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.


Catherine Cushard

Susick Elementary School, Troy, MI
Grades K-5, English
2012, Winter

Ms. Cushard will attend the What’s Different about Teaching Reading to English Language Learners institute at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. Upon completion of the training Ms. Cushard will lead a study group that will equip colleagues with ... more »

Susan Hansen-Barber

Canyon Elementary Science Magnet School, Cataldo, ID
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Using curriculum from the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry, Mrs. Hansen-Barber and Mrs. Joslyn will facilitate ten professional study workshops for educators in the Wallace and Kellogg School Districts. The first five workshops will introduce teachers to the benefits ... more »

Bejanae Kareem

Parkside Elementary, Atlanta, GA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Ms. Kareem will travel to a diverse, high performing school in Toronto, Ontario. While there, Ms. Kareem will investigate professional learning communities and parental involvement initiatives aimed at increasing student achievement. The strategies and knowledge gained ... more »

Brett Geier

University of South Florida–Polytechnic, Lakeland, FL
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Dr. Geier and Mrs. Davis will implement professional development for K-12 administrators at the county school district level. The learning will aim to improve STEM concept knowledge for administrators as they evaluate educators teaching these concepts. The ... more »

Adina Alexandru

Glastonbury High School, Glastonbury, CT
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Dr. Alexandru will conduct multiple sessions with foreign language teachers within her school district. The sessions will focus on curriculum development that will incorporate efficient interpretive reading strategies in daily instruction that will be reflected in all ... more »

Kevin Crosby

Independence High School, Bakersfield, CA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Winter

Mr. Crosby will attend a workshop that will focus on the development of individualized instruction across all levels of student need using the Common Core Standards. Mr. Crosby will also attend various professional development strands that cover specific educational ... more »

Amber Lancaster

June Jordan School for Equity, San Francisco, CA
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2012, Winter

To improve her Spanish speaking skills to better communicate with Spanish speaking students and their parents, Ms. Lancaster will spend four weeks in intensive language classes in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Through small group classes, individual tutoring sessions, and ... more »

Kory Bootsma

Rancho Verde High School, Moreno Valley, CA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mrs. Bootsma and Mrs. Vansant will introduce vertically-teamed, collaborative AP social studies and AP English classes at Rancho Verde High School. Eight collaborative team teachers will be granted self initiated workshops that will enable them to vertically align both ... more »

Michelle Pauken

Rockwall High School, Rockwall, TX
Grades 9-12, Arts
2011, Fall

Dr. Pauken will travel to Belize, where she will experience archeological field work, contribute to ongoing research, and gain a deeper understanding of Mayan culture. She will work with archeologists and anthropologists, and will learn how to use the required tools and ... more »

Sharon Eanes

Double Eagle Elementary School, Albuquerque, NM
Grades K-5, Special Education
2011, Fall

Mrs. Eanes will attend the Davis Dyslexia Correction Methods, a training that will provide insight into how the dyslexic brain works.  At the four day training, Mrs. Eanes will learn theories, principles, and procedures regarding dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ... more »

Meredith Cummings

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AK
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Ms. Cummings and Ms. Parsons will participate in the mentoring program of the Journalism Education Association, which will enable them to provide ongoing training and support for new journalism teachers and advisers. Acting as mentors, Ms. Cummings and Ms. Parsons will ... more »

Erica Kogely

Hayward Elementary School, Sioux Falls, SD
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Using iPads, the speech therapy team at Hayward Elementary will enhance student motivation, improve collaboration among educators, and increase student productivity. The technology will bring speech and language therapy into classrooms that previously have not had access to ... more »

Hope Shirley

Central Elementary, Central, SC
Grades K-5, Science
2011, Fall

Mrs. Shirley and Ms. Forbes will introduce Plants, People, and Our Planet which will allow third and fourth grade students to explore the environmental factors that negatively affect plants and humans. Students will develop a garden and outdoor reading courtyard to ... more »

Katy Norris

Welsh Valley Middle School, Narberth, PA
Grades 6-8, Arts
2011, Fall

Eighth grade students from two diverse schools in the Lower Merion School District will collaborate on a yearlong service learning project through Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. Students will work collaboratively to explore social issues effecting ... more »

Eileen Wuthrick

Washington Elementary, Alliance, OH
Grades K-5, Special Education
2011, Fall

Ms. Wuthrick and Ms. Hall will incorporate iPads into the classroom so that students will identify, analyze, and comprehend issues inherent in diverse ecosystems. The learning will enhance students’ understanding of the ways in which living ecosystems function and the ... more »

Alana Chill

Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, Washington, DC
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2011, Fall

