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.


Frances Meffen

Dover Middle School, Dover, NH
Grades 6-8, School Counselor
2016, Spring

Mrs. Frances will lead a collegial study group at the Teach for Teachers Summit, where they will learn to understand the paradigm shift of instructional practice from teacher centered to student centered. The cohort will also participate in the University of New ... more »

Teresa Kelly

St. Paul Music Academy, St. Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Music
2016, Spring

Mrs. Kelly will spend four weeks on a cultural exchange in India, during which she will volunteer at both a rural school north of Bangalore and an urban school in Kolkata. While there, Mrs. Kelly will teach American folk songs to elementary students and mentor music ... more »

Dr. Anne Hornak

Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Spring

Dr. Hornak will attend an Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) seminar to obtain an IDI certification, which will allow her to administer and interpret IDI to students returning from study abroad experiences.  Dr. Hornak will focus on understanding the impact of ... more »

Erin Berryhill

Northview High School, Grand Rapids, MI
Grades 9-12, Science
2016, Spring

Mrs. Berryhill and colleagues will participate in the NextGen Science Exemplar System, a robust professional development study that will enable participants to gain skills around the Science and Engineering practices found in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). ... more »

Jessica Knight

Bridgman Elementary School, Bridgman, MI
Grades K-5, School Counselor
2016, Spring

To enhance her ability to communicate with Spanish speaking students and families districtwide, Ms. Knight will travel to Costa Rica and attend Centro Panamericano Idioms language school. The learning will allow Ms. Knight to bridge the language barrier and provide ... more »

Laverne Mickens

Rebecca Johnson Elementary, Springfield, MA
Grades K-5, Arts
2016, Spring

Mrs. Mickens will lead “Speaking With Our Feet,” an action research project that will investigate the effects of and the need for dance integration and mentorship for at risk boys in high poverty urban school districts. This qualitative study will evaluate if ... more »

Lauren Kutler

Forestdale School, Malden, MA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2016, Spring

Ms. Kutler will attend the International Congress on Mathematical Education in Hamburg, Germany. During the conference, Ms. Kutler will participate in the Algebra Topic Study Group and attend a variety of lectures given by leading math educators. Ms. Kutler will network ... more »

Amy Sherman

Rosemont Elementary School, Gaithersburg, MD
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Spring

To better communicate with the growing Ethiopian population in her school system, Ms. Sherman will participate in a cultural immersion program throughout multiple cities in Ethiopia. During the program, Ms. Sherman will learn about the history, geography, religions, and ... more »

Amy Conrad

Zionsville Community High School, Zionsville, IN
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2016, Spring

To deepen understanding of best practices in evaluating world language proficiency, Ms. Conrad will attend an Oral Proficiency Interview assessment workshop sponsored by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).  While there, Ms. Conrad will ... more »

Tamara Drudy

Mount Carmel School, Cedar Grove, IN
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2016, Spring

Through “Hitting the Iditarod Trail,” Mrs. Drudy will attend the Iditarod Summer Camp for Educators. While there, Mrs. Drudy will learn of the history of the race, which was founded as a collaborative effort of dog sled teams to transport serum to ward off a ... more »

Christy Butler

West Ada School District, Meridian, ID
Grades K-12, Technology
2016, Spring

To expand her skill set and support both students with disabilities and special education teachers, Mrs. Butler will attend the Closing the Gap Conference. While at the conference, Mrs. Butler will participate in workshops that will address technology practices and ... more »

Victoria Ondo

Seminole Trails Elementary School, West Palm Beach, FL
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Spring

To meet the needs of a diverse student population, Mrs. Ondo and Ms. Wood will expand the use of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at Seminole Trails Elementary School. Through AVID lessons, students will learn how to take notes, remain organized, ... more »

Judith Aschwanden

St. Helena High School, Saint Helena, CA
Grades 9-12, Science
2016, Spring

Mrs. Aschwanden will attend the National Association of Agriculture Educators Conference, where she will present a workshop on implementing Next Generation Science Standards-based courses into school agriculture programs and leading lessons on hands on activities. ... more »

Dr. Laura Lohman

CSU Fullerton Auxiliary Services Corporation, Fullerton, CA
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Spring

Dr. Lohman and Dr. Guillaume will facilitate a summer institute that will allow faculty to develop essential skills and model instructional materials to foster the academic achievement of first generation college students. The research based collegial study will support ... more »

Kristi Greeson

Hartselle High School, Hartselle, AL
Grades 9-12, Technology
2016, Spring

Mrs. Greeson will attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference, where she will focus on new classroom technologies and best practices for using technology as a teaching tool. After the conference, Mrs. Greeson will provide professional ... more »

Christine Yee

Brighton High School, Salt Lake City, UT
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2016, Spring

