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.


Nicole Frovik

Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts and Science, Eagan, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2013, Fall

Through the “STEAM Room,” Mrs. Frovik and Mrs. Jensen will lead a professional learning community that will allow teachers at Glacier Hill Elementary to work collectively and collaboratively with their colleagues and with local experts in the disciplines of ... more »

Nick Waugh

Western Foothills Regional School Unit #10, Peru, ME
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

To support RSU 10's Mass Customized Learning (MCL) initiative, Mr. Waugh and colleagues will develop MCL compliant projects, lessons, techniques, assessments, and rubrics. The materials will be field tested in an after school program and shared with educators throughout the ... more »

John Buckley

Cohasset High School, Cohasset, MA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2013, Fall

To expand opportunities for students to engage in coastal STEM projects, Mr. Buckley and colleagues will introduce a “Certificate of Environmental Stewardship.” The certification program will be developed by a collaborative partnership of educators, scientists, ... more »

Susan Nichols

Douglas Intermediate Elementary, Douglas, MA
Grades K-5, Librarian
2013, Fall

Mrs. Nichols and Mrs. Findlay will lead a district wide tablet training session in preparation for an iPad implementation program in all elementary and middle schools. The program will teach educators to provide authentic learning experiences to students and help prepare ... more »

Shannon Mangan

Longwood Elementary School, Glenwood, IL
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To increase capacity and create a rigorous curriculum aligned with English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, Ms. Mangan and Mrs. Munoz will lead a collegial study to create curricular units based on the “Understanding by Design” framework. The group ... more »

Katherine Tietjen

East Hampton Middle School, East Hampton, CT
Grades 6-8, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To improve reading and writing workshops at East Hampton Middle School, Mrs. Tietjen will participate in an internship at Nancie Atwell's Center for Teaching and Learning. Throughout the course of the internship, Mrs. Tietjen will learn to structure a workshop-based ... more »

Karen Zapata

SF Community School, San Francisco, CA
Grades K-5, English
2013, Fall

Ms. Zapata will lead a team of SF Community School (SFCS) educators that will support the needs of the school’s English Language Learners. Educators will place particular emphasis on strengthening the learning of Long Term English Language Learners, currently the ... more »

Erika Isomura

Glassbrook School, Hayward, CA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Fall

Ms. Isomura and Mrs. Buljan will lead a school wide professional learning community to prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts. Through lesson study and inquiry, the team will refine teaching practices and ... more »

Laura Masbruch

Whitewater High School, Whitewater, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Ms. Masbruch and Mr. Lauersdorf will expand their Digital Electronics course to allow students to create software designs for circuits. The circuits will be used to control LED message boards, raise and lower toll bridge gates, detect jams in copy machines, and make robots ... more »

Debra Ono

Lakeland Elementary School, Auburn, WI
Grades K-5, Librarian
2013, Fall

To assist educators in the implementation of new Common Core Standards, Mrs. Ono and Mrs. Brown will create a guided reading room in Lakeland Elementary School’s library. Educators will be encouraged to check out books to use in daily reading activities and for ... more »

Janice McCurdy

Gar-Field High School, Woodbridge, VA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2013, Fall

Mrs. McCurdy and Mrs. Clarke will introduce “System 44,” an innovative web-based reading improvement program. This foundational program will provide targeted instruction to high school students who struggle with deficits in phonics and are caught in a cycle of ... more »

Karen Ciotta

Epes Elementary School, Newport News, VA
Grades K-5, STEM
2013, Fall

Through “STEM Scientists,” Mrs. Ciotta and Mrs. McEaddy will create a hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classroom environment for kindergarten students and English Language Learners. Students will be provided with daily opportunities to ... more »

Lauren Foster

Discovery Elementary School, Ashburn, VA
Grades K-5, Resource Specialist
2013, Fall

To support struggling readers through the use of current technology, Ms. Foster and Ms. Ragan will introduce “iPad Buddies” in their classrooms. The initiative will serve as a resource for primary teachers to use during intervention groups. Ms. Foster and Ms. ... more »

Kevin Veroneau

Robert E. Lee High School, San Antonio, TX
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2013, Fall

Mr. Veroneau and Mr. Newberger will improve student participation by introducing Classroom Performance Systems (CPS) in their social studies classrooms. The technology will allow educators to provide immediate and ongoing feedback to students, perform real time formative ... more »

Ioana Agut

Brazosport College, Lake Jackson, TX
Higher Education, Mathematics
2013, Fall

To improve completion of entry level math courses, student retention, and graduation rates, Mrs. and Mr. Agut will pilot the “Calculate2Gether” program. They will create a lending library that will allow struggling students access to common calculators. Students ... more »

Suzanne Costner

Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN
Grades K-5, Library Media Specialist
2013, Fall

