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 and of the unique bonds that educators and students share.

Grantees

Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl

AC Reynolds High School, Asheville, NC
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mr. Kurtz-Nicholl and Mrs. Yurkovich will lead the implementation of iClickers in social studies classrooms at AC Reynolds High School. Educators will build learning communities that focus on common assessments, essential questions, and ways to compare classes. ... more »

Sarah Fish

Brentwood Elementary School, Raleigh, NC
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Ms. Fish and Mrs. Mahone will promote 21st century data collection and learning in early childhood classrooms at Brentwood Elementary. The team will utilize electronic portfolios and real time photographic and video recordings of student learning to promote both data ... more »

Michael Rozalski

Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
Higher Education, Literature
2012, Winter

Dr. Rozalski and Mr. Miller will work with a team of educators to collect, review, and teach literature that will develop students’ social skills. The team will develop, present, and evaluate bibliotherapy lessons in an alternative education setting. The team will ... more »

Amanda Zullo

Saranac Lake High School, Saranac Lake, NY
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Chemistry, earth science, and biology teachers at Saranac Lake High School will facilitate classroom learning by using collaborative teaching techniques. Students, teachers, and teaching assistants will form a learning atmosphere to promote the gain of content knowledge ... more »

Paula Conrad

Wahoo Public Schools, Wahoo, NE
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Mrs. Conrad will implement a leveled literacy intervention, which is a research-based, systematic reading program that will enhance Wahoo Public Schools' Title 1 program to accelerate reading proficiency. The intervention, which will be introduced in the elementary ... more »

Faye Johnson

Rogers Middle School, Rogers, MN
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2012, Winter

Ms. Johnson and Mr. Radermacher will assist special needs students in becoming involved in their Individualized Education Plans. Students in the program will learn to identify and describe their personal disabilities through self evaluation and be able to identify their ... more »

Sara Heideman

Park High School, Cottage Grove, MN
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

To promote global thinking and strengthen students’ reading and writing skills, Mrs. Heideman and Ms. Middendorf will instruct their students to read narrative, nonfiction text based on young adults from a variety of geographic areas. Students will build and ... more »

Hannah Pontius

Posen Consolidated Schools, Posen, MI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

To encourage students to meet Michigan Merit Curriculum standards in visual, performing, and applied arts, Ms. Pontius and Mr. Budnick will outfit a lab for industrial arts students at Posen Consolidated Schools. The educators will assist students in choosing personal ... more »

Brian Gilman

Berkshire Trail Elementary School, Cummington, MA
Grades K-5, Arts
2012, Winter

Students will enhance their understanding of math and social science concepts by designing and fabricating ceramic tile quilts. The quilt murals will illustrate local social, cultural, and natural history, and will also link local events to social and cultural histories ... more »

Kelly Corbett

Broadmeadow Elementary, Needham, MA
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Winter

Ms. Corbett and Mrs. Rizzuto will lead an inquiry-based learning unit designed to encourage the development of students’ critical thinking skills and science content knowledge. Students will use these materials in conjunction with science notebooks to construct ... more »

Cindy Norell

Greencastle Elementary School, Silver Spring, MD
Grades K-5, Arts
2012, Winter

Creating Original Opera (COO) participants from two schools will work collaboratively throughout the school year to create, produce, and perform original dramatic operatic works. Using Skype cameras, web based portfolios, Promethean Board technology, artist visits, and ... more »

Lee Pernice

Derby Middle School, Derby, KS
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2012, Winter

Through iLove Math Again, Mrs. Pernice and Mrs. Habermehl will introduce math centers in their classrooms that incorporate technology through the use of iPads. Educators will focus on students’ levels of engagement and interest to improve student achievement. ... more »

Margaret Mauntel

Dubois Middle School, Dubois, IN
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Winter

Mrs. Mauntel and Mrs. Terwiske will teach their students to use algebraic equations to program robots. Students will learn basic programming language via calculations on TI calculators and will use that language to have their robots perform a variety of tasks. As ... more »