Journalism students at Brighton High School will produce video news reports and share them with a national audience via PBS’s Student Reporting Labs. Students will conduct research, interview multiple sources, write scripts, and storyboard their reports. Students will ... more »

Patty McGinnis

Arcola Intermediate School, Norristown, PA
Grades 6-8, Science
2016, Spring

Mrs. McGinnis and Mr. Pluscht will work with middle school students to design and print functioning water filters that solve water purification problems in developing countries.  Students will engage in science and engineering practices as they design, test, and ... more »

Melissa Hamlin

Central Middle School, Dobson, NC
Grades 6-8, Science
2016, Spring

“Shark Tank: Episode-Stem Energized” will provide students opportunities to apply their knowledge of energy conservation to other disciplines of science throughout the school year.  Students will design, test, troubleshoot, and redesign prototypes that ... more »

Maria Krajewski

City-As-School, New York, NY
Grades 9-12, Arts
2016, Spring

Ms. Krajewski and Ms. Paulson will facilitate the creation and recording of a compilation album of student work under the mentorship of music industry professionals.  The educators will utilize a student centered inquiry process to conduct workshops with music ... more »

Elissa Goldstein

Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools, Piscataway, NJ
Grades 9-12, School Counselor
2016, Spring

To provide students a living laboratory in which they can conduct hands on experiments, Mrs. Goldstein and Ms. Buccino will lead a summer gardening program. Participating students will work with the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station to start the ... more »

Sandra Jonason

Palmer Lake School, Minneapolis, MN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Spring

Mrs. Jonason and Mrs. Capper-Eckstein will look to close achievement gaps and actively engage students by implementing the Learning Studio model in their classrooms. Through personalized learning, students will be given greater voice and choice in their learning. Culturally ... more »

Julie Reiss

William E. Norris Elementary School, Southampton, MA
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2016, Spring

To increase students’ mastery of reading, writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills, Ms. Reiss and a team of colleagues will participate in professional development led by Maryellen Moreau and purchase materials to implement Story Grammar Marker by MindWing. ... more »

Timothy Ghazzawi

Northwestern High School, Hyattsville, MD
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2016, Spring

Through a yearlong photographic memoir project, students will use cameras and journals to photograph, write about, and celebrate the important moments in their lives. By mixing written expression with photographic artistry, the project will foster progress in student

Darren Hornbeck

Linganore High School, Frederick, MD
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2016, Spring

Through “Using Fire to Fuel a Digital Curriculum,” Mr. Hornbeck and Mr. Burch will introduce tablets in their classrooms to pilot a social studies class titled “September 11 to the Present.” Due to the recentness of the subject matter, students will ... more »

Stephanie Dege

Michigan City High School, Michigan City, IN
Grades 6-8, Science
2016, Spring

Through “Eradicating Invasives from Hansen Park,” Ms. Dege and Mr. Goebel will work with students to restore and improve a popular local park.  The restoration project will allow students to remove invasive plant species from the banks of Trail Creek and ... more »

Julie McVey

United West Elementary School, Monmouth, IL
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Spring

To meet the needs of struggling learners at United West Elementary, Mrs. McVey and Mrs. Lafever will use Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention Kits for literacy interventions. The kits will provide the materials necessary to implement intensive small group ... more »

Victoria Despres

Woodstock Academy, Woodstock, CT
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2016, Spring

Mrs. Despres and Mrs. Grube will utilize Lego BuildtoExpress in their classroom to engage every student in a cross-curricular, hands-on learning environment. Through construction, students will experience building concepts firsthand. Curriculum will encourage students to ... more »

Scott Morris

Katherine Albiani Middle School, Elk Grove, CA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2016, Spring

Through “Robotics Generate Excitement for STEM Education,” Mr. Morris and Mr. Hait will expand their elective robotics class.  The course will provide a structured sequence of programming activities in real world project based contexts.  Projects will ... more »

Jami Sikes

Smiths Station High School, Smiths Station, AL
Grades 9-12, Science
2016, Spring

Through “We Aren’t Clowning Around,” Mrs. Sikes and Mrs. Martin will guide students to think critically and solve problems through inquiry-based learning. Aligning with the Next Generation Science Standards, the project will address the need to have ... more »

Amy Krauthamer-Maloney

Huegel Elementary School, Madison, WI
Grades K-5, Resource Specialist
2016, Winter

To close the gaps in opportunity that lead to disparities in achievement, Mrs. Krauthamer-Maloney and Mr. Wilder will form book study groups using Ross Greene’s “Lost at School.” Facilitators will guide staff through the rigors of improving the skills of ... more »

Beth Smith

Frank Elementary School, Kenosha, WI
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

Through “Co-Teaching in the K/1 Looping Classroom,” Mrs. Smith will lead a study group for kindergarten and first grade inclusion classroom teachers and special education support staff. The group will provide educators with tools needed to develop a co-teaching ... more »

