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Press Releases

The NEA Foundation Announces the 2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence


WASHINGTON, DC (June 24, 2015) – The NEA Foundation today announced that 42 public school educators will receive the 2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, one of public education’s most prestigious national awards. 


The awardees are highly accomplished professionals: they are master teachers, mentors, certified by their states, and the recipients of numerous other awards for their professional practice and expertise. In addition, most hold advanced degrees, many are state Teachers of the Year, and some are certified by the National Board for Professional Standards. 


Unique to these awards, each educator will be invited to participate in the Global Learning Fellowship, an extensive, year-long professional development opportunity to cultivate global competence skills educators use to improve their practice and to prepare their students to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Fellows contribute to the advancement of the profession by creating global lesson plans that are shared with educators on open source platforms.


Awardees will be recognized at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, to be held in Washington, DC on February 12, 2016. The gala attracts more than 850 of the nation’s leaders from public education, philanthropy, and the private sector.


“We honor these outstanding educators, who truly deserve our recognition and thanks, and we empower them to transform the profession by driving innovation that leads to positive student outcomes,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “As Global Learning Fellows, our awardees receive high caliber professional development opportunities that benefit their students, colleagues, and the field. We are thrilled that California Casualty has joined us again this year to pay tribute to these educators.” 


“Educating our youth is so critically important. California Casualty is proud to partner with the NEA Foundation to pause and celebrate excellence in teaching,” said Beau Brown, Chairman and CEO of California Casualty. 


The educators were nominated by their National Education Association state affiliate. Each educator’s school will receive a $650 award.

From the 42 state awardees, five finalists will be selected to receive $10,000 cash awards. At the conclusion of the Washington, DC gala, one finalist will be named the nation’s top educator and receive an additional $25,000. 


The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards. Find more information about the awards and photos of the awardees


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From instructing on social justice to observing Honduran farming practices, educators drive innovation with funding from the NEA Foundation


WASHINGTON, DC (June 18, 2015) – The NEA Foundation is investing $146,000 to fund 49 grants to public school educators in 26 states. When those educators share the knowledge gained from their grants with other educators, an estimated 30,000 students and 1,700 educators can also expect to benefit.


The NEA Foundation’s education grants fund $2,000 and $5,000 projects for classroom instruction or professional development. Grantees share knowledge directly with their colleagues and the field at-large by posting lesson plans and curriculum on an open-sourced platform. As a result, the sharing and replication of projects broadens the potential for improved learning among educators and students alike by the thousands.  


“Our competitive grants enable education professionals— from classroom teachers to intervention specialists to paraeducators— to engage in professional learning and classroom projects that will benefit students across the country,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “By encouraging them to share their knowledge with other educators in their schools and online, we are also supporting their efforts to transform the profession. 


Among the funded educators is Charles Steinbower, a librarian in Orient, Ohio, who will collaborate with a local library and correctional facility schools to incorporate civil rights and social justice into instruction, while students attend panel discussions on the topics. Elizabeth Mora, a social studies educator in Los Angeles, California, will visit Heifer International’s project sites in Honduras to examine farming’s effect on impoverished communities and share her knowledge with students and colleagues.


The 49 grantees were selected from a total of 332 proposals submitted. Six grantee teams included at least one Education Support Professional (ESP). Nine grantees will participate in professional development endeavors abroad, with learning taking place in Bolivia, China, Ghana, and an array of other locales.  Ten grants focus on language arts, 10 focus on science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), and eight address general pedagogical practices. Five focus on social studies and eight on other subjects. The remainder focuses on multiple subject areas. 


The NEA Foundation also announced that it has awarded 20 Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve student achievement and 29 Learning & Leadership Grants for high-quality educational professional development. The average free and reduced lunch rate at the grantees’ school is 49 percent. 


A team of 20 educators— many former grantees— evaluated all applications against a set of criteria and selected funded educators based on the quality of the grant proposal and the potential for enhancing student outcomes. 


In the past decade, the NEA Foundation has invested more than $7.1 million in teaching grants to support the work of nearly 4,500 educators in every state to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit the NEA Foundation’s Grantee Archive. Search for grantees and projects by most recent, grade level, subject, state, or keyword. 


