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.


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 »

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 »

Watch the Event!

Educators from across the country traded in their classrooms for a night on stage, where they were honored by more than 900 national education leaders and supporters in Washington, D.C.


Did you miss the live stream of the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 10, 2017? Now, you can watch the entire event above!


View and purchase your favorite photos from the evening. Did you step in to one of our photo booths? View and purchase your best shots here and here


Celebrating 43 Educators From Across the Country

It is our pleasure to distinguish these extraordinary educators with the 2017 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 (left to right):  Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of NEA; Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Sonia Galaviz; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors










In the evening’s finale, Sonia Galaviz, a fifth grade educator at Garfield Elementary School in Boise, Idaho, took home the top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000! 


Five Educators Receive Top Awards

Photo (left to right): Melissa Ladd, of Poplar Road Elementary School in Sharpsburg, Georgia; Stephanie Johnson, of HB Rhame Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina; Kelly Stacy, Senior Vice President for Field Operations and Distribution of the Horace Mann Educator Corporation; Al Rabanera, of La Vista High School in Fullerton, California; Sonia Galaviz, of Garfield Elementary School in Boise, Idaho; Carol Bauer, of Grafton Bethel Elementary School in Yorktown, Virginia;





Of the 43 educators honored that night, five also accepted the 2017 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! During the gala, videos starring each of these five educators premiered. Watch the videos to get a glimpse into the magic these educators share among their students.


Global Kids Honored

Photo (left to right): Host Victoria Rowell; Special Guest Maya Faison of Global Kids; Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Evie Hantzopoulos, Executive Director of Global Kids; Jerry O’Flanagan, Executive Vice President, Consumer Banking, First National Bank of Omaha









The NEA Foundation also presented the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education to Global Kids for its efforts to engage students from Washington, D.C., and New York City by exposing them to global cultures and encouraging them to become active citizens in their own communities and in the world.  



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.


With Host, Actress and Advocate Victoria Rowell

Photo (left to right): Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Host Victoria Rowell; Beau Brown, President and CEO of California Casualty, Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors











This year, Victoria Rowell, an actress, director, producer, advocate, and New York Times bestselling author of “The Women Who Raised Me,” served as charismatic emcee and host.


A former foster child herself, in 1990, she founded the Rowell Foster Care Children’s Positive Plan, providing services to students in: fine arts, higher education, healthcare, financial literacy, reunification programs, cultural enrichment, and family supports. She has received 12 NAACP Image Awards and been honored with the United Nations Association Award for her commitment to education, human rights, world peace, and her support of foster children.


That night, she 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


Educator Craig Beals, of BealsScience, made it snow onstage! Beals, a former NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow and 2015 Montana Teacher of the Year, wants us all to stay curious.



Performances by Washington, D.C.’s All Souls Church Choir and Christopher Rice, a cast member in the Tony Award-winning Broadway play, “The Book of Mormon,” wowed audiences.   


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 9, 2018


Save the date! We hope you will join us for next year's Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 9, 2018.


NEA Foundation Gala Save the Date