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.


Susan Schmidt

Somerville High School, Somerville, MA
Grades 9-12, Science
2015, Winter

To improve student inquiry skills in the laboratory, Schmidt and colleagues will incorporate the use of Vernier probeware in chemistry experiments. A series of inquiry lab exercises will be designed that allow students to ask questions and design procedures to answer their ... more »

Christopher Stone

Pond Hill Elementary School, Wallingford, CT
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2015, Winter

Stone and Colonese will work with community members to enhance the CT Stem Academy. This innovative enrichment program will extend the learning day for middle grade and secondary students interested in deepening their knowledge of STEM concepts. The Academy’s programs ... more »

Deborah LeAnce

School of Extended Educational Options, Pomona, CA
Grades 9-12, Science
2015, Winter

Through “Healthy Communities and Food Justice,” LeAnce’s students will participate in an interdisciplinary class in which they investigate healthy food choices. Students will explore food science, sustainability, and the path food takes from farm to table. ... more »

Jennifer Dickinson

Solano County Office of Education, Fairfield, CA
Higher Education, Computers / Technology
2015, Winter

To support exceptional learners, enable differentiated instruction, and provide whole group, small group, and individual instruction, Dickinson and her colleagues will deliver content through web-based multimedia learning tools. Using white boards and a number of ... more »

Holly Whitt

Walnut Grove Elementary School, New Market, AL
Grades K-5, Librarian
2015, Winter

Through the “Robots for the Real Word” math program, Whitt and Brandon will introduce hands-on robotics lessons in their classrooms. Using Sphero robotic balls, iPad minis, and Common Core aligned curriculum modules, students will strengthen their understanding ... more »

Holley Tullis

Hillcrest High School, Evergreen, AL
Grades 9-12, Library Media Specialist
2015, Winter

Hillcrest High School students will use technology to create a seamless digital montage representing a self-chosen theme. Tullis and Williams will act as collaborative partners and facilitators and will infuse lessons with creativity, critical thinking, decision making, ... more »

Nicole Peterson

West Fargo High School, West Fargo, ND
Grades 9-12, Physical Education / Health
2014, Fall

To improve the variety of dance offerings in her physical education classes, Mrs. Peterson will attend the National Dance Education Organization’s National Conference. While there, Mrs. Peterson will work with colleagues to improve her collaboration with other ... more »

Colleen McDonald

Cambridge Central School, Cambridge, NY
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. McDonald and Ms. Goss will create a diverse library that will support continued learning by providing accessible resources and targeted study topics. Teachers will be empowered to lead change through the development of professional learning communities, embrace ... more »

Joanne Szegedi

Lowell Elementary School, Bellingham, WA
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2014, Fall

Through “iPads as Instructional Tools,” elementary school para-educators will train middle school para-educators to use tablets as instructional tools. This model of learning and leadership will provide strong professional development for staff and continuity ... more »

Whitney Stafford-Najibi

Westmoore High School, Oklahoma City, OK
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2014, Fall

Mrs. Stafford-Najibi will improve her professional practice by attending the American Council on Teaching Foreign Language Convention. While there, Mrs. Stafford-Najibi will attend sessions focused on integrating global competence into curriculum. Upon completion, Mrs. ... more »

Adam Kinory

The School of the Future, New York, NY
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

Mr. Adam Kinory, New York

10th Grade Language Arts Teacher, The School of the Future

Partner: Mr. Joshua Hurley-Bruno

Grant Amount: $5,000

To directly address achievement gaps, Mr. Kinory and Mr. Hurley-Bruno will develop a school-wide culture of teacher-led professional ... more »

Susan Kellner

H.O. Brumsted Elementary, Holland, NY
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Fall

To learn strategies to assist struggling readers, Mrs. Kellner will work with a Fellow from the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Mrs. Kellner will use the Orton-Gillingham method of learning with her first grade students, particularly those who ... more »

