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.


Tandra Ericson

Mount Diablo Unified School District, Concord, CA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Through “Literacy for All,” Ms. Ericson and Ms. Conable will ensure that all students have the opportunity to express themselves through writing. The team will create a model literacy program for students with complex instructional needs that will develop ... more »

Judy Duke

Fairview High School, Cullman, AL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Spring

Ms. Duke will introduce tablet technology in her classroom of special needs students to introduce them to the skills needed to take online courses and prepare for the workforce. Students will learn through direct instruction via the tablets’ assistive technology. The ... more »

Beth Smith

Frank Elementary School, Kenosha, WI
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2014, Winter

Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Neumaier will lead a collegial study that will transform math instruction at Frank Elementary School from a whole group focus to a workshop approach. The new approach will encourage whole group instruction, guided and independent practice opportunities, ... more »

Douglas Ferguson

Martin Sortun Elementary, Kent, WA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Winter

To increase faculty knowledge of the Next Generation Science Standards, Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Rudolph will lead a book study of Betsy Fulwiler’s “Writing in Science” and Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey’s “Common Core ELA.” The project will ... more »

Nichole Calkins

Mount Rainier High School, Des Moines, WA
Grades 9-12, Physical Education / Health
2014, Winter

Mrs. Calkins and Mr. Sundblad will lead a team of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in designing a K-12 Physical Education curriculum map and professional development plans for a newly adopted PE curriculum and software system. The curriculum map will allow ... more »

Dr. Sue Rieg

Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA
Higher Education, Special Education
2014, Winter

The Indiana Area School District and Indiana University of Pennsylvania will collaborate to design a partnership to improve early elementary learning and teaching and simultaneously improve the Early Childhood with Special Education program. A study group will be formed to ... more »

Jennifer Fontana

Alder Creek Middle School, Milwaukie, OR
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

Ms. Fontana will attend the "Tribes Training for District Trainers," which will enable her to train and support teachers to use the Tribes process to examine adolescent development and implement research-based teaching practices that create a caring and inclusive ... more »

Diana Pierson

Sheffield Middle School, Sheffield Village, OH
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To improve her knowledge of behavior management, classroom management, bullying, and economic and social issues, Mrs. Pierson will attend the Character Development Seminar. Upon completing the seminar, Mrs. Pierson will share her newfound knowledge with her colleagues and ... more »

Dr. Theresa Capra

Mercer County Community College, West Windsor, NJ
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To acquire insights into ways to better prepare future educators for rigorous teacher preparation programs, Dr. Capra will attend “Journey into the Future of Community College Education Programs,” a conference sponsored by the National Association of Community ... more »

Dr. William Roweton

Chadron State College, Chadron, NE
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To assist classroom teachers in rural schools, Dr. Roweton and Dr. Brown will produce six self-paced instructional modules that will examine fundamental program assessment concepts. The web-based modules will reinforce psychometric knowledge and skills and emphasize ... more »

Susan Irion

Billings Public Schools, Billings, MT
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Winter

Mrs. Irion and Ms. Martin will extend professional development opportunities within Billings Public Schools by incorporating effective tools for reflecting on instructional practices and student engagement and learning. Participants will film themselves teaching lessons and ... more »

Brad Ollmann

Saint Anthony Park Elementary School, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Music
2014, Winter

Mr. Ollmann will spend eleven weeks in central Mexico conducting choirs, studying Spanish, learning Mexican folk dances, and observing elementary music classes. While in Mexico, Mr. Ollmann will work with a music teacher who utilizes popular music to meet state and national ... more »

Jacqueline Walker

John F. Kennedy School, Holbrook, MA
Grades K-5, Nurse
2014, Winter

To improve student health and wellness, Mrs. Walker will attend a professional yoga training program. Upon returning, she will implement relaxation and behavioral control practices with students that will assist them in meeting their education goals. The practice of yoga ... more »

Mark Ashe

Cape Elizabeth High School, Cape Elizabeth, ME
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Winter

Mr. Ashe will lead a team of educators in the design of a teacher evaluation system that will incorporate student growth measures, teaching standards, and peer review. The group will research evaluation models, assess the school’s current evaluation system, and design ... more »

Melissa Jordan

Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Terre Haute, IN
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Winter

Mrs. Jordan will attend the 2014 Educator Academy in Iquitos, Peru. While there, she will work with scientists, researchers, and fellow educators on citizen science projects and field work. Mrs. Jordan will use the strategies, ideas, and understandings gained at the academy ... more »

Gary Simonian

Stuart R. Paddock School, Palatine, IL
Grades K-5, Physical Education / Health
2014, Winter

To improve his ability to create, implement, and evaluate programs that promote lifelong wellness, Mr. Simonian will attend the Spark P.E. Summer Institute. Upon returning to the classroom, Mr. Simonian and his colleagues will incorporate information and insight gathered ... more »

Robbie Kline

Kansas Elementary School, Kansas, IL
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Winter

To engage students in writing, each teacher in the Kansas School District will attend a professional development seminar presented by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Teachers will spend time in group settings and work hands-on with guided instruction. On the final ... more »

