Awards Gala

Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools.


Marie White

Red Hill Elementary School, North Garden, VA
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2012, Spring

Ms. White and Ms. Hilker will lead a study group focusing on the use of differentiation through the discussion of proactive, purposeful, responsive, and learner centered instruction. The group will target specific concepts and strategies related to differentiation ... more »

Angela Eckhoff

Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
Higher Education, Education Support Professional
2012, Spring

Dr. Eckhoff will guide a teacher learning community of recent graduates as they navigate their first teaching year in a primary grades classroom. Acting as a participant observer, Dr. Eckhoff will facilitate face-to-face and virtual meetings, collect group ... more »

Ruth McDonald

Lincoln County School District, Newport, OR
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Lincoln County School District will partner with the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Westwind Stewardship Group, and Willamette University to facilitate a two day science workshop for district educators. Participants will engage in field studies of unique biological ... more »

Jennifer Randolph

Denver Place Elementary, Wilmington, OH
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Through a partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo, Miami University, and Project Dragonfly, Mrs. Randolph will travel to Belize to take part in Earth Expeditions. Mrs. Randolph will participate in investigations to monitor manatee population dynamics, human influence on ... more »

Emily Bowman

Harry Russell Elementary, West Carrollton, OH
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Mrs. Bowman will participate in Earth Expeditions, a global conservation and education program that promotes inquiry based learning and experiences for students. Mrs. Bowman will learn in the field with other educators and conservationists from around the world. Upon ... more »

Andrea Dempsey Moore

Hall-Woodward Elementary, Winston Salem, NC
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2012, Spring

Ms. Dempsey Moore will participate in the “Maximizing Leadership Potential” workshop at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. Through the workshop, Ms. Dempsey Moore will prepare to become an effective teacher leader through ... more »

Jamie Maholchic

Norwich High School, Norwich, NY
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2012, Spring

Mrs. Maholchic will attend the AP Annual Conference, where she will present the seminar “Teaching Timed Writing: A Gradual Release Model.”  During the session, she will share strategies that she has developed in her classroom to improve student writing ... more »

Jessica Zschack

Randolph Middle School, Randolph, NJ
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2012, Spring

Ms. Zschack and a colleague will travel to Thailand to volunteer at an orphanage that was created amid the destruction of the 2004 tsunami. Through this immersive cultural experience, Ms. Zschack will gain knowledge in the fields of special education, history, and ... more »

Kelly Wormann

Osage Elementary School, Voorhees, NJ
Grades K-5, Arts
2012, Spring

Ms. Wormann will complete the initial “Level of Musicianship and Leadership” program through Music For People, in which she will seek to promote a humanistic approach to the way music is taught, performed, and appreciated. The program will allow Ms. Wormann ... more »

Filomena Vine

Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Spring

To prepare students for the competitive 21st century economy, Ms. Vine will attend the National Science Teachers Association STEM Forum and Expo, at which she will present a hands-on workshop about successful informal initiatives and community programs. The conference ... more »

Brad Ollmann

Saint Anthony Park Elementary, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2012, Spring

Mr. Ollmann will embark on an immersive cultural and Spanish language study in Guatemala and Mexico. Through the University of Mexico, Mr. Ollmann will take part in an intensive study of the Spanish language as well as take elective courses in Mexican history, ... more »

Teresa Kelly

St. Paul Music Academy, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2012, Spring

Ms. Kelly will collaborate with Arpita Chatterjee, a licensed music educator in India, for a musical exchange that will inform both educators of the technical and cultural methods used in various forms of music.  Ms. Kelly and Ms. Chatterjee will develop a pilot ... more »

Bonnie Bouche

South High School, Minneapolis, MN
Grades 9-12, Education Support Professional
2012, Spring

To improve communications with students and parents from the growing Somali community in Minneapolis, Ms. Bouche and Ms. Koskela will study the Somali language. Through the language study, Ms. Bouche and Ms. Koskela will better bridge the current language gap ... more »

Sean Carmody

Holt Public Schools, Holt, MI
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2012, Spring

A team of mathematics educators will conduct lesson study to develop instructional practices across middle and high school grades that support students' engagement in a Mathematical Practice Standard from the Common Core State Standards. The cohort will collaborate to ... more »

Ella Bowling

Mason County Middle School, Maysville, KY
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