Filomena Vine

Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Ms. Vine will attend the iNACOL Blended Online Learning Symposium, at which she will learn methods to individualize instruction. Ms. Vine will attend workshops that will enable her to implement competency-based learning programs that provide equity through innovative ... more »

Daniel Boster

Ralston High School, Ralston, NE
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

Mr. Boster and Mr. Jensen will work with educators in language arts classrooms in middle schools, high schools, and community colleges to study and develop mindful writing pedagogy. The cohort will create and maintain humane pedagogy that will prepare students for required ... more »

Jeanne Wiley

Miami R-I School District, Amoret, MO
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Fall

Ms. Wiley will attend a Comprehensive Orton-Gillingham training, which will enable her to train and support teachers to implement research-based instructional practices. Upon completion of the training, Ms. Wiley will share the process with colleagues and ensure fidelity of ... more »

Dr. Marlena Bravender

Saginaw Valley State University, University Center, MI
Higher Education, Lecturer
2014, Fall

Dr. Bravender and Ms. Martin will explore effective ways to integrate virtual simulations in Spanish foreign language lessons to mimic authentic foreign language experiences. Through this action research, the cohort will create and distribute lessons that engage middle ... more »

Kara Clayton

Thurston High School, Redford, MI
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To learn about models that allow students to use digital tools to improve literacy skills, Mrs. Clayton will attend the Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island. Mrs. Clayton will participate in seminars focusing on how to assist students in choosing ... more »

Tod Wolfgram

New Haven High School, New Haven, MI
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Fall

To explore the civic mission of schools in the 21st century, Mr. Wolfgram will join social studies educators from around the world at the National Council for Social Studies Annual Conference. While at the conference, Mr. Wolfgram will learn about the College, Career, and ... more »

Jennifer Espinoza

Banneker Middle School, Burtonsville, MD
Grades 6-8, Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. Espinoza and Ms. Holmes will develop leadership training and professional learning opportunities for Montgomery County Public Schools visual arts teachers. The program will support academic excellence, creative problem solving, and social emotional learning for all ... more »

Laura Brino

Wiley H. Bates Middle School, Annapolis, MD
Grades 6-8, Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. Brino, with the assistance of a group of highly qualified teaching artists, will lead a school-wide professional development program. Educators will use various arts techniques in their classrooms to provide natural, meaningful connections between art forms and other ... more »

Andrew Hirshman

Mundelein High School, Mundelein, IL
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Mr. Hirshman and Mr. Anderson will lead an interdisciplinary team of educators in developing a “Future Selves” curriculum intervention and train fellow educators on its potential classroom uses. The training will focus on enabling educators to encourage students ... more »

Dr. Sandy Cameli

West Hawaii School District, Kailua Kona, HI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Through “iMentor,” veteran educators will use tablet technology to work with first-year teachers to record evidence and collect classroom data. The project will bridge generations of educators and allow them to collaborate to improve learners’ futures. ... more »

Valerie Ledford

Lake Nona High School, Orlando, FL
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Mrs. Ledford will lead a collaborative team of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the use of lesson study to practice and analyze differentiated small group strategies in mathematics. Student data will be analyzed throughout, with the goal of seeing an overall ... more »

Karen Dipres

Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Bear, DE
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Fall

Mrs. Dipres, Mrs. Barnett, and their colleagues will plan, create, reflect, and revise lessons in accordance with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The group will align Smarter Balanced vocabulary, formatting, and depth of knowledge to increase instructional ... more »

Katherine Franssen

North Arvada Middle School, Arvada, CO
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Fall

Mrs. Franssen and Mrs. Clarke will lead an action research program that will study the effectiveness of ALEKS and Khan Academy as online supplemental math interventions. The cohort will determine which supplement is the most effective in raising scores, causing growth, and ... more »

Dr. Diane Sharken Taboada

Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Concord, CA
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Fall

