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.


Jennifer Darrow

Hyde Park Elementary School, Hyde Park, VT
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Fall

To improve her understanding of new policies in the field of special education, Mrs. Darrow will attend the Council for Exceptional Children Conference. While there, Mrs. Darrow will attend expert-led sessions on current research and evidence-based practices. Upon ... more »

Carrie Kauffman

State College Area School District, State College, PA
Grades 6-8, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2013, Fall

Mrs. Kauffman and Mrs. Taptich will lead the “Centre Teacher Writers,” a group consisting of elementary, middle, and high school educators, as well as two Penn State University professors. The team will work collaboratively to develop strategies to teach writing ... more »

Ann-Marie Young

Bay Middle School, Bay Village, OH
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2013, Fall

Mrs. Young will travel to Australia in a “Culture to Culture” experience to develop enticing, meaningful, and realistic learning opportunities for students needing intensive intervention at Bay Middle School. While there, she will gain a deeper understanding of ... more »

Dr. Elyse Zucker

Hostos Community College - CUNY, Bronx, NY
Higher Education, English
2013, Fall

To improve the quality of writing courses available to ESL students, Drs. Zucker and Dicker will lead a series of workshops for adjunct faculty. Participants will learn how to implement more inclusive, student centered writing classes and respond to the needs of struggling ... more »

Jennifer Ortiz

Espanola Public Schools, Espanola, NM
Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented
2013, Fall

To learn how to best serve the under-identified, low income, and diverse gifted students in her district, Ms. Ortiz will attend the National Association for Gifted Children’s Conference. While there, Ms. Ortiz will experience seminars on brain based learning ... more »

Ann Moody

Bertha Ronzone Elementary School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Fall

Mrs. Moody will attend the National Conference of Teachers of Mathematics, where she will present research on hidden assessments. While there, Mrs. Moody will also attend presentations on innovative concepts and strategies for teaching English Language Learners and students ... more »

Nicole Frovik

Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts and Science, Eagan, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2013, Fall

Through the “STEAM Room,” Mrs. Frovik and Mrs. Jensen will lead a professional learning community that will allow teachers at Glacier Hill Elementary to work collectively and collaboratively with their colleagues and with local experts in the disciplines of ... more »

Nick Waugh

Western Foothills Regional School Unit #10, Peru, ME
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

To support RSU 10's Mass Customized Learning (MCL) initiative, Mr. Waugh and colleagues will develop MCL compliant projects, lessons, techniques, assessments, and rubrics. The materials will be field tested in an after school program and shared with educators throughout the ... more »

John Buckley

Cohasset High School, Cohasset, MA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2013, Fall

To expand opportunities for students to engage in coastal STEM projects, Mr. Buckley and colleagues will introduce a “Certificate of Environmental Stewardship.” The certification program will be developed by a collaborative partnership of educators, scientists, ... more »

Susan Nichols

Douglas Intermediate Elementary, Douglas, MA
Grades K-5, Librarian
2013, Fall

Mrs. Nichols and Mrs. Findlay will lead a district wide tablet training session in preparation for an iPad implementation program in all elementary and middle schools. The program will teach educators to provide authentic learning experiences to students and help prepare ... more »

Shannon Mangan

Longwood Elementary School, Glenwood, IL
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To increase capacity and create a rigorous curriculum aligned with English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, Ms. Mangan and Mrs. Munoz will lead a collegial study to create curricular units based on the “Understanding by Design” framework. The group ... more »

Katherine Tietjen

East Hampton Middle School, East Hampton, CT
Grades 6-8, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To improve reading and writing workshops at East Hampton Middle School, Mrs. Tietjen will participate in an internship at Nancie Atwell's Center for Teaching and Learning. Throughout the course of the internship, Mrs. Tietjen will learn to structure a workshop-based ... more »

Karen Zapata

SF Community School, San Francisco, CA
Grades K-5, English
2013, Fall

Ms. Zapata will lead a team of SF Community School (SFCS) educators that will support the needs of the school’s English Language Learners. Educators will place particular emphasis on strengthening the learning of Long Term English Language Learners, currently the ... more »

Erika Isomura

Glassbrook School, Hayward, CA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Fall

Ms. Isomura and Mrs. Buljan will lead a school wide professional learning community to prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts. Through lesson study and inquiry, the team will refine teaching practices and ... more »

Laura Masbruch

Whitewater High School, Whitewater, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Ms. Masbruch and Mr. Lauersdorf will expand their Digital Electronics course to allow students to create software designs for circuits. The circuits will be used to control LED message boards, raise and lower toll bridge gates, detect jams in copy machines, and make robots ... more »

Debra Ono

Lakeland Elementary School, Auburn, WI
Grades K-5, Librarian
2013, Fall

To assist educators in the implementation of new Common Core Standards, Mrs. Ono and Mrs. Brown will create a guided reading room in Lakeland Elementary School’s library. Educators will be encouraged to check out books to use in daily reading activities and for ... more »