The NEA Foundation awards its grants three times a year. The next education grant deadline is October 15, 2015. Applications can be found in the Grants to Educators section of the NEA Foundation’s website. 


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The NEA Foundation President and CEO Harriet Sanford Addresses University of Connecticut Neag School of Education Graduating Class, May 10, 2015


WASHINGTON, DC (May 18, 2015) – The NEA Foundation President and CEO Harriet Sanford shared her insights about the importance and the challenges of the profession and ended with powerful advice for new teachers: “Be gentle, kind and caring with your students.  But be fierce about their education.”


Sanford’s May 10 remarks to the Neag School of Education’s graduating class come at a time when recent college graduates comprise the largest percentage of newly hired teachers nationwide and are becoming a significant proportion of the teaching force.


Sanford is an alumna of UConn, having earned a masters degree in public administration from the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1979. The university recently awarded her an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters for her trailblazing support of public education, dedicated to the “betterment of society through access to quality education, cultural competency, and the arts.” Her remarks follow, below.


“Thank you. Parents, faculty, families, and soon to be graduates, it is a profound honor to be here at the University of Connecticut. I received my masters of public administration from UConn many years ago, and it is a pleasure to return today to talk to you about something dear to my heart… something that has driven me for most of my working life. And that is teaching.


Teaching matters. You hear that a lot, but it’s true. It matters. And so do the children we teach — every single child. You’ve put in the time, the hard work, and, at times, I’m sure, the tears to have earned this degree… to be ready to teach. But if you do not believe in the immense learning power of each and every student, no matter what the circumstances, neither you nor your students will be successful. Finding and nurturing that power is what teaching is all about, and can help you rejuvenate your commitment to teaching, no matter what the circumstance, at every stage of your career.


New research on brain science uses words like “mindset,” “grit,” “plasticity,” and “resilience” to drive home the idea that attitude matters, and that even the lowest-performing students can turn a page given the right encouragement. These words are all important, but I’d like to offer another word. 


Belief.


As a teacher, you must believe in yourself, in the power of education to change lives, and in what your students can do. I am standing before you as the daughter of a barely educated son of a sharecropper who married a poor Irish woman from a family steeped in a stubborn intolerance of anyone with brown skin, during an era when both were told that they could not marry each other.


My parents were not to be stopped by unfair laws or norms, so they chose their own way forward. They wed in 1952. 


In my family, the idea of being in control of your own destiny was not a topic for debate. It was a belief. My father had faced daunting challenges — the Indiana Ku Klux Klan in his youth, racial bias in the military, and at times, illegal treatment at the hands of others.  It was not lost on me that if my own father had succeeded and created a thriving family despite such challenges, whatever challenges I faced would be small in comparison. 


In short, belief was a value my father lived, and because he did, his children did, too. 


That belief propelled me through school — from my underfunded elementary school through high school and my forward-thinking college, where lived experiences were valued as much as any lecture. Everywhere I went, I knew I had to do two things---- give my best effort and believe in myself, and for the most part the rest would take care of itself.


But when I began teaching, I quickly realized that not every child was so lucky. In many ways, the disparities have only gotten worse since then. Our tax structure gives students in certain zip codes more opportunity than others—more resources, better paid teachers, and more opportunities that spark lifelong learning like clubs, community service, an array of arts and sports opportunities. The lack of these things makes the journey for those children harder, but not less important. But the difference isn’t all about funding and opportunity inequities. The deficit some children face is often purely about belief.


I recently read a book by New York Times columnist Charles Blow, and I had to fight back tears as he described his education and the one moment when a teacher recognized his ability. Charles says that something about how his own belief and vision of himself was utterly changed when one teacher made a chance remark and recognized him as a young scholar worthy of attention. He wrote, “It was the first time that I felt a teacher cared about me, truly saw me, or believed in me…. I felt life stir in me. I’d always known that I was smart, but when the teachers at Ringgold had treated me like I wasn’t, I’d lived down to their low expectations.”


After that day, Charles said he never got another bad grade. More importantly, the trajectory of his life changed… all because someone believed in him. You see ---Belief is the most important gift you can give all your students.


And those we empower to teach others, who like you have gained our trust, have a clear responsibility to be aware of each of our own implicit biases, which do not leave us. We must constantly examine ourselves to be sure that our beliefs—ingrained in us through a lifetime of experience—do not in any way interfere with our ability to believe in others.