Through “Yo Soy Bilingue–I am Bilingual,” Dr. Taboada and Ms. Vizcay will establish written protocols for the analysis of student writing in Spanish and English, which will in turn guide the development and distribution of a set of model literacy lessons ... more »

Dr. Mark Walling

East Central University, Ada, OK
Higher Education, Lecturer
2014, Fall

Through “Walking the Brain,” Dr. Walling’s capstone course students will track academic success with the amount of work completed on treadmills. During the class, Dr. Walling will monitor student achievement and the time students spend on the treadmills. ... more »

Peter Moran

Frenchtown School, Frenchtown, NJ
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mr. Moran’s students will monitor the Delaware River for cleanliness and sustainability for natural inhabitants. Student will work collaboratively to investigate the effects local farm runoff has had on the wildlife in and near the river. Upon completion of the ... more »

Karen Sizemore

Rocky Branch Elementary, River Falls, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mrs. Sizemore and Mrs. Lenneman will introduce tablets for computer programming instruction. Students will learn basic practices, including coding, looping, decomposition, and abstracting. Ultimately, students will use their newly acquired skills to accomplish individual ... more »

Marc Coyner

Horizons Elementary School, Lacey, WA
Grades K-5, Librarian
2014, Fall

To promote school wide positive behavior, Mr. Coyner and Ms. Cameron will assist students in making short films. Students will be encouraged to seek out unique places and perspectives for filming and will plot, script, film, edit, and upload their creations. The films will ... more »

Karen Ciotta

Epes Elementary School, Newport News, VA
Grades K-5, English
2014, Fall

Mrs. Ciotta’s and Mrs. McEaddy’s English language learners (ELLs) will participate in daily learning opportunities that incorporate innovative education apps via a set of classroom tablets. Apps designed specifically with ELLs in mind will allow students to ... more »

Stefanie Root

Dixon-Smith Middle School, Fredericksburg, VA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Fall

Ms. Root, Ms. Carson, and colleagues will use iPads to implement the Khan Academy app as a student centered remediation tool. This series of activities will allow students in special education and general education settings to receive a tiered intervention plan specific to ... more »

Kerrin Flanagan

CP Smith School, Burlington, VT
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Fall

Mrs. Flanagan, Mrs. Tetrault, and colleagues will develop an emergent reading program for kindergarten students. The program will allow students to progress at their own pace and improve overall literacy skills. Through parent volunteers, the reading program will create ... more »

Michael Fricko

Redbank Valley School District, New Bethlehem, PA
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mr. Fricko and Mr. Bundy will introduce live-streaming, authentic and virtual set design, animation, and additional aspects of video production in their broadcast journalism curriculum. Daily news production, in-depth reporting, and special event broadcasting will be ... more »

Dave Boyer

Kernersville Middle School, Kernersville, NC
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Fall

Mr. Boyer and Mr. Shu will guide students through an inquiry-based learning project that will allow students to answer questions about soil formation, classification, measurement, and stewardship. Labs will get students engaged and excited about learning and provide ... more »

Karen Paine

James PB Duffy School #12, Rochester, NY
Grades K-5, English
2014, Fall

The English for Speakers of Other Languages Department at James PB Duffy School #12 will develop language learning center kits for classroom teachers who have beginning-level newcomers. Ms. Paine will train her colleagues to use the materials during a professional ... more »

Kristen Gloumakoff

IS 259 William McKinley, Brooklyn, NY
Grades 6-8, Librarian
2014, Fall

Ms. Gloumakoff and Mr. Speranzo will collaborate on a pilot research skills program using the Independent Investigation Method. In the year-long class, students will learn research skills, responsible use of technology, and presentation skills. Students will be encouraged ... more »

Steven Quinn

Milford School, Milford, NJ
Grades 6-8, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Mr. Quinn's classroom will monitor the Delaware River for cleanliness and sustainability for natural inhabitants. The class will use a hands-on approach when testing the river water, and students will work with neighboring schools along the Delaware River and across the ... more »