Mrs. Bowling will present two workshops at the National Science Teachers Association’s Regional Conference. In the first workshop, Mrs. Bowling will teach colleagues how to incorporate social networks in science classes; in the second workshop, she will discuss ... more »

Dayna Masih

Indiana School for the Blind, Indianapolis, IN
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2012, Spring

Mrs. Masih will travel to Finland to study a school for the visually impaired and discuss with educators instructional strategies for working with visually impaired students. During her travels Mrs. Masih will blog about her learning so her middle school world ... more »

Melissa McMullen

Montezuma Elementary School, Montezuma, IN
Grades K-5, History
2012, Spring

Ms. McMullen will travel to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to attend the annual Arthur and Rochelle Belfer National Conference for Educators. Museum educators and scholars will share rationales, strategies, and approaches for presenting the complex subject ... more »

Karen Brazell-Smith

Lake Weir High School, Ocala, FL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Spring

To aid students who have failed state reading tests, Mrs. Brazell-Smith will attend a dyslexia screening seminar. After completing the seminar, Mrs. Brazell-Smith will equip educators at Lake Weir High School with effective strategies to identify dyslexic students, ... more »

Kara Hennessey

Hall Memorial School, Willington, CT
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Spring

Ms. Hennessey will attend the Columbia University Teacher’s College writing institute to gain a stronger understanding of research based strategies that will improve writing curriculums and strengthen students’ writing abilities. Ms. Hennessey will use ... more »

Catalina Martinez

Hillcrest Elementary School, San Francisco, CA
Grades K-5, English
2012, Spring

To deepen her understanding of assessment based literacy instruction that supports emerging readers who are English language learners, Ms. Martinez will attend the Reading Institute hosted by Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. Upon ... more »

Carolyn Halpern

Sierra Madre School - Elementary Campus, Sierra Madre, CA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Spring

Ms. Halpern will attend the Summer Literacy Institute at Lesley University to create reading and writing workshops, focusing on improving student achievement in both reading comprehension and writing nonfiction text. After the institute, Ms. Halpern and colleagues will ... more »

Emily Dodson

Ponderosa Elementary School, Sunnyvale, CA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Spring

Ms. Dodson will lead a professional learning community at Ponderosa Elementary School in implementing the “Reader’s Workshop.” Colleagues will collaboratively develop an implementation plan for an improved school wide language arts program. Support ... more »

Kathleen Ho

Packard Children's Hospital School, Palo Alto, CA
Grades 9-12, Literature
2012, Spring

To provide hospitalized students with engaging and imaginative curriculums, Ms. Ho will attend the Oxbridge Academic Teacher's Seminar on Literature and the Fantastic. The seminar will focus on classic fantasy novels and the influence of Oxford on their authors.  ... more »

Wanda Hutchinson

Athens State University, Athens, AL
Higher Education, Education Support Professional
2012, Spring

To help novice teachers become more effective classroom practitioners, Athens State University will partner with surrounding school districts to implement the “Tying Excellence with Accountability Mentorship” program. The program will provide recent graduates ... more »

Lori Kluetzman

Hawthorne Elementary School, Madison, WA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Spring

Ms. Kluetzman and Ms. Funk will integrate iPod Touches in their classrooms to support and enhance student vocabulary development and reading comprehension. Students will use the tablets to participate in white board activities, listen to stories and songs in support ... more »

Kelsey Rhinehart

Adams-Friendship Area Schools, Friendship, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

Students will increase literacy skills through the strategic use of technology and digital media to produce a school wide news program. The program will present students with life and career skills including self direction, flexibility, adaptability, productivity, ... more »

Janet Woodward

Garfield High School, Seattle, WA
Grades 9-12, History
2012, Spring

To understand the importance of Seattle’s International District in the displacement of Japanese Americans during World War II, Mrs. Woodward and Mr. Lovre will lead a school wide common book project. Garfield High School students and faculty will read the novel ... more »

Christy Nemeth

Troy School, North Troy, VT
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Mrs. Nemeth and Mrs. Boutin will introduce a “grow lab” in their kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. Students will study and monitor the evolution of various plants by planting, cultivating, and harvesting multiple species. Throughout the project, ... more »

Kristene Newcomb

W. Charles Akins High School, Austin, TX
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2012, Spring

Using tablets equipped with reading, writing, and behavior documentation applications, W. Charles Akins High School Social Behavioral Skills (SSBS) students will improve their reading and writing achievement, behavioral choices, and social skills in academic settings. ... more »