We’re all here, as educators, because we know that every child is capable of learning and succeeding on some level. But when we quietly celebrate when students of color get over the cusp and score ‘proficient’ on a standardized test — but do not excel — we are letting those students down. Persistent achievement gaps in K-12, followed by high remediation rates at college, particularly for first-time and minority students, speak volumes about the irreparable damage done by low expectations. 


Every teacher is a leader responsible for setting the norms and standards in the classroom. We must be bold and catch ourselves when we fall short, and also speak out about issues of race and poverty in and out of school. We must do whatever is necessary to help our students succeed, to eliminate any deficit our students may face, and to show our students that they matter. 


The path to equal opportunities for all is an important chapter in our history as a nation that remains unfinished, and I am asking you to help write it.


I have said to you that teaching matters. And so do teachers. This is a time of great change in America’s schools and classrooms. In your studies and your clinical experiences, you’ve undoubtedly gotten a taste of the rapidly changing state of our education system. When you begin your first year as a teacher, you’ll undoubtedly get a much bigger one. 


Over time, you’ll see that efforts to improve our education system, like history, move like a pendulum. If you stay in the classroom long enough, there’s a good chance that the things we’re spending the most time on now will be replaced by other priorities. And if you stay in the classroom a really long time, you may see those priorities shift back. 


I’ve seen the pendulum swing a few times myself. In the 1960s, we saw a push for greater equity and relevance in learning. In the 1970s, we saw the back-to-basic movement trying to address the problem that Johnny couldn’t read. In the 1980s, A Nation at Risk forced states to raise standards and improve every aspect of education, ensuring that students were gaining a solid core of knowledge in key subject areas. Later, that effort morphed into the standards movement that brought with it more testing and accountability, but somehow forgot about the importance of teaching. Today, we’re trying to ensure that students have greater knowledge that is relevant and meaningful to them, and that they own what they learn, and can put it to use in any context. This is promising, and it is up to teachers to make it happen. Unlike what happened all too often over the past decades, teachers must shape, and not be shaped by, these efforts. 


What you do in your classrooms will make all the difference, and you should not shy away from being bold and outspoken, not just around matters of equity, but around teaching and creating the kind of schools where every child can succeed. 

Know that your voice is important. Know that it’s vital for real change. And know that at times, you may have to raise it to make sure you are heard — and continue to be heard. 


Even if your voice isn’t heard by the powers that be in your school or your district, you can still challenge the status quo in a simple but very important way. Approach your teaching with the same mindset you hope to instill in your students — with a critical eye towards problem-solving, as a collaborative partner, and with a focus on the bigger issues in the community.


Yes, teaching matters. But community matters, too. As we talk about change, I’m happy to confirm that the era of the teacher working alone in the classroom with the door shut is now over.  

As you begin your careers as educators, you’ll have more opportunities to learn from and be supported by your peers than at any time in history. Before you know it, you’ll be immersed in more faculty meetings, team meetings, data teams, working groups, professional learning communities, and cohorts than you’ll know what to do with. 


All these meetings and teams can be daunting, and at times they will feel like a diversion from what you are doing in the classroom. But I can assure you they are not. In the past, too many new teachers felt isolated, completely alone with the enormous task of learning to teach.  The classroom door is now open for all, and to be successful, you also need to be open — to your peers, your students, and also the larger community in which you teach.


To date, too much of the talk of educational reform, of reshaping our schools and teaching and learning, has ignored the world outside of our classrooms. As a teacher, you do so at your own peril. You’re also missing an enormous opportunity to grow, receive support, and feel connected to the children and communities you serve — and for them to feel connected to you.


When I was a teacher, it helped that many of us lived in the same communities we taught. We also shopped at the same grocery stores, played in the same parks, and volunteered for programs that mattered to all. I was emotionally and spiritually connected. It felt right. 


Finally, don’t be afraid to open yourself to others who may need support, suggestions, even a mentor or a role model. Research has shown this is particularly important for people who grow up in poverty. Thinking back on my life, there was always someone there during complicated periods of transition in my own life. Without their sage advice, guidance, and support, it would have been hard for me to write my next chapter. 