Laurie Dupree

Salmon Pioneer Primary School, Salmon, ID
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

Through training and curriculum provided by the Leader in Me Foundation, Pioneer Elementary teachers and staff will develop a culture at the school in which children learn leadership habits and discover within themselves personal strengths that will be used to demonstrate ... more »

Karen Chun

James Campbell High School, Ewa Beach, HI
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Winter

To strengthen Campbell High School’s global literacy program, Ms. Chun will take part in a service learning project in Viet Nam. While there, Ms. Chun will interview government and non-government groups, visit historic monuments, and converse with citizens of Viet ... more »

Mickey MacDonald

P.K. Yonge DRS, Gainesville, FL
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Winter

Mrs. MacDonald and Ms. Garison-Gabbard will lead a professional learning community that will engage in lesson study to examine elements specific to teaching biology and English language arts as a cross-curricular experience. Educators will engage students in a unit that ... more »

Kristy Corbett

La Tercera Elementary School, Petaluma, CA
Grades K-5, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Winter

To assist faculty and staff with La Tercera Elementary School’s transition to a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Magnet School, Mrs. Corbett will attend the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference in Washington, DC. While at the conference, Mrs. Corbett ... more »

Debra Kruger

School District of Laona, Laona, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2014, Winter

To improve student achievement and enhance teacher effectiveness, Mrs. Kruger and her colleagues will implement the use of a Student Response System in middle and high school science classes. The system will provide educators immediate feedback and show which students are ... more »

Tabatha Brownschidle

Yorktown Middle School, Yorktown, VA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Winter

Through “One Way Ticket to Mars,” Mrs. Brownschidle and Mrs. Fox’s students will design and build modules to be used in the first Mars colony. Student will interview experts in the fields of space exploration, space technology, and energy production in ... more »

Kayleigh Zinkham

Cougar Elementary School, Manassas Park, VA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Winter

Ms. Zinkham and Ms. Urban will introduce “Kids Integrating Technology Everyday (K.I.T.E.)”, a program that will utilize tablets to enhance learning opportunities by integrating technology into the curriculum. Any array of leveled texts will allow educators to ... more »

Danelle Moser

Catoctin Elementary School, Leesburg, VA
Grades K-5, History
2014, Winter

Through the “Living Wax Museum” project, students at Catoctin Elementary School will learn about prominent figures in Virginia’s history. Each student will be tasked with researching a different historical Virginian and then representing that person ... more »

Dr. Leslie Chekin

Annandale High School, Annandale, VA
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Winter

Through “Teaching Vocal Techniques to English Language Learners,” Dr. Chekin and Mr. Liacopoulos will introduce voice instruction to develop students’ acting and public speaking skills. Working with professionals at Synetic Theatre, students will ... more »

Natalie Mew

George Middle School, Portland, OR
Grades 6-8, Service Learning
2014, Winter

In beautifying the George Middle School courtyard, students will be provided an opportunity to work with professional artists, promote the visibility of student art, and develop a sense of community pride and purpose. Pupils will create panels of fused glass and learn about ... more »

Stacey Johnson

Junction City High School, Junction City, OR
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Winter

Through the “Robotics Challenge,” Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Buenau will increase student achievement in math and science through the use of robotics. Students will design, build, and test a fully functioning robot with the goal of successfully completing a series of ... more »

Jason Miller

Kelly Middle School, Eugene, OR
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To help foster leadership skills, Mr. Miller and Mrs. Cohen will train 8th grade students to act as mentors and role models for incoming 6th grade students. The program will allow educators at various levels to boost academic performance, social awareness, and positive ... more »

Jodi Gwin

John Clem Elementary School, Newark, OH
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Winter

To increase individualized interventions and enrichment, Ms. Gwin and Mr. Kemmenoe will incorporate a set of iPads into their classrooms. Multiple applications will be used to help meet the widely varied instructional needs of individuals and small groups. Ultimately, ... more »

Michelle Creech

Montgomery County Educational Service Center, Dayton, OH
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Winter

To address the unique learning needs of students with emotional and learning disabilities, Ms. Creech and Mr. Johnson will introduce tablet technology to their students. Educators will provide students applications that have been demonstrably successful in assisting ... more »

Amanda Zullo

Saranac Lake High School, Saranac Lake, NY
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Winter

Ms. Zullo and her colleagues will allow students to design, market, and construct plans to build an outdoor classroom. Once built, teachers will integrate science topics within the outdoor classroom while guiding students to apply knowledge learned within the traditional ... more »

Gauri Kolhatkar

Ithaca High School, Ithaca, NY
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Winter

Ms. Kolhatkar and Mrs. Perl will introduce LEGO Education sets and software in the Academic Intervention Services math lab at Ithaca High School. Students will work in groups of three and spend the spring building a robot. Students will be encouraged to actively gain a ... more »