“Going Interactive” will allow Ms. Costner and Mrs. Roberts to increase student participation by using Promethean Boards in their classrooms. Students will be encouraged to answer questions from video reviews, participate in “Jeopardy”-style ... more »

William Hughes

Park Forest Middle School, State College, PA
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Through “Renewable Electricity Producing Clean Water,” Mr. Hughes and Mr. McAninch will increase their students’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills by enhancing current curriculum with cross-curricular energy and environmental ... more »

Jaime Lemon

Cold Spring Elementary School, Doylestown, PA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

To improve student reading fluency through the use of tablet technology, Mrs. Lemon and Mrs. Christie will introduce “Project iRead.” The tablets will allow students to read books that they choose and connect kinesthetically, visually, and orally with their ... more »

Jenna Hixson

Southmoreland School District, Alverton, PA
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To address drops in reading proficiency, students in Mrs. Hixson’s and Mr. Brittain’s classes will study the classic texts “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Outsiders.” The books will allow students to ... more »

Gayle Sharp

Wickliffe High School, Wickliffe, OH
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To help students become deeper learners, Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Shultz will introduce collaborative literature circle groups in their classrooms. Through these groups, students will be given the opportunity to develop higher level creative thinking and complex processing ... more »

David Garcia

Warren Hills Regional Middle School, Washington, NJ
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Through “On Your Own,” Mr. Garcia’s students will use personal finance software to simulate living independently upon graduating from high school. Students will create budgets, interview for jobs, purchase automobiles, and rent apartments as they are ... more »

Katrina Macht

Hillside Intermediate School, Bridgewater, NJ
Grades 6-8, STEM
2013, Fall

Mrs. Macht and Mr. Sgro will introduce “Classrooms Without Walls,” a science and technology program that will link classroom learning with real world scientific research. Mrs. Macht and her colleagues will partner with scientists affiliated with a local ... more »

Dr. Cynthia Serfass

Westside High School, Omaha, NE
Grades 9-12, Service Learning
2013, Fall

Through “Success through Service,” Dr. Serfass and Mrs. McGeary will introduce a service learning project for at-risk students. Students will be presented with options for local service opportunities and will vote on the options. After determining the sites, ... more »

Teresa Glass

Independent School District 625, St. Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Fall

To increase student comprehension of grade level material, Ms. Glass and Ms. Tetlie will incorporate tablet technology into their special education classrooms. Educators will use the tablets to introduce research-based audio content to improve reading comprehension with ... more »

Ross Chakrian

Waverly Elementary School, Ellicott City, MD
Grades K-5, Physical Education / Health
2013, Fall

Through “Heart to Heart,” Mr. Chakrian and Ms. Heisey will implement a heart rate monitoring program at Waverly Elementary School. The program will allow students to monitor their exercise intensity in a safe and individualized manner. Data collected by the ... more »

Michelle Jordan

Summit Middle School, Johnston, IA
Grades 6-8, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2013, Fall

Mrs. Jordan and Mrs. Heston will introduce “Reaching the Summit,” a unique after school program designed to close the achievement gaps for struggling students. School staff members and community volunteers will facilitate the program and engage students in ... more »

Kent Houston

William Henry Harrison High School, Evansville, IN
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

Mr. Houston and Mr. Elpers will team teach a global leadership curriculum designed to assist Harrison High School’s students to improve academically and develop into mature global leaders. The innovative, standards-based curriculum will include cultural diversity, ... more »

Sara Hay

Belvidere Central Middle School, Belvidere, IL
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2013, Fall

To integrate language arts and literacy skills into social studies classes, Ms. Hay and Mrs. Zarembski will incorporate the use of Kindles into their classroom lessons. Students will participate in novel studies from a variety of genres, and use the tablets to access online ... more »

Thomas Riherd

Lake Butler Middle School, Lake Butler, FL
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2013, Fall

Mr. Riherd will introduce tablet technology into his social studies classroom, enabling students to explore primary and secondary online sources to enhance their learning experience. Students will share their discoveries with their peers and engage in collaborative ... more »

Dr. Kimberly Clements

Colonial Elementary School, Fort Myers, FL
Grades K-5, School Counselor
2013, Fall

Dr. Clements and Mr. Marino will introduce “STEM-ulating Students through Robotics,” a unit that will allow students to develop their knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. Students will design, build, and program small scale robots ... more »

Kevin Brodie

Lyman Memorial High School, Lebanon, CT
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2013, Fall

Through “What Makes You Tick?,” Mr. Brodie and Ms. Escott will lead a project in which students will connect self-perception with the ways they view other people. Students will answer identity questions, formulate personal essays, and take self-portraits to be ... more »

Lindsay Parrish

Fox Ridge Middle School, Aurora, CO
Grades 6-8, Science
2013, Fall

To create tangible, authentic experiences that promote student understanding of the human body, Ms. Parrish and Ms. Voreis will introduce the “Living Life Science” project. Students will develop critical thinking skills that will target the “why” ... more »