To improve student literacy and public speaking, Ms. Chill and Ms. Peck’s fourth grade students will host daily news programs for the entire school. The broadcasts will focus primarily on social studies themes, allowing students to report on both past and present ... more »

Susan Anglada Bartley

Franklin High School, Portland, OR
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

To address an influx of students at Franklin High School due to the closure of another school within the district, Mrs. Anglada Bartley and Ms. Garrett will expand the Advanced Scholar Program, which requires students to commit to taking four advance placement classes ... more »

Travis Anderson

Lawrence-Lawson Elementary School, Sparta, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Lawrence-Lawson Elementary students will become actively engaged in technology using iPod Touch devices. Feeding the 21st Century Learner with Technology will motivate students to increase their knowledge of reading and math skills while differentiating instruction to meet ... more »

Susan Persson

Barnet Elementary School, Barnet, VT
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Ms. Persson and Ms. Boardman will incorporate the use of laptop computers into their classrooms to support the integration of the arts and technology with the disciplines of science, language arts, and social studies. Student work in the core curriculum will connect with ... more »

Kimberly Foland

Spring Hill Elementary School, Knoxville, TN
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2011, Fall

Educators at Spring Hill Elementary will introduce Discover Intensive Phonics with the objective of helping at-risk students increase their decoding and reading skills. Ms. Foland and Mrs. Pena will implement the program and monitor improvements in students’ reading ... more »

Lani Banner

Hudson City Schools, Hudson, OH
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

The Hudson Appalachia Project will provide students with a service learning opportunity in rural Ohio. Students will participate in a week of service which includes volunteering at several nonprofit and educational organizations. Through classroom instruction and community ... more »

Ryan Harwood

Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2011, Fall

Through Connecting Cultures Across the World, students at Mendenhall Middle School will correspond with their peers in a sister school in Tema, Ghana. Students in each school will create videos about their school, town, region, and country. Video versions of ... more »

Adi Madden

Fairmount School, Hackensack, NJ
Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented
2011, Fall

Students will explore the realities of extreme poverty in their communities and at the global level through Eradicating Global Issues through 21st Century Technology. Students will identify latent issues and produce videos about the issues and ways to eradicate them. Mrs. ... more »

Patricia Piscetta

Belmont Middle School, Belmont, NH
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Mrs. Piscetta and Ms. West will upgrade Belmont Middle School’s Accelerated Reader Program with AR Enterprise, a web based application which will enhance their ability to reach all students. The program is designed to encourage independent reading and measure student ... more »

Jeff de Varona

Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy, Niles, MI
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2011, Fall

To increase student engagement and provide differentiation for students in math classes, Mr. de Varona and Mr. Watson will create a new course that integrates algebra and geometry and focuses on project based learning. Students will create and post high quality online ... more »

Celeste Cruse

Lawrence School, Falmouth, MA
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Ms. Cruse will lead a team of educators in the implementation of Kindles and eBooks at Lawrence School. The project will improve students’ ability to analyze and interpret text by allowing them to practice active reading comprehension strategies while developing ... more »

Beth Groeneman

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Bethesda, MD
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Through Building Bridges with Ecuador, Ms. Groeneman and Mrs. Lyddane will work with a team of student volunteers to give humanitarian services to indigenous people in Ecuador. Three service teams will provide healthcare, education, and community construction improvements. ... more »

Christopher Eldridge

Scarborough High School, Scarborough, ME
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2011, Fall

As part of a unit on culture and ethnocentrism, students in Mr. Eldridge’s sociology course will visit local ethnic restaurants, using food as a foundation for broader discussions of culture. Students will work with local chefs to prepare traditional meals of ... more »

Desiree Dufrene

Lockport Middle School, Lockport, LA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2011, Fall

Mrs. Dufrene and Mrs. Sevin will introduce the MyMathLab online program into eighth grade pre-algebra classes. The program will allow students to take control of their own learning as they work at their own pace and receive immediate feedback after completing assignments, ... more »

Melanie Belcher

Feds Creek Elementary School, Feds Creek, KY
Grades K-5, English
2011, Fall

Soaring Higher to Literacy Success will utilize a research based intervention program to help at-risk fourth and fifth graders accelerate their reading ability and apply decoding and comprehension strategies learned in reading class to other subjects. Mrs. Belcher and Mrs. ... more »

Brunilda Dickenson

Chestnut Elementary School for Science and Engineering, Kissimmee, FL
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

To enhance diversity and inclusion at Chestnut Elementary, Ms. Dickenson and Mrs. Carter will develop a school wide program to expose students to multiple cultures. Every month, students at each grade level will choose a different country to research and create digital ... more »