Janice McCurdy

Gar-Field High School, Woodbridge, VA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2013, Fall

Mrs. McCurdy and Mrs. Clarke will introduce “System 44,” an innovative web-based reading improvement program. This foundational program will provide targeted instruction to high school students who struggle with deficits in phonics and are caught in a cycle of ... more »

Karen Ciotta

Epes Elementary School, Newport News, VA
Grades K-5, STEM
2013, Fall

Through “STEM Scientists,” Mrs. Ciotta and Mrs. McEaddy will create a hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classroom environment for kindergarten students and English Language Learners. Students will be provided with daily opportunities to ... more »

Lauren Foster

Discovery Elementary School, Ashburn, VA
Grades K-5, Resource Specialist
2013, Fall

To support struggling readers through the use of current technology, Ms. Foster and Ms. Ragan will introduce “iPad Buddies” in their classrooms. The initiative will serve as a resource for primary teachers to use during intervention groups. Ms. Foster and Ms. ... more »

Kevin Veroneau

Robert E. Lee High School, San Antonio, TX
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2013, Fall

Mr. Veroneau and Mr. Newberger will improve student participation by introducing Classroom Performance Systems (CPS) in their social studies classrooms. The technology will allow educators to provide immediate and ongoing feedback to students, perform real time formative ... more »

Ioana Agut

Brazosport College, Lake Jackson, TX
Higher Education, Mathematics
2013, Fall

To improve completion of entry level math courses, student retention, and graduation rates, Mrs. and Mr. Agut will pilot the “Calculate2Gether” program. They will create a lending library that will allow struggling students access to common calculators. Students ... more »

Suzanne Costner

Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN
Grades K-5, Library Media Specialist
2013, Fall

“Going Interactive” will allow Ms. Costner and Mrs. Roberts to increase student participation by using Promethean Boards in their classrooms. Students will be encouraged to answer questions from video reviews, participate in “Jeopardy”-style ... more »

William Hughes

Park Forest Middle School, State College, PA
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Through “Renewable Electricity Producing Clean Water,” Mr. Hughes and Mr. McAninch will increase their students’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills by enhancing current curriculum with cross-curricular energy and environmental ... more »

Jaime Lemon

Cold Spring Elementary School, Doylestown, PA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

To improve student reading fluency through the use of tablet technology, Mrs. Lemon and Mrs. Christie will introduce “Project iRead.” The tablets will allow students to read books that they choose and connect kinesthetically, visually, and orally with their ... more »

Jenna Hixson

Southmoreland School District, Alverton, PA
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To address drops in reading proficiency, students in Mrs. Hixson’s and Mr. Brittain’s classes will study the classic texts “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Outsiders.” The books will allow students to ... more »

Gayle Sharp

Wickliffe High School, Wickliffe, OH
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To help students become deeper learners, Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Shultz will introduce collaborative literature circle groups in their classrooms. Through these groups, students will be given the opportunity to develop higher level creative thinking and complex processing ... more »

David Garcia

Warren Hills Regional Middle School, Washington, NJ
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Through “On Your Own,” Mr. Garcia’s students will use personal finance software to simulate living independently upon graduating from high school. Students will create budgets, interview for jobs, purchase automobiles, and rent apartments as they are ... more »

Katrina Macht

Hillside Intermediate School, Bridgewater, NJ
Grades 6-8, STEM
2013, Fall

Mrs. Macht and Mr. Sgro will introduce “Classrooms Without Walls,” a science and technology program that will link classroom learning with real world scientific research. Mrs. Macht and her colleagues will partner with scientists affiliated with a local ... more »

Dr. Cynthia Serfass

Westside High School, Omaha, NE
Grades 9-12, Service Learning
2013, Fall

Through “Success through Service,” Dr. Serfass and Mrs. McGeary will introduce a service learning project for at-risk students. Students will be presented with options for local service opportunities and will vote on the options. After determining the sites, ... more »

Teresa Glass

Independent School District 625, St. Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Fall

To increase student comprehension of grade level material, Ms. Glass and Ms. Tetlie will incorporate tablet technology into their special education classrooms. Educators will use the tablets to introduce research-based audio content to improve reading comprehension with ... more »

Ross Chakrian

Waverly Elementary School, Ellicott City, MD
Grades K-5, Physical Education / Health
2013, Fall

Through “Heart to Heart,” Mr. Chakrian and Ms. Heisey will implement a heart rate monitoring program at Waverly Elementary School. The program will allow students to monitor their exercise intensity in a safe and individualized manner. Data collected by the ... more »

Michelle Jordan

Summit Middle School, Johnston, IA
Grades 6-8, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2013, Fall

