educator Seminar and Examination.  As a result, he will be able to provide students with improved learning experiences and better evaluations and assessments.  The increased standards will provide students with a real ... more »

Kara Clayton

Thurston High School, Redford, MI
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

To enhance her media literacy, Mrs. Clayton will attend the National Association of Media Literacy Education’s Biennial Conference.  Participants will learn to engage students in the use of media technology and consumption so that they may participate globally in ... more »

Heidi Houseman

Muskegon Public School, Muskegon, MI
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2011, Winter

Teachers in Muskegon County school districts will implement Camp Shout Out, a multi-layered learning environment for children who stutter, their families, and speech therapists.  Speech therapists will be trained by board certified fluency specialists who have ... more »

Chris Baer

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, Oak Bluffs, MA
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Mr. Baer and Mrs. Holter will lead a program which will connect U.S. teachers with teachers in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa to explore best practices for equipping students with the 21st-century skills needed to thrive in an increasingly integrated global ... more »

Diarra Robertson

Bowie State University, Bowie, MD
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Dr. Robertson will examine the impact of preparatory tools in improving student performance on the Graduate Record Exam.  The goal of the research is to determine if prior preparation improves performance in the specific areas with which students struggle.  By ... more »

Joyce Elliot

Dirigo Elementary School, Peru, ME
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Mrs. Elliot will lead a collegial study in Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK), a framework for increasing technology integration.  After an overview of the TPCK model and exposure to several sample units, teachers will work in grade level teams to ... more »

Christina Faulk

McKinley High School, Baton Rouge, LA
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2011, Winter

Ms. Faulk will attend the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference to participate in sessions designed to build stronger teacher content knowledge, student-teacher relationships, parent-teacher relationships, and hands on learning experiences.  After the ... more »

Kathleen Ritchie

Dorris Intermediate School, Collinsville, IL
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Mrs. Ritchie will attend the National Institute of Trauma and Loss in Children’s Practitioners’ Assembly and learn new methods of providing services to students and staff during crisis situations.  As a member of the district’s Help and Response Team ... more »

Donica Cuspard

Redan Elementary School, Lithonia, GA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Dr. Cuspard will attend the ASCD Annual Conference to enhance her knowledge about learning opportunities that help educators create better schools and improve teaching and learning programs.  The learning will assist Dr. Cuspard in her position as Redan ... more »

Vernita Moore

Jefferson Davis Middle School, Jacksonville, FL
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Ms. Moore will attend the 2011 National Science Teacher Association conference and learn strategies to bridge the learning gaps students are experiencing in earth and life science.  Ms. Moore and her department expect content retention to increase and student test ... more »

Georgina Navarrete

Maywood Elementary, Maywood, CA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

To gain a greater understanding of early intervention strategies, Mrs. Navarrete will attend the seminar Powerful Early Intervention Strategies to Help Students Struggling with Reading and Writing through the Bureau of Education and Research.  Upon completion, Mrs. ... more »

JoEllen McAdams

University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Little Rock, AR
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Through the project PALS, Dr. McAdams and colleagues will expand on research about the use of live dogs in elementary reading programs.  Recent results indicate that with the PALS programs, literacy scores increased up to thirty five percent compared to children who ... more »

Michele Wailey

West High School, Anchorage, AK
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Ms. Wailey and a team of colleagues will learn TPR Storytelling, a language method which allows educators to reach out to struggling students.  Team members will conduct monthly meetings to discuss techniques and progress.  The educators will each conduct webinar ... more »

Michele Copeland

Potowmack Elementary School, Sterling, VA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2011, Winter

Students at Potowmack will participate in a new math instructional program entitled Math Through Music.  As part of the program, students will sing and dance to the sounds of educator Dr. Jean, who has created motivating songs to teach young children math skills and ... more »

William Van Evera

HB Woodlawn School, Arlington, VA
Grades 6-8, Science
2011, Winter

Physics students at HB Woodlawn School will investigate the feasibility of generating electricity using wind turbines.  Students will first receive instruction on the physics of wind turbine design and then coach middle school students working in groups to build a ... more »