Janet Hughes

La Mirada Elementary School, San Ysidro, CA
Grades K-5, History
2011, Fall

La Mirada Elementary students will participate in historic reenactments to build background knowledge and key vocabulary related to California’s history. Students will be immersed with a tour of a seventeenth century clipper ship, a walk on paths used by Spanish ... more »

Sergio Villegas

Vintage High School, Napa, CA
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2011, Fall

To improve English language learners’ understanding of algebra, Mr. Villegas will lead an initiative to offer physics class as a support for ELL algebra students. In teaching algebra and physics in tandem, Mr. Villegas and Mr. Rutherford will transform the physics ... more »

Kary Towne

Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, South Burlington, VT
Grades 6-8, Education Support Professional
2011, Fall

Mrs. Towne will develop a hands-on, face-to-face training program that will enable school nurses to prepare for mandatory online training properly. The program will be a training opportunity that will enable other nurses to correctly use their screening equipment, network ... more »

Sarah Ibson

Harwood Union/Middle/High School, Moreton, VT
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Mrs. Ibson and six colleagues at Harwood Union Middle/High School will form a study group to explore interactive instructional strategies using iPads to improve engagement and academic performance. After an initial training, the group will research educational apps with a ... more »

Cynthia Robinson-Carney

John Marshall High School, Richmond, VA
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Mrs. Robinson-Carney will strengthen her professional practice and improve her teaching performance by obtaining national board certification. Through a series self assessments? including videotaping classroom sessions, documenting quality instruction and planning, and ... more »

Doris Herrmann

Clear Falls High School, League City, TX
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

To increase her knowledge of integrating student owned technology in the classroom, Ms. Herrmann will attend and present at the Texas Computer Education Association Convention. She will discuss ways to encourage students to use their personal technology as learning tools in ... more »

Cheryl Simmons

East Greenwich Public Schools, East Greenwich, RI
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2011, Fall

Ms. Simmons and Ms. Macleod will lead an effort to implement assistive technology tools to enhance new student integration and learning.  The team will work to improve their skills in developing creative and engaging ways to foster inclusion and learning for all ... more »

Deborah Getman

PS 207, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Dr. Getman will lead of team of third and sixth grade educators through a collaborative professional learning community that will enable participants to perfect their instructional strategies. Specifically, groups of educators will attend sessions at Columbia ... more »

Daisy Rooks

University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Higher Education, Mathematics
2011, Fall

Dr. Rooks will examine individuals who have taken “alternative” pathways into the teaching profession.  Specifically, she will analyze sixty in-depth, semi-structured interviews with participants, staff, and critics of Teach for America, the largest ... more »

Amy Huset

Forest View Elementary School, Forest Lake, MN
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2011, Fall

Mrs. Huset and Mrs. Kuschke will implement an action research project in which students will learn to “read pictures,” discuss authors’ purposes, and analyze the word choices used in texts. Painting techniques will also be taught, as students will create ... more »

Lisa Hilberg

Alpena Public Schools, Alpena, MI
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Teachers and education support professionals in Alpena Public Schools and surrounding school districts will be trained in the curricular framework presented in Charlotte Danielson’s Enhancing Professional Practice. Staff will be trained in the Danielson rubric and ... more »

Eboni Walker

Sargent Shriver Elementary School, Silver Spring, MD
Grades K-5, English
2011, Fall

Ms. Walker and Mrs. Moy will lead an action research study of the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) as a tool to improve the teaching and learning of English language learners at Sargent Shriver Elementary School. The group looks to improve the performance ... more »

Prisca Martens

Towson University, Towson, MD
Higher Education, Literature
2011, Fall

Dr. Martens and her colleagues will investigates how global literature— stories with settings outside the US— supports and develops first and second grader students’ intercultural understandings. A study group of seven teachers and two university ... more »

Amanda Pickrell

Thorpe Creek Elementary School, Fishers, IN
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2011, Fall

To create a collaborative environment that will improve student achievement, Mrs. Pickrell and her colleagues will establish professional learning communities that share a common vision. The communities will be comprised of collaborative teams focusing on learning and best ... more »

Amy Benac

Rockridge CUSD #300, Rockridge, IL
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2011, Fall

Mrs. Benac will participate in comprehensive training of the Orton-Gillingham methodology, a research based approach to learning that has been proven to benefit students who struggle with reading, spelling, and writing activities. By completing the training, Mrs. Benac will ... more »

Eric Jones

Bartlett High School, Bartlett, IL
Grades 9-12, Science
2011, Fall

Mr. Jones will attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061 Workshop in Washington, DC. While there, he will study Project 2061's approach to science assessment and its procedures for developing effective items that are carefully ... 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.