Norma Williamson

La Mirada High School, La Mirada, CA
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2013, Fall

“Community Connections for Watershed Protection” will allow students to use a project based learning approach to research how the La Mirada community can help reduce ocean pollution and conserve drinking water. Students will interview scientists, members of ... more »

Lisa Aburto

Yucca Loma Elementary School, Apple Valley, CA
Grades K-5, Science
2013, Fall

Through “Robo-Mentors,” students at Granite Hills High School will team with Yucca Loma Elementary students to assist them with assembling basic robots. The high school students will collaborate weekly with their elementary counterparts to guide and support them ... more »

Brandi Ashby

West Morgan High School, Trinity, AL
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To reach students at their level and provide hands-on activities that will bring history to life, Mrs. Ashby and Ms. Dickerson will introduce “Live in Your Classroom, Play in Ours.” The project will promote friendly competition through trivia and gaming and will ... more »

Joe Mink

Edgerton High School, Edgerton, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Spring

Barbara Mills

Shorewood High School, Shoreline, WA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2013, Spring

Ms. Mills will participate in the Combined Summer Institute, which will address support for students with deaf-blindness, multiple disabilities, and autism. While attending, Ms. Mills will gain vital knowledge that will enable her to more effectively support students with ... more »

Mary Silvia

Viewlands Elementary School, Seattle, WA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Spring

Mrs. Silvia and a team of colleagues will learn to work with behaviorally challenged special needs students. The team will learn to execute Applied Behavioral Analysis in the classroom, support students with autism and oppositional defiance, and manage disruptive behavior ... more »

Cassie Cox

Two Rivers High School, Ogden, UT
Grades 9-12, English
2013, Spring

Mrs. Cox will improve her English teaching practice by attending the National Council of Teachers of English’s Annual Convention. During the convention, Mrs. Cox will attend workshops, listen to keynote speakers, and work with leaders in the field. Following the ... more »

Dr. Michelle Salazar Perez

New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2013, Spring

Dr. Perez will travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to participate in a language and culture immersion program for educators. While living with a host family, she will participate in language study and visit elementary schools and historical sites to learn about Mexican culture ... more »

Emily Brill

Keystone Oaks School District, Pittsburgh, PA
Grades 6-8, Foreign Language Teacher
2013, Spring

To develop the necessary skills and acquire the technology needed to record her lectures, Mrs. Brill will attend workshops and conferences through the Flipped Learning Network. Upon completing the training, Mrs. Brill will pilot a “flipped learning curriculum” ... more »

Joyce Kaplan

Portland Community College, Portland, OR
Grades K-5, Science
2013, Spring

Ms. Kaplan will participate in the “Earth Expeditions Primate Conservation” course in Borneo and work with other educators to conduct field studies in an environment of extraordinary cultural and ecological diversity. Ms. Kaplan will learn to apply field methods ... more »

Lori Adams

Bixby Public Schools, Bixby, OK
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2013, Spring

To immerse herself in in-depth learning experiences with colleagues from throughout the nation, Ms. Adams will attend the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association Schools Conference. While attending, Ms. Adams will participate in sessions that will offer updates on ... more »

Zakiya Atkinson

Memorial High School, West New York, NJ
Grades 9-12, Arts
2013, Spring

Ms. Atkinson will travel to South Africa to conduct a case study for the development of a cross curricular unit on human rights, the Holocaust, and genocide studies. While abroad, Ms. Atkinson will conduct a performance workshop with a group of adolescents affected by the ... more »

Filomena Vine

Edward W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2013, Spring

Mrs. Vine will attend the National Science Teachers Association’s STEM Forum and will present on cross-curricular connections and solutions to promote weather and climate readiness.  Forum workshops will provide a venue for Mrs. Vine and colleagues to collaborate ... more »

Dr. Julie Riales

Grenada School District, Grenada, MS
Grades K-5, Math and Science
2013, Spring

To prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, 4th through 8th grade teachers in the Grenada School District will meet monthly to study and engage in the new standards. Through a partnership with the Center for Mathematics and Science ... more »

Cory Shah

Hilton Elementary School, Brighton, MI
Grades K-5, Arts
2013, Spring

Mrs. Shah will attend the “Reading and Writing Project” at Columbia University’s Teachers College.  While there, she will work in advance sessions to improve her proficiency in the Common Core Reading Standards.Upon returning to Hilton Elementary ... more »

Jay Mooney

North Brookfield Public Schools, North Brookfield, MA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Spring

To aid in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Mr. Mooney and Mrs. Laflamme will implement “Creating a Mathematical Community.” The project will provide coaching, support, modeling, and guidance to all elementary school staff throughout ... 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.