Rebecca Farrow

Siegel High School, Murfreesboro, TN
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Spring

Siegel High School agriculture students will gain experience in water conservation techniques by designing and planting a riparian buffer along a local creek. Students will assess the need for reducing runoff and increasing infiltration for a limestone dominated ... more »

Christine Boring

Northgate Middle/Senior High School, Pittsburgh, PA
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Organic chemistry students at Northgate High School will enhance laboratory learning through the incorporation of iPads in the lab setting. Tablet simulations will portray volatile chemical reactions and molecular interactivity and allow students to visualize molecules ... more »

Matthew McKenry

Chambersburg Area High School, Chambersburg, PA
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Spring

Mr. McKenry will implement an “Adopt-a-Stream” classroom project in order to improve student achievement in genetic and ecology lessons and foster a conservation ethic in students. Students will take care of and monitor a local stream in order to determine ... more »

Sherm Koons

Washington County Career Center, Marietta, OH
Grades 9-12, English
2012, Spring

To assist students in fully developing the cultural literacy necessary to excel in AP English, Mr. Koons will introduce Kindle Fires in the classroom. The tablets will provide students with dictionary search functions that will enable them to annotate unfamiliar ... more »

Trudy Giasi

Hilltonia Middle School, Columbus, OH
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

Hilltonia Middle School educators and students will participate in the “Indoor Gardens” project as the initial step in creating a foundation for improving student literacy and achievement. The educators will integrate learning through the use of hydroponic ... more »

Charles Steinbower

William K. Willis High School, Columbus, OH
Grades 9-12, Literature
2012, Spring

Mr. Steinbower will attend the National Council for Teachers of English Assembly on Literature for Adolescents Conference to learn methods in which to incorporate popular young adult literature into classroom lessons. Upon completing the conference, Mr. Steinbower and ... more »

Audrey Gottlieb

Edward J. Milliken Technical Center, Oakdale, NY
Grades 9-12, Physical Education
2012, Spring

To learn about the benefits of community service and personal health, Ms. Gottlieb and Mr. Audiino will lead a group of students in becoming certified personal fitness trainers. Participating students will visit other schools and design lessons to teach fellow students ... more »

Cathleen Morreale

University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY
Higher Education, Social Studies
2012, Spring

Dr. Morreale will present “Community Resources,” a multidisciplinary service learning course that will engage students in their living and learning communities. Through critical reflection, students will be provided with international, national, and local ... more »

Miyo Tubridy

The Renaissance Charter School, Jackson Heights, NY
Grades K-5, English
2012, Spring

Ms. Tubridy will introduce “Poets for Change,” a personal inquiry and poetry project that will use poetry and research as a vehicle from promoting change in students’ lives. Senior ELA students will study the form and craft of poetry and learn ... more »

Ariana Butler

PS 327 Dr. Rose B. English School, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

Ms. Butler will implement a digitized interactive curriculum to deliver personalized lesson plans and homework assignments to students. The system will manage all elements of teaching, learning, and assessment while allowing Ms. Butler to remain at the center of ... more »

Jacqueline Clary

Lebanon High School, Lebanon, NH
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

“Community Wellness through Digital Art” will expand Lebanon High School’s art offerings to include the use of digital tools. Ms. Clary and her colleagues will expand students’ technology resources and provide a diverse group of student artists a ... more »

Jessica Cole

Magnolia Middle School, Meridian, MS
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2012, Spring

Through the “Pass Path to Math Achievement” project, students will meet the demands of Magnolia Middle School’s 21st century technology goals. Mrs. Cole and Mrs. Webb will appeal to students’ enthusiasm for technology to improve their math ... more »

Katie Thompson

Watertown Mayer Middle School, Watertown, MN
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

Mrs. Thompson will introduce iPads into her language arts classes to help better meet students’ needs as they improve their speaking, listening, viewing, and media literacy skills. Students will engage in differentiated learning projects and work in collaborative ... more »

Nicole Estes

Maple Elementary School, West Bloomfield, MI
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Spring

Mrs. Estes and Mrs. Miller will use iPads to improve ESL and Title I student achievement in reading and writing. Conferences between educators and individual students will be used to record student writing samples both digitally and observationally. Educators will use ... more »