And now you’re about to write your first chapters as educators, and I don’t want to be the one standing in your way. But as I bring my comments to a close, I wanted to share the thoughts of a number of seasoned educators across the nation who I’ve worked with in recent years. Some are friends. Some have won awards. All have dedicated their lives to their students, and I asked them what advice they would give people entering the field. 


It’s not just young people who know about crowdsourcing.  In the spirit of building and working with community, I have asked for their aid and assistance in telling you the best wisdom about teaching there is to offer.


One wrote, “It’s not what we know — it’s what we are willing to learn that makes great teachers.”


Another said, “Make the custodian your friend. And if you are an elementary teacher, no glitter. Ever.”


One said, “Keep a bad day file. Put every happy note, hand-drawn picture, good observation, class picture, fun photo in there. Read it on those days when you wonder why.”


One began by saying, “Smile.” And the advice just kept coming:


“Your student has a life outside of the classroom—welcome it in. In my 24 years of teaching, I have found that what parents really want is to hear how much you like and value their child.”


“See the world. Many of your students will only see the world through your eyes.”


“Your students will remember your heart more than irrelevant information in a textbook.”


“Make sure you know the difference between the fire drill bell and the tornado drill bell — or resign yourself to red slippers in your mailbox and ‘Dorothy’ as a nickname.”


“Love them, every one of them, unconditionally. Kids won’t remember that you taught them factoring polynomials, spelling, or how to conjugate verbs. They remember how you made them feel.”


And I’ll leave you with the comments of a trusted friend in my inner circle. She said:


“If I can tell new teachers one thing, it would be this — be fierce. The profession might not immediately strike young people as one that requires ferocity, but it does. 


It takes “fierce” to battle your own self-doubt when you’re the only one who seems to know that “good enough” is just not good enough for your students. Excellence is what you’re after, and you’re not going to let anything or anyone stand between your students and excellence. Bring “fierce” to the table every time.  


You’re going to need it.


Be gentle, kind and caring with your students.  But be fierce about their education.”


As you write your own chapter, you’re becoming part of a bigger story — the story of our country, our children, and our future. Believe in yourself.  You’ve had a great education and preparation for a great career.  Believe in your students. They will teach you everything you need to know about what being a good teacher means. 


And above all, be fierce in everything that you do. You are our best hope for the next generation. You can help students learn right from wrong and in doing so right the wrongs that still remain in our world.” 


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From hands-on robotics to an educator-led book club, public school educators explore new pathways for student learning through the NEA Foundation Grants to Educators


WASHINGTON, DC (March 30, 2015)  In New Market, Alabama, Holly Whitt, an elementary school educator, will introduce hands-on robotics lessons using iPad Minis and Common Core-aligned curriculum modules. In Galesburg, Illinois, Jean Kilpatrick-Ruebner, a fourth grade educator, will introduce new and experienced educators to the “Dream Big Book Club,” a learning group focused on how to set high academic and social expectations for students. 


This is a small, random sample of the innovative work the NEA Foundation is funding with its latest round of education grants: awarded to 36 educators across 20 states for a total of $141,000.


“With these grants, we are supporting educator-driven solutions that contribute to improved student performance in public schools,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our support enables educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative approaches to the benefit of students across the country.”  


The NEA Foundation awards two levels of grant funding, $2,000 or $5,000, for two categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning and Leadership Grants for high-quality educational professional development activities. 


A team of 20 educators, many former grantees, carefully reviewed all applications and evaluated each one against a set of criteria. Funded educator grants were selected for the quality of the grant proposal ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement. 


Over the past decade, the NEA Foundation has invested more than $7.1 million in teaching grants to support the work of almost 4,500 educators from every state in the country to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning and Leadership Grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit the NEA Foundation’s Grantee Archive. Search for grantees and projects by most recent, grade level, subject, state, or keyword. 


The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. The next education grant deadline is June 1, 2015. Application forms and a video with step-by-step instructions on how to apply can be found in the Grants to Educators section of the NEA Foundation website.


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WASHINGTON, DC (March 16, 2015) – The NEA Foundation today named 32 award-winning public school educators who, as the 2015 class of Global Learning Fellows, are building their global competency skills, or the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. 