Anthea Lavergne

Boone Elementary School, Houston, TX
Grades K-5, English
2011, Winter

To foster a deeper appreciation of the language arts, Ms. Lavergne’s fourth grade special needs students will participate in an accelerated writing and publishing institute and produce books.  Students will use digital technology and publishing software to design ... more »

Clarence McFerren II

Trezevant High School, Memphis, TN
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2011, Winter

Mr. McFerren and Mr. Lee’s students will research issues relevant to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including geographic locations, historic landmarks, museums, and prominent attractions.  Students will study statistical data of past collegiate ... more »

Jenifer McMurray

Seneca Valley Intermediate High School, Harmony, PA
Grades 6-8, Science
2011, Winter

In an effort to reinforce the importance of outdoor learning, Mrs. McMurray will lead classroom sessions in local state parks.  By raising student awareness of the natural world and motivating students to become engaged in natural resource management practices, Mrs. ... more »

Jane Johnston

View Acres Elementary School, Milwaukie, OR
Grades K-5, Science
2011, Winter

View Acres Elementary School students will design and develop a large vegetable and native plant garden as part of a new staff-initiated science program that is based on state science standards, student inquiry, and project based learning.  Lessons focused on the ... more »

Cathy Spencer

Oakridge Junior High, Oakridge, OR
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2011, Winter

Mrs. Spencer and Mr. Goffin will challenge students to become independent learners capable of meeting their personal goals.  Through the use of iPads and available applications, students will identify life goals and research the math skills needed to accomplish these ... more »

Tabatha Stover

Hilliard City Schools, Columbus, OH
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2011, Winter

Mrs. Stover and Mrs. Marsh’s students will learn how to solve open ended, differentiated mathematics problems.  Through inquiry exploration, students will engage in whole group, cooperative group, and independent learning opportunities.  Students will ... more »

Jill Poyle

North Ridgeville City Schools, North Ridgeville, OH
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2011, Winter

The Job Skills Exposure Program will teach special education students the job skills they need in order to gain employment.  To help determine necessary skills, students will be taken to potential employers and exposed to various jobs.  Classroom instruction will ... more »

Pamela Carlson

Wilder Elementary School, Grand Forks, ND
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2011, Winter

Wilder Elementary students will engage in technology rich experiences with opportunities for creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making using iPad tablets.  Partnerships with pre-service teachers at the University of North Dakota and ... more »

Leslie Parker

Fox Road Elementary School, Raleigh, NC
Grades K-5, English
2011, Winter

Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Watson will implement guided reading as the primary method of literacy instruction at all grade levels at Fox Road Elementary School.  Educators will provide targeted instruction to students in small groups, allowing individual students to learn ... more »

Celeste Cafiso

PS 18 JG Whittier, Staten Island, NY
Grades K-5, English
2011, Winter

Mrs. Cafiso and Mrs. Mahoney will create a classroom library to encourage students to read.  Classroom lessons will focus on phonics based instruction aimed toward English language learners.  Students will ultimately create a series of bilingual books which will ... more »

Scott Becker

Cohen Middle School, Elmira Heights, NY
Grades 6-8, Arts
2011, Winter

The Making Music Modern Project will engage music students at Cohen Middle School to increase critical thinking skills and provide an outlet for creative expression.  The project will incorporate software with which students will compose, arrange, play, and record ... more »

William Roweton

Chadron State College, Chadron, NE
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Winter

Dr. Roweton will place remotely controlled video and audio digital equipment in local elementary and middle classrooms to train Chadron State College (CSC) Educational Psychology students in observation.  These students will practice coding what they experience ... more »

Shawna Veit

Armada High School, Armada, MI
Grades 9-12, Science
2011, Winter

Through continued efforts to establish Armada High School as a green education leader in the state of Michigan, Mrs. Veit and Mr. Defever will lead a school wide renewable energy program.  The project will allow all students to take part in hands on opportunities to ... more »

Carolyn Breault

Rice Square School, Worcester, MA
Grades K-5, English
2011, Winter

Fourth grade students struggling with reading comprehension will be responsible for compiling The Chilly Press, a student publication of current events and interviews.  Students will read about and report on current events, interview teachers on classroom activities, ... more »

Morgan Purdy

West Broadway Elementary School, Madisonville, KY
Grades K-5, English
2011, Winter