Kate Fanelli

Beacon Day Treatment, River Rouge, MI
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Spring

To increase student understanding of math and science, Ms. Fanelli and Mr. Wachtel will work with students to collect data in laboratory experiments, analyze the data, describe mathematical phenomena, and design experiments to explore self directed, open ... more »

Elizabeth Joki

JFK Middle School, Hudson, MA
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

JFK Middle School students will participate in the conservation of the Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species in eastern Massachusetts. In collaboration with wildlife biologists, students will raise and care for hatchlings which will be released upon maturation ... more »

Valerija Ziglejeva

Pocomoke Middle School, Pocomoke City, MD
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

To address varying readiness levels and interests, educators at Pocomoke Middle School will introduce iPads in classrooms to provide instructional methods that draw on students’ interests. Educators will use instant feedback to prepare for lessons and modify ... more »

Jennie Lewis

Russell Area Technology Center, Russell, KY
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

To encourage students to become technology leaders, educators at Russell Area Technology Center will implement the “SMART Classroom Suite.” Through the use of SMART boards, students will work collaboratively on educational games and discussion questions. ... more »

Megan Marie Dennis

South Ripley Elementary School, Versailles, IN
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

Mrs. Dennis and Mrs. Gilpin will introduce a project based learning experience through which students will determine the best alternative energy source to use on school property. Students will research different “green” energy methods, draft informative ... more »

Sharman Galezewski

Jane Addams Elementary School, Palatine, IL
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2012, Spring

To foster student creativity, Mrs. Galezewski will encourage elementary students to participate in the creative process through musical composition. Students will first observe educators composing music and then will write collaborative compositions through the use of ... more »

Michelle Liberio

Thornwood High School, South Holland, IL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Spring

Mrs. Liberio and Mrs. Hoekstra will introduce touch screen technology to encourage increased academic participation and communication by special needs students diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s, nonverbal learning disorders, and learning difficulties. Students will ... more »

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Did you miss the live webcast on the Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 7, 2014?


Now, you can watch the entire program and catch all of the best moments-- from host and Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad to student performers from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools and the 36 educators from across the country who were celebrated on stage.  




The 2014 NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, featuring host Phylicia Rashad

More than 800 national leaders in education, philanthropy, and business gathered at the National Building Museum in the nation’s capital on February 7, 2014 to celebrate excellence in public education.

Phylicia Rashad, the Tony Award-winning actress best known as Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” hosted the event and helped celebrate the work of exceptional public school educators alongside student performers from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools.

In addition to the 36 educators honored with the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, the following top honors were presented.


California educator Kimberley Gilles receives the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence

Kimberley Gilles, an English teacher at Monte Vista School in Danville, CA and member of the California Teachers Association, received the evening's top honor: The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000. This award recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession.


Gilles and four other educators also received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. These five educators were finalists for the evening's top award.


(Left to right: Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of The NEA Foundation; Gary Phoebus, President & CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Kimberley Gilles, NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence recipient; Mark Chichester, Chair of The NEA Foundation Board of Directors)


“He was my son who happened to be gay,” his father states. His mother is grateful that “he was surrounded by friends—the sun, the wind, and the smell of sage brush” as he died, badly beaten and tied to a fence. In between these statements and others made by local residents interviewed by the playwrights, a Tibetan singing bowl mournfully chimes.

With this choral reading of The Laramie Project, students in Kimberley Gilles’ class learn what happened to Matthew Shepard on the day he was murdered. Afterwards, she invites them to share their thoughts and the comments are honest and profound. One student simply asks, “Why?” Gilles shares her passion for social justice and inclusion with her students with this lesson that intentionally provokes and, she hopes, invokes in them a love of reading and writing. She tells them that the purpose of writing is to communicate their inner truths and encourages each student to find his or her unique voice.

Gilles has taught high school since 2003 and was previously a humanities and leadership teacher at the middle school level. In June of 2014, Rethinking Schools will publish her work, “Bringing LGBT Issues Out of the Curricular Closet: Teaching The Laramie Project.” She was awarded a B.A. cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles and a M.Ed. in Instruction and Curriculum, Specialization: Integration of the Arts in 2012 from Lesley University.