Kym Flowers

Arsenal Technical High School, Indianapolis, IN
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Ms. Flowers will lead a collaborative project between three high school teachers and the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute (INDI) at Indiana University--Purdue University Indianapolis. The proposed nanotechnology experience will include lectures, ... more »

Diane Abraham

Kualapuu School PCS, Kualapuu, HI
Grades K-5, History
2012, Winter

Students at Kualapuu School will learn about exploring for survival, discovery, and adventure through a lesson on the history of the ancient Polynesian voyaging that brought the first humans to the Hawaiian Islands. Students will document the process of building scale ... more »

Elaine Barreira

Hiram High School, Hiram, GA
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

To encourage student learning through the use of technology, Ms. Barreira and Ms. Gasque will introduce e-readers to their classrooms. The devices will be used at all learning levels, with particular focus on reluctant readers. The lead educators will study the impact ... more »

Teresa Arrouet

Johnson Middle School, Melbourne, FL
Grades 6-8, Gifted and Talented
2012, Winter

Through the STAR program, educators will meet the needs of accelerated and gifted students. STAR will offer students assistance with developing higher level thinking skills, accelerated pacing in math and foreign languages, and the exploration and understanding of ... more »

Jane Duggan

Adams 14 School District, Commerce City, CO
Grades K-5, Special Education
2012, Winter

Special education teachers in the Adams 14 school district will utilize a research-based math program to address math achievement gaps for at-risk elementary students with identified disabilities. They will be trained in coaching to utilize the core K-5 program and ... more »

Cynthia Lake

John Muir High School, Pasadena, CA
Grades 9-12, Sociology
2012, Winter

Through Imagine Mars, Mrs. Lake and Mr. Bond will implement a design-based learning project to encourage students to actively participate in problem solving through the backward thinking design process. The project will integrate standards-based lessons in multiple ... more »

Marilyn Farrens

Salida Elementary School, Salida, CA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Turning the Key to Literacy will increase reading and writing proficiency by integrating technology into the classroom. Ms. Farrens and a team of colleagues will use response clickers to monitor and evaluate student responses to multiple choice questions. To increase ... more »

Jaimie Graham

Ontario High School, Ontario, CA
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Montoya will introduce new lab learning opportunities to chemistry students at Ontario High School. Through rigorous laboratory activities, students will increase their understanding of core concepts through hands-on instruction. Students will be ... more »

Melynda Wescott

Mountain View School, Waddell, AR
Grades K-5, Special Education
2012, Winter

Ms. Wescott and Ms. Goodwin will introduce Project Math-I-Khan, a three-component, math intervention. The program will incorporate mathematical differentiated learning to increase student skills and understanding. Students will create math videos to be disseminated ... more »

Debbie Halstead

Garfield Elementary School, Spokane, WA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Mrs. Halstead will attend Columbia University's Teacher College Summer Writing Institute to learn best strategies for implementation, including crucial structures and routines that allow teachers to meet the differentiated needs of all student writers. Mrs. Halstead ... more »

Aubrey Ludwig

Langley High School, McLean, VA
Grades 9-12, English
2012, Winter

Educators from Virginia and Illinois will collaborate to explore the educational uses of the Tumblr microblogging platform. Ms. Ludwig and Ms. Richardson will use the platform to create overviews, reviews, and document based questions. Additionally, educators will ... more »

Andrew Jones

Mount Abraham Union High School, Bristol, VT
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

To effectively meet the needs of learners with diverse abilities and backgrounds, Mr. Jones will attend the Universal Design for Learning: Reaching All Learners institute at Harvard University. The program will prepare Mr. Jones to implement Universal Design for ... more »

Kathey Hoover

Wylie High School, Wylie, TX
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Ms. Hoover will travel to Belize to explore terrestrial, coastal, and coral reef communities. While there, she will join researchers to learn about conservation programs involving species including harpy eagles, jaguars, manatees, and howler monkeys. Additionally, Ms. ... more »

Joni Acuff

University of North Texas, Denton, TX
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Dr. Acuff will work with educators at a middle school in Columbus, Ohio in a participatory action research project. The cohorts will assess and revise their school curriculum based on reflections from the 2011-2012 academic year. Data obtained from the research will ... more »