Second grade students will work cooperatively to create a successful and informative school newspaper for West Broadway Elementary School.  The project will aid students in making real world connections between the outside world, the local community, and the ... more »

Sondra Groene

Schwegler Elementary School, Lawrence, KS
Grades K-5, Science
2011, Winter

Schwegler Elementary students will visit Kansas’s Tallgrass Prairie in order to understand the historic and cultural importance of the ecosystem.  The project will enable students to engage in community learning while discovering the relevance of local ... more »

Melissa Tunis

Winchester Village Elementary School, Indianapolis, IN
Grades K-5, English
2011, Winter

To address Winchester Village’s large number of English language learners who are refugees from Burma, Mrs. Tunis and Mrs. Dillon will guide students in utilizing iPad and Smartboard technology to become published authors.  Students will write their own ... more »

Jessica Schultz

Culdesac Joint School District #342, Culdesac, ID
Grades 9-12, Science
2011, Winter

Ms. Schultz and Mrs. Spears’ seventh through twelfth grade classrooms will use engineering strategies to think critically and use problem solving skills to deepen their knowledge of science and social studies.  Students will conduct inquiry based investigations ... more »

Justin Brown

Kealakehe High School, Kailua-Kona, HI
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2011, Winter

Mr. Brown and Mr. Buongiorno will implement a yearlong collaborative project that will challenge students to apply what they learn about comparative politics and international relations through simulating United Nations’ sessions.  In addition to formal research ... more »

Teresa Staton-Soliman

Port Salerno Elementary School, Stuart, FL
Grades K-5, English
2011, Winter

In order to improve the performance of English language learners at Port Salerno Elementary School, Mrs. Staton-Soliman and Mrs. Smith will introduce interactive Kindle e-readers in their classrooms.  Ultimately, the project will increase student reading comprehension, ... more »

Michelle Pearson

Hulstrom Options School, Northglenn, CO
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2011, Winter

Through Generation 2 Generation, Hulstrom Options’ students will help preserve and document local history through podcasting, video logging, and artifact curation.  Students will work with senior veterans to digitize more than 4,500 artifacts dating from the ... more »

Jonathan Bergmann

Woodland Park High School, Woodland Park, CO
Grades 9-12, Science
2011, Winter

Through the Mastery Learning program, Woodland Park High School students will study chemistry by collaborating with one another, viewing lectures on video podcasts, and performing hands on inquiry experiments.  Mr. Bergmann and Mrs. Devaux will introduce the program in ... more »

Christine Steigelman

Environmental Academy of Research Technology and Earth Science, Newbury Park, CA
Grades 6-8, Science
2011, Winter

Students at EARTHS Magnet School will embark on real and virtual journeys to different biomes in California to conduct environmental research.  Students will study the water sources and watersheds in each biome and collect data, photos, and videos on water supply, ... more »

Kevin Crosby

Independence High School, Bakersfield, CA
Grades 9-12, Science
2011, Winter

Through Project Robo-Class, Mr. Crosby will begin a robotics club in the Autism Department at Independence High School.  Through the use of Lego robotics kits and instructional software, students will develop experiential knowledge of robotic mechanics.

Christopher Junsay

Bancroft Middle School, San Leandro, CA
Grades 6-8, Science
2011, Winter

Mr. Junsay and Ms. Rosenkrantz will employ the Qwizdom student response system in seventh grade science classes during a unit on cell biology.  Each student will be provided with an electronic clicker so that he or she can respond to multiple choice and short response ... more »

Dona Helmer

College Gate Elementary School, Anchorage, AK
Grades K-5, Science
2011, Winter

Ms. Helmer and Ms. Dowling will collaborate to integrate science content with reading, reasoning, research, and writing skills.  The project will provide hands on experiences for first grade at risk students enabling them to develop content knowledge, literacy skills, ... more »

Kerry Townsend

Scottsboro High School, Scottsboro, AL
Grades 9-12, Science
2011, Winter

Ms. Townsend and Mrs. Stills will implement “The Chemical Magic Show,” in which high school students will act as chemistry teachers in elementary school classrooms.  The project will allow students to display their scientific and creative skills in ... more »

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 »

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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.