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.


Melinda Barron

Segerstrom High School, Santa Ana, CA
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To increase students’ knowledge of research methods, technology, and global skills, Ms. Barron and Mrs. Gerdes will create a blended learning classroom through the use of tablet technology. Students will work autonomously and collaborate with peers to improve their ... more »

Yvonne Brown

Annalee Avenue Elementary School, Carson, CA
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Through “Westward Movement,” students at Annalee Avenue Elementary School will learn about the perspectives of multiple cultural groups that have migrated to western parts of the United States. Students will research the motives for these groups’ ... more »

Kim Floeter

Riverview Elementary School, Wautoma, WI
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

Through the use of “Assisting with Early Literacy Instruction: A Manual for Paraprofessionals,” Mrs. Floeter and her colleagues will deepen their understanding of early literacy instruction. By reading, discussing, and practicing literacy skills outlined in the ... more »

Rhonda Chalone

Huegel Elementary School, Madison, WI
Grades K-5, Music
2014, Spring

Ms. Chalone will complete the Orff Certification Level One, a methodology of teaching students music which includes rhythmic speech, singing, body percussion, elemental movement, and improvisation. Upon completing the certification, Ms. Chalone will reorganize her ... more »

Carrie Hale

Kimball Elementary School, Seattle, WA
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

To gain valuable skills and improve her teaching practice, Ms. Hale will attend the Columbia University Teachers College Summer Writing Institute. Upon completing the institute, Ms. Hale will use her newly acquired knowledge to strengthen student engagement, collaborate ... more »

Leon Reed

Woodbridge Senior High School, Woodbridge, VA
Grades 9-12, History
2014, Spring

To learn of the Roman and Byzantine civilizations, Mr. Reed will conduct research in Turkey and Italy. While there, Mr. Reed will photograph places and museum artifacts and use the materials to complete a series of photo history books on the Roman Empire and Middle Ages. ... more »

Catherine McCabe

Mantua Elementary School, Fairfax, VA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To improve her knowledge of number sense, Mrs. McCabe will attend the Math Recovery Conference. While there, she will gain knowledge and resources that will allow her to improve math instruction with her special needs students. Upon completing the conference, Mrs. McCabe ... more »

Candice Belt

Ooltewah Middle School, Ooltewah, TN
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

Mrs. Belt will lead a book study for Ooltewah Middle School educators that will allow staff to learn about growth and fixed mindsets. In reading “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Mrs. Belt and her colleagues will investigate how students learn and how to ... more »

Lisa Albert

Elizabethtown Area School District, Elizabethtown, PA
Grades K-5, Nurse
2014, Spring

To improve her knowledge of health promotion, leadership and legal issues, school nurse practice, and research, Mrs. Albert will attend the National Association of School Nurses Conference. After attending the conference, Mrs. Albert will expand her school nurse practice by ... more »

Jody Yoxthimer

North Ridgeville High School, Ridgeville, OH
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Spring

Through Earth Expeditions, Mrs. Yoxthimer will embark on a ten day field assignment in the Valle de los Cirios Biological Reserve in Baja, Mexico. During the assignment, Mrs. Yoxthimer will learn about unique desert and marine flora and fauna, medicinal plants, endangered ... more »

Sara Thorburn

Lexington High School, Lexington, OH
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Spring

Ms. Thorburn will attend the National Council of Teachers of English Convention to engage with forward thinking educators and experts in the field. While there, Ms. Thorburn will listen to speakers and participate in interactive sessions and workshops in which she will ... more »

Kathryn Haughney

Progressive Education Program, Asheville, NC
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To improve her ability to teach a print-based assistive technology, Mrs. Haughney will attend a series of workshops hosted by the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre. The workshops will allow her to develop and implement personalized books that suit the varying communication, ... more »

Heather Klug

Osseo Senior High School, Osseo, MN
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2014, Spring

To examine available mindfulness curricula, Ms. Klug will attend the Way of Mindful Education Level Two Training in Costa Rica. While there, she will participate in exercises and activities that will be used in the classroom and spend time learning how to lead teacher ... more »

Patricia Keck

Riverview East High School, Marine City, MI
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

To gain a better understanding of the implementation of Project Based Learning (PBL), Mrs. Keck will attend the Buck Institute for Education’s PBL World conference. While there, Mrs. Keck will attend workshops that will provide information and resources to impact her ... more »

Deborah Dubord

Mt. Vernon Elementary School, Fayette, ME
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

Mrs. Dubord and Mrs. Hatt will convene a study group to deepen their ability to understand and effectively respond to the growing number of children entering school with a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The cohort will act as critical interventionists and ... more »

Jessica Powell

Henderson County Schools, Henderson, KY
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To improve her ability to engage with and support preschool children with special needs, Ms. Powell will participate in the Reggio Emilia study tour in Italy. Through the study, Ms. Powell will learn to use arts-based activities to support development and explore the design ... more »

Delena McGuire

Am Yealey Elementary Schoo, Florence, KY
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2014, Spring