Teresa Vance

McLoughlin Middle School, Vancouver, WA
Grades 6-8, School Counselor
2016, Winter

To understand how to implement a framework of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in a middle school better, and how PBIS supports students with disabilities and mental health needs, Ms. Vance will attend the International Positive Behavior Support ... more »

Sonya Grace Saad

Sabin Schellenberg Professional Technical Center, Milwaukie, OR
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

Mrs. Saad will attend a “Making Parenting a Pleasure” training, the Oregon Parenting Educators Conference, and the Zero to Three Conference, which will allow her to train and support teachers in PACE, a program for pregnant and parenting teens. Upon completing ... more »

Beth Mitchell

Ross High School, Hamilton, OH
Grades 9-12, Science
2016, Winter

To promote the use of inquiry and research-based science education, Ms. Mitchell will attend an Earth Expedition field study hosted by Miami University and the Dragonfly Project. Through traveling to one of the global study sites and working side by side with research ... more »

Grant Gigstad

Fargo Public Schools, Fargo, ND
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2016, Winter

Through “Transforming Social Studies Classrooms,” Mr. Gigstad and colleagues will attempt to radically alter student learning through strategic changes in the instructional practices of social studies educators. Teachers will be challenged and guided to alter ... more »

Christine Sugrue

Simon Baruch School, New York, NY
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

To improve student reading, spelling, and writing skills, Mrs. Sugrue and a team of colleagues will participate in the Orton-Gillingham practicum. The learning will be partnered with action research that will assess the most successful methods for improving nonfiction ... more »

Heidi Springborg

MN ISD 196, Apple Valley, MN
Grades K-12, School Counselor
2016, Winter

To help build shared knowledge about ways in which schools can support whole-person identity development, Ms. Springborg will present a session at the National Association of School Psychologists’ annual convention. Participants in the session will learn about an ... more »

Melissa Fija

West Brookfield Elementary School, West Brookfield, MA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2016, Winter

Ms. Melissa Fijal, West Brookfield

4th to 6th Grade Special Education Teacher, West Brookfield Elementary School

Partner: Ms. Nicole Guimond

Grant Amount: $5,000

Ms. Fijal and a group of colleagues will facilitate a study group focusing on co-teaching in the classroom. ... more »

Joanna Gonsalves

Salem State University, Salem, MA
Higher Education, Lecturer
2016, Winter

Dr. Gonsalves will expand a research group that will investigate service learning as a method to support college retention and success, with a focus on first-generation students, low-income students, and students of color. The consortium will be comprised of ... more »

Christine Staugler

Tenney Grammar School, Methuen, MA
Grades K-5, English
2016, Winter

Mrs. Staugler and Ms. Furbush will establish a professional learning community to chart a developmentally appropriate trajectory of academic language, spanning the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The group will examine the intersection of three ... more »

Dr. Lisa Maucione

DeMello School, Dartmouth, MA
Grades K-5, Literacy
2016, Winter

To expand her professional knowledge, Dr. Maucione will attend the International Literacy Association Conference. While there, she will attend workshop that will allow her to learn additional strategies for meeting the needs of diverse learners as they become proficient ... more »

Amanda Murphy

Crofton Middle School, Crofton, MD
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2016, Winter

To improve the performance of struggling learners, Ms. Murphy will provide teacher training on Classroom Response Systems (CRS) throughout the school. During the training, Ms. Murphy will conduct action research in which participants will work to strengthen formative ... more »

Elisabeth Gambino

Bard High School Early College, Baltimore, MD
Higher Education, Arts
2016, Winter

To increase her leadership skills and learn methods of cross-curricular instruction in problem solving, Ms. Gambino will attend the National Art Education Association National Convention. While there, Ms. Gambino will focus on methodology for cross curricular project-based ... more »

Leslie Sutherlin

South Dearborn Community School, Aurora, IN
Grades K-12, Librarian
2016, Winter

To gather techniques, lessons, and curriculum that assist teachers and library paraprofessionals with promoting literacy and meeting standards via technology, Mrs. Sutherlin will attend the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference. Mrs. ... more »

David Carroll

Maplebrook Elementary School, Naperville, IL
Grades K-5, Music
2016, Winter

Mr. Carroll will apply research-based literacy strategies with a randomly assigned sample of band students to investigate whether explicit literacy instruction can improve music reading, and whether music reading can help improve text reading. Mr. Carroll will observe the ... more »

Dr. Brian Whitney

Hidden Springs Elementary School, Garden City, ID
Grades K-5, STEM
2016, Winter

Dr. Whitney will engage with colleagues in a hybrid model of action research through the use of social media, live interactive blogging, conference participation, and collaborative professional development. Live blogging will be used to engage colleagues remotely and allow ... more »