Susanne Rasely-Philipps

East Stroudsburg Area High School South, East Stroudsburg, PA
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

To improve the quality of education for ESL and Hispanic heritage students, Ms. Rasely-Philipps and her colleagues will develop an academic group at school that will foster personal and cultural connections as well as academic and career choices. The group will study ... more »

Elizabeth Tardif

Englewood Elementary, Salem, OR
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Through Techie Teachers, Mrs. Tardif will undergo Smart Notebook Certification Training. The training will provide Mrs. Tardif with the skills necessary to fully utilize her school’s technology equipment as educational tools. Upon completing the training, Mrs. ... more »

Constantine Farmakidis

Southeast Local School District, Ravenna, OH
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

To improve technological proficiency among educators within the Southeast Local School District, Mr. Farmakidis will share with colleagues a series of teaching models which focus on integrating technological applications into teacher pedagogies. Throughout the course of ... more »

Denver Fowler

Licking Heights Central Middle School, Pataskala, OH
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Mr. Fowler will attend the New and Aspiring School Leaders program at Harvard University. Through the program, Mr. Fowler will gain new tools, frameworks, leadership techniques, instructional practice techniques, and ideas to more effectively build and sustain learning ... more »

Mary Lyons

Morris Grove Elementary School, Chapel Hill, NC
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Ms. Lyons will attend the Reading and Writing Project at the Columbia University Teachers College. Through the program, Ms. Lyons will deepen her understanding of the implementation of effective reading workshops and the integration of the Common Core Curriculum. The ... more »

Jesse Applegate

M.S. 447, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mr. Applegate will read, "The Complete Learning Disabilities Handbook: Ready-to-Use Strategies and Activities for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities," and attend the Learning Disabilities Association of America's annual conference in Chicago. Using the ... more »

Bryce Cahn

Tompkins Square Middle School, New York, NY
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Winter

Mr. Cahn will take part in a year-long learning experience through the Mindful Education Institute. Through the study, Mr. Cahn will create student centered social and emotional learning curriculum and staff development strategies grounded in research-based ... more »

Kelly Swanson

Pinewood Elementary, Mounds View, MN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Ms. Swanson will embark on a six-week stay in Guatemala through Casa Xelaju’s Spanish Immersion Program. Through the program, Ms. Swanson will further her knowledge of Latin American culture and languages via experiences in schools, site visits, and a home stay ... more »

Katherine Hedrick

Greenville Middle School, Greenville, MI
Grades 6-8, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

To provide quality writing instruction for students at Greenville Middle School, Ms. Hedrick will attend a one-week internship at the Center for Teaching and Learning during which she will observe, discuss, and reflect on the teaching practices used by educators ... more »

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 »

Watch the event!

Did you miss the live stream of the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 13, 2015? Now, you can watch the event in its entirety right here!

 

As one of the most prestigious awards events in public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala attracts more than 800 national education leaders and supporters to honor these educators each year in Washington, D.C. 

 

Did you attend the gala? View and purchase photos from the event.

 

Celebrating 39 educators from across the country

This year, 39 educators selected by their peers received the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. In addition to these awards, the following top honors were presented.

 

Who won the evening’s top honor?

Terri Butts, a curriculum effectiveness specialist for the Richland 2 Child Development Center in Columbia, SC, and a member of the South Carolina Education 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.

 

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

 

Watch Terri Butts' acceptance speech below. 

 

 

 

Photo (left to right): Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Terri Butts; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation

 

 

 

Five educators receive top awards

These five extraordinary educators from across the country received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, and found themselves finalists for the evening’s top award. And their students have already benefitted. Each class received digital arts training from Scena Media to produce a video, which premiered at the gala, to honor their award-winning teachers.

 

Photo (left to right): John Stocks, NEA Executive Director; Crystal Brown; Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Awardee Allison Riddle (UT); Awardee Anna Baldwin (MT); Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of the Horace Mann Educators Corporation; Awardee Crystal Williams Gordon (LA); Awardee Terri Butts (SC); Awardee Richard Erickson (WI)

 

Watch all of the student-made videos below. 