Ms. McGuire and Mr. Eppley will take part in the Ron Clark Academy teacher training program. The experience will provide an in-depth look at a model school environment and introduce opportunities to witness innovative instructional strategies. The team will study new ways ... more »

Donna Bohlmann

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Community School District, Eddyville, IA
Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented
2014, Spring

To improve the practice of enrichment-based differentiated teaching within multiple regional school districts, Mrs. Bohlmann will attend the Confratute Institute at the University of Connecticut. Upon completing the institute, Mrs. Bohlmann will lead a consortium of small ... more »

Abbey Evans

Culver Family Learning Center, Evansville, IN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

Mrs. Evans will participate in the North American Study Group in Reggio Emilia, Italy. While there, she will visit preschools and infant toddler centers, form relationships with other early childhood educators, and experience research exhibitions at the Loris Malaguzzi ... more »

Robert Kuhn

Centennial High School, Roswell, GA
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Spring

To strengthen his teaching practice and ensure that students learn biology more meaningfully, Mr. Kuhn will attend the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study/National Association of Biology Teachers AP Biology Leadership Academy. While there, Mr. Kuhn will learn to analyze ... more »

Dr. Marva McClean

City of Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School, Pembroke Pines, FL
Grades 6-8, Language Arts
2014, Spring

To expand her capacity to teach multicultural and culturally relevant pedagogy, Dr. McClean will attend the Mississippi Freedom Summer Conference. While there, Dr. McClean will attend seminars and present a paper on integrating themes of historical empowerment in classroom ... more »

Gretchen Wall

Vilseck Elementary School, Vilseck, Germany (Armed Forces),
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

Through the “Vilseck Elementary Literacy Initiative,” Mrs. Wall and colleagues will support a diverse group of students in becoming avid readers and writers. Mrs. Wall will participate in a summer reading and writing institute that will provide the foundation ... more »

Jeanette Scotti Millar

Columbine Elementary School, Boulder, CO
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

Through Mindfulness training, Ms. Millar and her colleagues will learn how to reduce stress in their lives, which will allow them to become more effective in the classroom. Teachers will practice and then share with students multiple stress reduction and natural conflict ... more »

Lisa Okikawa

Huntington Beach Union High School District, Huntington Beach, CA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Spring

To better understand the skills individuals with disabilities (specifically those who are blind or visually impaired) need for viable employment, Ms. Okikawa will attend the Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Art and Disability Conference. Ms. Okikawa will ... more »

Chandra Friend

Irvington High School, Fremont, CA
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Spring

Ms. Friend, Mr. Mintey, and colleagues will revitalize Irvington High School’s arts-integrated curriculum and incorporate new pedagogical methods through training and collaboration time for both new and experienced educators. The project will support staff in ... more »

Amanda Umphrey

Springville High School, Springville, AL
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

To investigate and explore the tools, strategies, and innovations related to cutting-edge technologies, Mrs. Umphrey will attend the Campus Technology Education Conference. While at the conference, Mrs. Umphrey will familiarize herself with tools that will enrich student ... more »

Dr. Karen Foster

Alabama A&M University, Normal, AL
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

To strengthen her skills as Alabama A&M University’s director of field experiences and school partnerships, Dr. Foster will attend the Leadership and Decision Making Conference at Harvard University. Upon returning from the conference, Dr. Foster will use the ... more »

Alyson Berg

Highland Elementary School, Highland, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Through “Item Not Found,” Ms. Berg and Ms. Doyle will encourage students to use technology to deepen their understanding of content and work towards becoming independent self-motivated learners. Students will develop 21st century skills by posing their own ... more »

Marc Abe

Petersburg High School, Petersburg, WV
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Spring

Mr. Abe and Ms. Clay will bolster their biology lessons with hands-on applications of dissections. The lesson will provide students with a better understanding of body systems and how systems work in relation to one another in a variety of species. Students will dissect ... more »

Shannon Root

Cheney High School, Cheney, WA
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Spring

Cheney High School students will explore the concepts of energy types, transfers, production, and engineering in a series of hands-on inquiry activities. Each activity will be guided by a set of criteria, and within that range students will have the freedom to design and ... more »

Denise Wilson

Fairview Elementary School, Roanoke, VA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Mrs. Wilson and Ms. Altizer will use tablets to introduce students to quick response (QR) codes. The codes will initially be developed by teachers for student use of a self-checking activity in reading and math lessons. As students become familiar with the process, they ... more »

Matthew Rickard

Walter Hines Page High School, Greensboro, NC
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Mr. Rickard and Ms. Hackney will introduce “Life in Pictures,” a project in which students will use a video camcorder and computer software to embed movies into photographs. Students will use the principles of photography, film, and journalism to create videos ... more »

Melissa Hamlin

Central Middle School, Dobson, NC
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Spring

Through “Up Next, The Weather,” students will become junior meteorologists by utilizing weather testing equipment and designing their own prototypes of tools to predict the weather. Students will work with community experts and gain 21st century skills as they ... more »