The Global Learning Fellowship equips educators with the knowledge, skills and disposition to bring an international perspective to their students, associations and districts. Through robust professional development training, collaboration with outstanding educators across the globe, an international field study, and sharing newly-created global curricula, teaching and learning is transformed in their classrooms, empowering their students as global citizens.  


 “To thrive as global citizens, today’s students need to be taught how to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “In order to be taught these new global skills, teachers must be supported with comprehensive professional learning focused on authentically integrating these skills into classroom instruction.” 


The Fellowship provides a structured and collaborative learning experience that supports educators as they acquire global competence skills.  Over the course of one year, Fellows are supported by the NEA Foundation staff, partners, and other field experts, as they work through the following: 


1) Online coursework on effectively integrating global content into core instruction;


2) Online resource guide, and webinar, comprised of country specific concepts;


3) Introductory language learning;


4) A two-day professional development workshop in Washington, DC with sessions led by leaders in global competency and country-specific knowledge; and 


5) An international field study designed to focus on the themes of global competence, education (both practice and issues of international, national, and state policy) and economics.


The international field study in Peru, from June 20-30, includes visits to schools in and around Lima and Cusco to provide educators with structured opportunities to observe instruction and exchange ideas and best practices with Peruvian teachers and administrators. It also includes opportunities to investigate Peru’s economy, history and culture. To deepen understanding about the global economy, Fellows will meet with representatives from a multinational business. Finally, the field-study will include time for Fellows to intimately engage with local communities by participating in a service learning project. 


In preparation, the Fellows will have access to a wide array of web tools in order to contextualize their experiences in Peru by examining the impact of its historical, economic, and cultural legacies on contemporary Peruvian society and educational system. 


The NEA Foundation has partnered with Berlitz, to provide Fellows with basic Spanish language training, and VIF International Education, to provide online learning tools and resources to strengthen their understanding of global competencies.


By the end of the Fellowship, each educator will have created at least four lessons or unit plans integrated with global competency skills. All lesson plans will be shared with educators around the world via BetterLesson.com, an open source platform, contributing to an increasing field of knowledge on this topic and encouraging other educators to authentically integrate global content into their own classrooms.  


Names and photos of the 2015 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows are posted on the NEA Foundation’s website. The international field study is sponsored by the NEA Foundation and is designed by Education First


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The NEA Foundation, First National Bank of Omaha show love for Myers’ efforts to bring multicultural perspectives to children’s literature

 

Washington, DC (February 10, 2015) – In the last years of his life, at the age of 75, beloved children’s author Walter Dean Meyers, traveled around the country, promoting the slogan, “Reading is not optional.” He strove to spread the message that a brighter future depends on reading proficiency and widespread literacy throughout his career.

 

On Feb. 13, 2015, the NEA Foundation will honor Myers and his son, award-winning illustrator and writer, Christopher Myers, with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education in recognition of the father-son duo’s substantial lifetime contributions to children’s literature and young adult fiction. 

  

“We are presenting the Myers with this award for their work to humanize all children and ensure that the diversity of our county is represented in books,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation.  “With more than 100 published works, Walter Dean Myers started us on this path.  And with illustrations that have made our hearts soar, Christopher Myers has helped us to fly.”

 

“It is a privilege for First National Bank of Omaha to join the NEA Foundation in honoring Walter Dean Myers and his son, Christopher Myers, for their outstanding contribution to fostering a better understanding of the importance of diversity in our society. This is affirmation of who we are as individuals and how we can relate to others from cultural backgrounds, environments and ways of life that are different from our own,” said Stephen F. Eulie, executive vice president, Consumer Banking.  

 

The award pays tribute to those who have significantly increased understanding of public education or have otherwise dedicated themselves to serving educators and students. Past recipients of this prestigious award include former President Bill Clinton, title IX advocate Billie Jean King, Sesame Street Workshop, the NAACP, and Nickelodeon. 

The award is part of the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. The NEA Foundation will also pay tribute to 39 public school educators, nominated by their peers for having attained the highest teaching standards, as illustrated by their exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession, and staunch support of public education. The program, which will include two student performances paying tribute to the Myers’ work, will be live streamed on Feb. 13 beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET) here

 

In their honor, First Book will give 5,000 brand new books to children at a school chosen by the Myers family. First Book is a social enterprise that serves children in need ages 0-18 in more than 155,000 programs and classrooms. 