 

Beloved children’s book author, the late Walter Dean Myers, and author and illustrator son, Christopher Myers honored

The NEA Foundation also presented award-winning children’s author, Walter Dean Myers, posthumously, and his son, award-winning illustrator and author, Christopher Myers, with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, honoring their lifelong contributions to children’s literature. 

 

The father-son duo collaborated on stories for and about children of color who don’t see themselves reflected in children’s literature. According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, only 93 of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 were about black people. In an op-ed for the New York Times in March 2014, Walter Dean Myers wrote, “What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?”

 

Their collaborative works include “Jazz,” a winner of the Coretta Scott King award for illustration, “Harlem,” a Caldecott Honor book, “Blues Journey,” and “We are American: a tribute from the heart,” to name a few.

 

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.

In honor of Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers, and their wonderful family, First Book dedicated a gift of 5,000 brand new books to children in need across the country. First Book is a social enterprise that currently serves more than 155,000 programs and classrooms serving children in need ages 0-18 years of age. First Book hopes that everyone serving children in need will join their network and continue to grow the Myers' family legacy of high quality, diverse content for all children.

 

Watch Christopher Myers' acceptance speech.  

 

 Photo (left to right): Donna Meacham Blackman, Member of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Crystal Brown, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Honoree Christopher Myers, award-winning illustrator and author; Lily Eskelsen García, NEA President; Stephen Eulie, Executive Vice President Consumer Banking of First National Bank of Omaha

 

 

Hosted by actress and activist Anne-Marie Johnson

Anne-Marie Johnson, who most recently appeared in the TNT series, "Murder in the First," and is best known for her role as Althea Tibbs on the hit television series, "In the Heat of the Night," and as a cast member of the sketch comedy series, "In Living Color," hosted the event.  

 

Johnson helped celebrate exceptional public school educators alongside more than 50 student performers— many of whom are past NEA Foundation gala stars, invited back for an encore.

 

Photo (left to right): Awardee Allison Riddle (UT); Awardee Anna Baldwin (MT); Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of the Horace Mann Educator Corporation; Anne-Marie Johnson, actress and activist; Awardee Crystal Williams Gordon (LA); Awardee Terri Butts (SC); Awardee Richard Erickson (WI)

 

Students take the stage for return performances

From Montgomery County, Maryland, the Sogo African Rhythm Ensemble of 35 drummers and dancers from Forest Knolls Elementary, who performed at last year’s gala, took the stage under the direction of educator, Lou Persic.

 

Also returning this year was Blessed Sheriff, a young poet, who performed two original poems with last year’s gala host, Tony Award-winning actress, Phylicia Rashad, of “The Cosby Show” fame. Sheriff performed her tribute to the Walter Dean Myers alongside Joseph Morag, a violinist and first chair and concertmaster of the New York Youth Symphony. A second tribute to Myers came from young writers from Lee County, Florida, who performed an interpretation of Walter Dean Myers’ acclaimed book, “The Story of the Three Kingdoms.”

 

Memorable performances also include Brooklyn-based singer and Princeton musicology doctoral student, Cory Hunter, who is lead soloist of the Boys Choir of Harlem, as well as the Counterpoints, directed by Michael Raunik, from Indianapolis, Indiana, who have been ranked the nation’s top concert show choir.

 

Watch Blessed Sheriff and Joseph Morag's performance below.

 





Photo (left to right): Cory Hunter, student performer; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Blessed Sheriff, student performer

 


A special thank you to all who helped us celebrate the best in public education! Save the date for next year’s gala on Feb. 12, 2016.

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.

DO NOT BE AFRAID.

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:)
DO NOT BE AFRAID
One day you will rise and I may be a distant memory
But for now
Take your seat.
Breathe.
Breathe.
Class is in session.

Hope.
One syllable.
Four letters:
H.
O.
P.
E.
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.
Hope.
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
this:
V.
I.
S.
I.
O.
N.

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.