Mrs. Jordan and Mrs. Heston will introduce “Reaching the Summit,” a unique after school program designed to close the achievement gaps for struggling students. School staff members and community volunteers will facilitate the program and engage students in ... more »

Kent Houston

William Henry Harrison High School, Evansville, IN
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

Mr. Houston and Mr. Elpers will team teach a global leadership curriculum designed to assist Harrison High School’s students to improve academically and develop into mature global leaders. The innovative, standards-based curriculum will include cultural diversity, ... more »

Sara Hay

Belvidere Central Middle School, Belvidere, IL
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2013, Fall

To integrate language arts and literacy skills into social studies classes, Ms. Hay and Mrs. Zarembski will incorporate the use of Kindles into their classroom lessons. Students will participate in novel studies from a variety of genres, and use the tablets to access online ... more »

Thomas Riherd

Lake Butler Middle School, Lake Butler, FL
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2013, Fall

Mr. Riherd will introduce tablet technology into his social studies classroom, enabling students to explore primary and secondary online sources to enhance their learning experience. Students will share their discoveries with their peers and engage in collaborative ... more »

Dr. Kimberly Clements

Colonial Elementary School, Fort Myers, FL
Grades K-5, School Counselor
2013, Fall

Dr. Clements and Mr. Marino will introduce “STEM-ulating Students through Robotics,” a unit that will allow students to develop their knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. Students will design, build, and program small scale robots ... more »

Kevin Brodie

Lyman Memorial High School, Lebanon, CT
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2013, Fall

Through “What Makes You Tick?,” Mr. Brodie and Ms. Escott will lead a project in which students will connect self-perception with the ways they view other people. Students will answer identity questions, formulate personal essays, and take self-portraits to be ... more »

Lindsay Parrish

Fox Ridge Middle School, Aurora, CO
Grades 6-8, Science
2013, Fall

To create tangible, authentic experiences that promote student understanding of the human body, Ms. Parrish and Ms. Voreis will introduce the “Living Life Science” project. Students will develop critical thinking skills that will target the “why” ... more »

Norma Williamson

La Mirada High School, La Mirada, CA
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2013, Fall

“Community Connections for Watershed Protection” will allow students to use a project based learning approach to research how the La Mirada community can help reduce ocean pollution and conserve drinking water. Students will interview scientists, members of ... more »

Lisa Aburto

Yucca Loma Elementary School, Apple Valley, CA
Grades K-5, Science
2013, Fall

Through “Robo-Mentors,” students at Granite Hills High School will team with Yucca Loma Elementary students to assist them with assembling basic robots. The high school students will collaborate weekly with their elementary counterparts to guide and support them ... more »

Brandi Ashby

West Morgan High School, Trinity, AL
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To reach students at their level and provide hands-on activities that will bring history to life, Mrs. Ashby and Ms. Dickerson will introduce “Live in Your Classroom, Play in Ours.” The project will promote friendly competition through trivia and gaming and will ... more »

Joe Mink

Edgerton High School, Edgerton, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Spring

Barbara Mills

Shorewood High School, Shoreline, WA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2013, Spring

Ms. Mills will participate in the Combined Summer Institute, which will address support for students with deaf-blindness, multiple disabilities, and autism. While attending, Ms. Mills will gain vital knowledge that will enable her to more effectively support students with ... more »

Mary Silvia

Viewlands Elementary School, Seattle, WA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Spring

Mrs. Silvia and a team of colleagues will learn to work with behaviorally challenged special needs students. The team will learn to execute Applied Behavioral Analysis in the classroom, support students with autism and oppositional defiance, and manage disruptive behavior ... more »

Cassie Cox

Two Rivers High School, Ogden, UT
Grades 9-12, English
2013, Spring

Mrs. Cox will improve her English teaching practice by attending the National Council of Teachers of English’s Annual Convention. During the convention, Mrs. Cox will attend workshops, listen to keynote speakers, and work with leaders in the field. Following the ... more »

Dr. Michelle Salazar Perez

New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2013, Spring

Dr. Perez will travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to participate in a language and culture immersion program for educators. While living with a host family, she will participate in language study and visit elementary schools and historical sites to learn about Mexican culture ... more »

Emily Brill

Keystone Oaks School District, Pittsburgh, PA
Grades 6-8, Foreign Language Teacher
2013, Spring

To develop the necessary skills and acquire the technology needed to record her lectures, Mrs. Brill will attend workshops and conferences through the Flipped Learning Network. Upon completing the training, Mrs. Brill will pilot a “flipped learning curriculum” ... more »

Joyce Kaplan

Portland Community College, Portland, OR
Grades K-5, Science
2013, Spring

Ms. Kaplan will participate in the “Earth Expeditions Primate Conservation” course in Borneo and work with other educators to conduct field studies in an environment of extraordinary cultural and ecological diversity. Ms. Kaplan will learn to apply field methods ... 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.