Karen Orchowski

Jean Nuzzi Intermediate School 109, Queens Village, NY
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Spring

Ms. Orchowski and Mrs. Oneal-Suber will start a forensic science class that will partner with an after-school forensic science club. Students will distinguish between direct and circumstantial evidence, identify methods of crime scene documentation, construct and analyze ... more »

Melissa Seigel

P.S. 116M, New York, NY
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Spring

A team of P.S. 116 educators will collaborate with NYChessKids to grow the implementation of curricular chess instruction in every kindergarten and first grade classroom. Each classroom will have a weekly period with a chess instructor who will provide students with lessons ... more »

Marisa Landy

Lenox School, Pompton Lakes, NJ
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To improve student writing fluency, Ms. Landy and Ms. Hennessey will introduce individual technology in the classroom. Students will use Google Drive to plan, draft, revise, edit, and share writing with multiple audiences. Peer-to-peer collaboration will prepare students ... more »

Guy Wadas

James Cashman Middle School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Spring

To stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and boost the enrollment of highly qualified girls in accelerated science classes, Mr. Wadas and Mrs. Radef will introduce the “Summer STEM Academy for Girls.” Students will ... more »

Barbara Bade

Highwood Hills Elementary School, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To address the technological needs of Highwood Hills Elementary School students, Ms. Bade and Mrs. Stern will introduce white boards, document cameras, and computers in their classrooms. Teachers will work with special needs students to introduce technology as an ... more »

Sarah Fritzke

Jordan Elementary School, Jordan, MN
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2014, Spring

Through “It Adds Up: A Math Resource Room,” Mrs. Fritzke and Mrs. McMahon will provide opportunities for growth in math learning for low and high achieving students. Jordan Elementary School students will have access to hands-on, engaging math materials through ... more »

Vicki Graham

Reeths Puffer/Central School, Muskegon, MI
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2014, Spring

Through “Reeths Puffer Links,” students will gain leadership and problem solving skills that will enable them to achieve new levels of compassion and understanding for their peers with special needs. Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Hoffman will encourage peer-to-peer ... more »

Erinn Hess

Mattawan Consolidated Schools, Mattawan, MI
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To assist special education students in meeting the demands of the Common Core Curriculum, Mrs. Hess and Mrs. Ludwig will introduce laptops and tablets in the classroom. Students will learn technology skills that will assist them in accessing employment opportunities, ... more »

Juliane Lally

Curran Early Childhood Education Center, Dedham, MA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Spring

To provide early childhood learners with a hands-on science experience, Mrs. Lally and Mr. Sullivan will introduce “Savvy Scientists.” The project will help young children learn about numerous scientific topics through journal writing, garden and compost ... more »

David Hughes

West Middle School, Andover, MA
Grades 6-8, Physical Education / Health
2014, Spring

Mr. Hughes and Mr. Deschene will introduce “Warrior Wake-Up,” a fitness program that will include workouts and nutritious breakfasts three times a week before school starts. Students will wear heart monitors and track their progress. Ultimately, students will ... more »

April Thompson

South Street Elementary School, Opelousas, LA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Third and sixth grade students at South Street Elementary School will work together to create stories and poems using digital storytelling applications. Sixth grade students will act as mentors for the third grade students throughout the creative process. The students will ... more »

Heather Anderson

Cowles Montessori School, Windsor Heights, IA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Spring

Through “School to Farm,” Ms. Anderson and Mrs. Parmerlee will expose urban students to agriculture. Students will be provided with hands-on learning opportunities by visiting small organic farms, large production farms, historical farms, and the Iowa State ... more »

Joanna Sierka

Waterbury Elementary School, Roselle, IL
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

Mrs. Sierka and Ms. Wazydrag will implement a research based Response to Intervention program to improve students’ reading abilities, language proficiency, confidence, and academic success. The project will provide the most struggling readers, mostly English Language ... more »

Melissa Hickey

Steele Elementary School, Galesburg, IL
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2014, Spring

Through “Readers are Leaders,” Mrs. Hickey and Mrs. Mowen will expand upon Steele Elementary School’s first grade reading centers by introducing them to second and third grade classrooms. The team will create a leveled library that will aim to increase ... more »

David Evans

Richard Yates School, Chicago, IL
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Mr. Evans and Mr. Liberto will address the need for proper printing instruction by introducing “Printing for Success.” The team will create a manuscript curriculum that will detail the mechanics and detail of putting word to print. Through the use of tablets, ... more »

Julie Adams

Birch Elementary School, Nampa, ID
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

To improve technology access for students with mild to moderate disabilities, Ms. Adams and Mrs. Englund will introduce iPads in their classrooms. Tablet use will support the development of reading fluency as well as mathematical reasoning and problem solving ... more »

Ruth Goodwin

Burbank Elementary School, Merced, CA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Spring

Through “Science for the Next Generation,” Mrs. Goodwin and Mrs. Gonzalez will enhance the Next Generation Science Standards for each of their grade levels with experiences in visual and performing arts and various technology applications. The project will be ... 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.