Alyssa Bartosh

Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Winter

Through “Parkview Elementary and Stepping Stone Theatre Create a Play,” students will engage in a two month performing arts program. Students will use theater arts to develop cultural competence and a deeper understanding of both community and fictional story ... more »

Kelly Oltman

Seward Montessori School, Minneapolis, MN
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Winter

To assist students struggling with reading fluency, decoding, and comprehension, Ms. Oltman and Ms. Andries will introduce Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) systems. Reading interventionists will work with struggling students and look to make ... more »

William Edwards

Poplar Bridge Elementary School, Bloomington, MN
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2014, Winter

To increase student participation in multiple subject areas, Mr. Edwards will train students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in puppetry and performing arts techniques. Students will collaborate with teachers in writing, rehearsing, and performing an ... more »

Cari Smith

Fulton Middle School, Middleton, MI
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Winter

Mrs. Smith and Mr. Sherrik will use the ALEKS program to find and address learning gaps in 7th and 8th grade math students. Student strengths and weaknesses will be identified and progress will be monitored bi-quarterly.  Educators will compile data and look for a ... more »

Mary Ann Giasson

Oceanside High School, Rockland, ME
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Winter

Through “March Community Read,” a common book title will be read by all students and staff at Oceanside High School. Students will enhance their communication skills by working in small groups to create student run blogs and participate in weekly group ... more »

Elizabeth Jackson

Takoma Park Elementary School, Takoma Park, MD
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2014, Winter

To encourage collaboration and creativity and to improve student learning, Mrs. Jackson will introduce iPads into the classroom, with an emphasis on the evaluation of mathematics. Educators will use feedback, work samples, application data, and anecdotal notes to assess ... more »

Laurah Jurca

Prince George's County Public Schools, Adelphi, MD
Grades K-5, English
2014, Winter

Mrs. Jurca will implement “Our Lives, Our Words,” a project that will assist in improving the writing scores of elementary English language learners throughout the district. The project will provide coaching, support, materials, and guidance to ESOL teachers and ... more »

Airyell DeFord

United West Elementary School, Monmouth, IL
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To increase engagement in the classroom by enabling all students to build models to illustrate their understanding of various curriculum concepts, Ms. DeFord will introduce LEGO Education’s “BuildtoExpress.” Students will learn to actively listen, think ... more »

Diane Abraham

Kualapuu School, Kualapuu, HI
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Winter

Through “Discovering Disciplines of Tropical Marine Science,” Mrs. Abraham and Mr. Link’s students will learn that the planet’s oceans support a variety of ecosystems, organisms, shapes, and landforms. Students will collect sea waters and analyze its ... more »

Deborah J. Rose

Crystal Lakes Elementary School, Boynton Beach, FL
Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented
2014, Winter

To aid in the implementation of Common Core Standards, Mrs. Rose and Mrs. Stanislawski will create a leveled library of high-interest literature, science, and social studies books. Educators will work with individual and groups of students to provide explicit instruction in ... more »

Joanne Grant

J. A. DePaolo Middle School, Southington, CT
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2014, Winter

To enhance student understanding of argument and persuasive essays, Mrs. Grant and Ms. Laudati will introduce “Book Trailers.” After learning about advertising and persuasive writing, students will create a video trailer for their favorite book and attempt to ... more »

Brenda Grueneberger

Mira Loma High School, Sacramento, CA
Grades 9-12, Arts
2014, Winter

To teach students to be curious, informed, and empowered, Ms. Grueneberger and Mr. Cox will introduce new architecture lessons in their classrooms. Students will correspond with architect mentors from across the nation to redesign an area of Mira Loma High School. By ... more »

Dianne Roberts

Dahlia Heights Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA
Grades K-5, English
2014, Winter

Using a multidisciplinary approach, students will explore the world by reading Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Common Core standards will be brought to life as the text of the play becomes a gateway into astronomy, botany, social science, ... more »

Sarah Johnson

Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno, CA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Winter

Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Wilkerson will introduce iPads to increase student participation, improve collaboration among educators, and enhance student learning. Educators will use the technology to introduce lessons focusing on community safety, vocational training, independent ... more »

Vanessa Arevalo de Fuente

Vineland Elementary School, Baldwin Park, CA
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Winter

Ms. de Fuente and Ms. Lazaro’s students will learn about the Earth’s resources through gardening, cultivating, and understanding scientific concepts. Students will be provided with hands-on opportunities to examine soil, its elements, and observational skills. ... more »

Lisa Martin

DeGrazia Elementary School, Tucson, AZ
Grades K-5, Librarian
2014, Winter

Through “Reading to Write to Publish,” Ms. Martin and Ms. Williams will increase student interest and enthusiasm for reading and writing by creating a library publishing center. Authors, editors, and librarians will teach lessons on interviewing, the writing ... more »

Sarah Bartosch

West Allis Central High School, West Allis, WI
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2013, Fall

To more effectively serve students on the autism spectrum, Mrs. Bartosch will attend a “Social Thinking” clinic. After completing the clinic, Mrs. Bartosch will use her newly acquired knowledge to develop a course that will be offered in her school district to ... 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.