Jacqueline Winn

Concord High School, Concord, NH
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Fall

Through “Opening New Doors,” English language learners will travel beyond the school campus for vivid learning experiences that will make use of their cognitive capacities regardless of their level of English language proficiency. Students will learn about the ... more »

Dana Boam

Desert Rose High School, North Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To improve struggling readers’ skills, Ms. Boam will lead the “Reading Teachers” initiative at Desert Rose High School. Educators will collaborate on implementing explicit phonics instruction, high interest literature, field trips, and training on focus ... more »

Regan Miller

Shelton Elementary School, Shelton, NE
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2014, Fall

Ms. Miller and Mrs. Meyer will encourage student-directed learning by allowing students to act as teachers. Individual and groups of students will research a topic, create a lesson, and then present the lesson to a group of peers or younger students. The students will ... more »

Elodie Sontgerath

Jackson Elementary School, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. Songerath’s and Mrs. Vang’s fourth grade classes will participate in the “Neighborhood Bridges” program in cooperation with the Minneapolis Children’s Theater. The program will allow students to work with a teaching artist and develop ... more »

Rebecca Biel

Center for Instruction and Professional Development, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Saint Paul Public Schools and the Minnesota International Center will partner to provide standards aligned social studies for students in schools that have the greatest difficulty scheduling social studies and have high percentages of students who receive free and reduced ... more »

Kayla Trundle

Swartz Creek Middle School, Swartz Creek, MI
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2014, Fall

To improve the Community Based Instruction opportunities for her students with cognitive impairments, Ms. Trundle will enable students to receive instruction at 10 different community locations.  Students will learn functional skills that apply to the Michigan Extended ... more »

Christina Sutter

Rockville High School, Rockville, MD
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Fall

Through the “GRIT” (Growth, Resiliency, Intelligence, and Tenacity) program, Ms. Sutter and Ms. Roit will use the growth mindset theory and specific classroom activities to help students who’ve experienced multiple academic failures. Students will learn ... more »

Lisa Liace

Thayer J. Hill Middle School, Naperville, IL
Grades 6-8, School Counselor
2014, Fall

Through the use of the Second Step program, Ms. Liace and Ms. Sharp will establish an effective, research-based social-emotional curriculum. The program will be conducted in classrooms and small groups in order to provide school-wide support and targeted, intensive ... more »

Catherine Urban

Lincoln Elementary School, Belvidere, IL
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Fall

Through the use of iPads, students at Lincoln Elementary School will apply knowledge from their core curriculum and fine arts curriculums to create Claymation films. Students will work in small groups with their classroom teachers to create a curriculum related story and ... more »

Angela Scott

Alton High School, Alton, IL
Grades 9-12, School Social Worker
2014, Fall

Ms. Scott, Mrs. Wittman, and a team of colleagues will develop weekly group counseling sessions for at-risk high school girls. The group will use multiple relational aggression (RA) curriculum materials to increase awareness of RA, encourage empathy and tolerance, and ... more »

Dr. David Lazerson

The Quest Center, Hollywood, FL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Fall

Dr. Lazerson and Mrs. Frost will assist students with profound special needs (including Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy) in becoming recording and performing rock stars through their own personal music videos. Using adaptive switches, assistive technology, and ... more »

Janis Poole

Memorial Elementary School, Arcadia, FL
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Fall

Mrs. Poole and Mrs. Stauffer will introduce inquiry based science experiments in their fifth grade classrooms. Labs will be open to students and will allow them to think critically and logically. The inquiry method will ensure that all students within a mobile population of ... more »

Join us on February 10, 2017!

Educators from across the country traded their classrooms for a night on stage, where they were honored by more than 850 national education leaders and supporters in Washington, D.C.


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! Save the date for next year’s gala on February 10, 2017.