Virginia Schick

Boulder High School, Boulder, CO
Grades 9-12, Arts
2016, Winter

To share three decades of art instruction experience, Ms. Schick will present two workshops, “Boulder Arts Focus Pathway” and “Weaving Math to Make Art,” at the National Art Education Association National Convention. At the convention, Ms. Schick ... more »

Janet Payne

Sycamore Elementary School, Simi Valley, CA
Grades K-5, Literacy
2016, Winter

Using the third grade Units of Study for Reading, Ms. Payne will transform her classroom into a richly literate reading workshop where all students will experience success. By attending the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Summer Institute at Columbia ... more »

Amy Brothers

Miller Elementary School, San Diego, CA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2016, Winter

Ms. Brothers and Ms. Kincaid will lead a team of educators in a collaborative study of mathematical “Big Ideas” to promote conceptual understanding of mathematics as a coherent, connected system for problem solving. The cohort will create a visual representation ... more »

Lisa Esse

Maple Hill Elementary School, Diamond Bar, CA
Grades K-5, STEM
2016, Winter

Mrs. Esse will attend the statewide and national Lead the Way conferences, where she will interact with educators and business leaders to learn best practices in implementing the Project Lead the Way science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum. Mrs. Esse ... more »

Join us on February 10, 2017!

Did you attend? Now, you can purchase photos from the evening.


Celebrating 42 educators from across the country

It is our pleasure to distinguish these extraordinary educators with the 2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. These prestigious awards recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. All deserve our recognition and sincere thanks, but we had to choose one for our highest honor.


And the award goes to...

Photo: Esai Morales, award-winning actor and gala host; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Debra McDonald; Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits.














In the evening’s finale, Debra McDonald, an early childhood education instructor at Wayne County Schools Career Center in Smithville, Ohio, took home the top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000! 


Watch Debra McDonald’s acceptance speech below.



Five educators receive top awards

Photo: Dirk Andrews, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (WY); Pam Wells, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (SD); Debra McDonald, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (OH); Crystal Brown, The NEA Foundation Board Chair; Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President; Heather LaBarbara, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (KY); Mohsen Ghaffari, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (UT)





Of the 42 educators honored that night, five also accepted the 2016 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and $10,000, as finalists for the evening’s top honor. Their students could not be more proud of them!


Watch all five videos, which premiered during the gala, that students created using iPads to honor their award-winning educators.


Harriet Sanford shares story of hearing from former student—40 years later

Watch Harriet Sanford, the NEA Foundation's President and CEO, share a heartfelt story about a blast from her past — a text message she received from a student she taught 40 years ago — below.



Hispanic Scholarship Fund honored

Photo: Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Esai Morales, award-winning actor and gala host; Crystal Brown, NEA Foundation Board Chair; Fidel A. Vargas, President and CEO of  the Hispanic Scholarship Fund; Stephen Eulie, Executive Vice President of Consumer Banking, First National Bank of Omaha










The NEA Foundation also presented the Hispanic Scholarship Fund with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, paying tribute to their distribution of more than $470 million dollars in scholarships Latino college-bound students since 1975.


This award recognizes individuals and organizations for their lifelong commitment to advancing public education and is typically presented to those who work outside the field. Awardees have included former President Bill Clinton, Title IX advocate Billie Jean King, and Sesame Workshop.


Watch Fidel A. Vargas, President and CEO, accept the award of the behalf of Hispanic Scholarship Fund below.



With host, actor and activist Esai Morales

Photo: Esai Morales, award-winning actor and self-described "actorvist," reads tweets from the audience live on stage: "@MarkMautone: @Esai_Morales you rocked it! Thank you for supporting educators."














This year, Esai Morales, an accomplished actor who appeared in the biopic “La Bamba,” the HBO Series, “The Brink,” and the television series “NYPD Blue” and “Criminal Minds,” served as charismatic emcee and host. Morales cofounded the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, following in the activist footsteps of his mother, who was an organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.


That night, he led guests and those watching the live stream from home or at viewing parties in cheering on the night’s biggest stars.


Special guests take the stage

Photo: Students from the Young People's Chorus of New York City, which now has 1,400 students from New York, ages 7 to 18, participate annually.















With students at the center of public education, a group of English Language Learner students, who participated in a NEA Foundation-funded, high school theater program in Annandale, Virginia, also took center stage to perform Shakespeare. The Young People's Chorus of New York City wowed audiences with renditions from "The Sound of Music," and audiences also enjoyed the music and dance of Furia Flamenca and Torcuato Zamora, an accomplished flamenco guitarist from Spain.


Watch the Young People's Chorus of New York City perform the evening's finale below.



A special thank you to all who helped us celebrate the best in public education!