As an active member of the Hayward Education Association, she played an integral part in leading a strike and then afterwards helped mend the fences and bind the wounds that had been created. Gilles currently serves as a union representative at her school in the San Ramon Valley Education Association and is a regular advocate for educators at school board meetings and community events. She is a State Representative to the California Teachers Association and currently serves on the Civil Rights in Education Committee. She received the CTA Members Human Rights Award in 2012.

Five educators receive the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence

Five extraordinary educators from across the country received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. Their students have already benefitted from the award. Each class received digital arts training from Pearson Foundation to produce a video, which premiered at the gala, to honor their award-winning teachers. Watch the videos below.


(Left to right: Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of the NEA Foundation, Christopher Stone (CT), Kathleen Sims (MN), Kimberley Gilles (CA), Marita Zuraitis, President & CEO of Horace Mann Educators Corporation, Eileen Sheehy (MT), Brian Sites (WA), Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President)



Student-made videos honoring their teachers premiere at the 2014 Gala

Timothy Shriver accepts the Security Benefit Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education on behalf of Special Olympics

The NEA Foundation presented the 2014 award to Special Olympics. Dr. Timothy Shriver, chairman of the orgazination, accepted the award on its behalf. Watch Dr. Shriver's speech.


This award recognizes individuals and organizations for their lifelong commitment to advancing public education and is typically presented to those who work outside the field. Awardees have included former President Bill Clinton, Title IX advocate Billie Jean King, and Sesame Workshop.


 Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.


This gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.







Students of Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools take the stage for cultural performances













The gala began with an original piece titled, "This is what my teachers said," by Blessed Sheriff, an eleventh-grade student at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD, and an award-winning poet. Watch her performance above.


In the evening's finale, host Phylicia Rashad joined Sheriff on stage. Watch Sheriff perform her original poem titled, “On the definition of hope," with the help of Rashad above.


Nearly 80 students from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools took us on a virtual world tour through the performing arts— from salsa dancing and madrigal singing to African drumming.


Thank you to all who helped celebrate the best in public education. Save the date for next year’s gala on February 13, 2015.



Original poems written and performed by Blessed Sheriff:


Be bold. This classroom will be a womb 
And it will deliver courage
And it will deliver voices
And it will deliver your courage
And it will deliver your voices

Strive. These books are a pedestal
They will lift you beyond your potential
And you will know things worth knowing
And see things worth seeing
They will teach you how to spell words like believe,

(Remember the “i” comes before the “e” except after “c”)
So that you will one day believe in a higher cause beyond yourself.

Listen, to me. This classroom will be the silence you need,
A worthy citadel for your thoughts
So let them roam free
And when you find one worth catching
Bring it back to me.
I want to see.


This is something they cannot steal.
The mind, like a thunderstorm
Stands dignified as the only God-sent instrument amidst humanity
And we
Each of us
With our own minds…
Our own eternal infinity.
Ideas don’t die, people do.

Understand that courage, kindness, wisdom, and love transcend time and when we go
What we made of them will still be here.
Make something of them
And this is how:

(This is what my teachers said to me:)
One day you will rise and I may be a distant memory
But for now
Take your seat.
Class is in session.

One syllable.
Four letters:
Noun. A feeling of expectation and desire. Derived from Old English hopa or hopian meaning to wish, expect, to look forward to. A word of German origin, connected as well to the Dutch language.
A word with so many sounds, so many souls, it doesn’t get by on just one syllable.
It’s the words of a man, a King, with a dream. It’s attached to the faces of the one’s who are screaming
For freedom.
Four letters? More like six – and it’s spelled like

And do you see now what I mean?
Where there is no vision the people perish-
we are a species defined by our progress-
from the moment we climbed up off our knees and onto our feet…
and we’ve been doing it ever since.
Off our knees and onto our feet.

Hope. A noun in action,
And whether we are shuffling, mumbling, or running at breakneck speed it makes
sure that we are moving.

Hope. Derived from the one who makes all things new -
a spirit that lives on the inside,
like a wish waiting to come true. It’s true,
we are made of stardust. So the next
time you see a shooting star turn around and look inside you:
You’re on fire.
Know that the only things that burn are the things that last forever.
Know that fire ignites, and we’re called to leave this world in ashes more
beautiful than the icebergs before.

Hope. A word which has its origins in the smile of a newborn child, and in the spark of
a newborn mind which has the power to change a generation.

And if there’s one thing important enough to remember about what hope is,
It’s that H.O.P.E stands for one thing W.E: and that is WE.
We are hope.