 

This year’s Gala host, actress Anne-Marie Johnson, a prominent leader and social activist will help to recognize the work of public school educators and Myers, who have helped to open young minds. 

 

The NEA Foundation’s gala attracts nearly 800 leaders in education, business and philanthropy each year. Watch live streaming coverage on neafoundation.org, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET) and follow the official Twitter hashtag, #neafgala.

 

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33 nationally awarded educators become global learners

 

WASHINGTON, DC (Jan. 30, 2015) – The NEA Foundation and Berlitz U.S. today announced a partnership to promote global cultural competence and language education as essential tools for public school educators. Berlitz U.S. is joining the NEA Foundation in recognizing, rewarding, and promoting excellence in education by supporting the NEA Foundation’s Global Learning Fellows, all recipients of the NEA Foundation’s Award for Teaching Excellence, with language learning software. In addition, Berlitz U.S. will also conduct an interactive workshop to prepare the Fellows for their trip to Peru by focusing on ways to recognize communication styles and differences, identify how culture influences behavior, and provide strategies for success when traveling abroad.  

 

“To thrive as global citizens, today’s students need to be taught how to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action. In order to be taught these new global skills, teachers must be supported with comprehensive professional learning focused on authentically integrating these skills into classroom instruction,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation.  “Language is the road map to other cultures and is therefore an important tool for building global understanding. We are delighted that we can provide our Fellows with online language learning, thanks to our partnership with Berlitz U.S.”

 

“Berlitz U.S. is proud to partner with the NEA Foundation to support its mission, and help prepare the Global Learning Fellows through our passion, expertise and dedication to communication through cultural awareness and language learning,” said Anne-Marie Salmon, Director of Operations, Berlitz U.S. “Our CyberTeachers’ platform will provide each of the NEA Foundation Fellows with personalized lessons based on each Fellow’s level and needs, and our interactive workshop will incorporate the importance of cultural awareness toward understanding and  building successful relationships.” 

 

The NEA Foundation’s Global Learning Fellowship equips educators with the knowledge, skills and disposition to bring an international perspective to their students, associations, and districts. Through robust professional development opportunities, collaboration with outstanding educators across the globe, an international field study, and sharing newly-created global curricula, teaching and learning is transformed in their classrooms, empowering their students as global citizens.  

 

The Fellowship provides a structured and collaborative learning experience that supports educators as they acquire global competence skills.  Over the course of one year, Fellows are supported by the NEA Foundation staff, partners, and other field experts, as they work through the following: 

 

  1. Online coursework on effectively integrating global content into core instruction;
  2. Online resource guide, and webinar, comprised of country specific concepts;
  3. Introductory language learning;
  4. A two-day educator professional development workshop in Washington, DC with sessions led by leaders in global competency and country-specific knowledge; and 
  5. An international field study designed to focus on the themes of global competence, education (both practice and issues of international, national, and state policy) and economics.

By the end of the Fellowship, each educator will have created at least four lessons or unit plans integrated with global competency skills. All lesson plans will be shared with educators around the world via BetterLesson.com, an open source platform, contributing to an increasing field of knowledge on this topic and encouraging other educators to authentically integrate global content into their own classrooms.  

 

Names and photos of the 2015 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows are posted on the NEA Foundation’s website. Find other details about the Fellowship.

 

About Berlitz U.S.

 

Recognized as the world’s premier provider of language training and cross-cultural services, Berlitz, a Benesse Company, is headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey with more than 550 locations in over 70 countries and 40 million clients worldwide.

 

Berlitz offers a comprehensive portfolio for consumers (adults and children), businesses and the public sector, including language learning, diversity and inclusion, global leadership, communications skills, mobility, speaking, listening and writing testing and assessment, translation, and customized dynamic solutions for cultural competency through a variety of platforms ‒ in person, online self-paced, and online with a live instructor.

 

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Watch the awards live on Feb. 13 beginning at 7:30 p.m.ET here

 

WASHINGTON, DC  (December 2, 2014) – The NEA Foundation today announced the names of five educators who will receive the 2015 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, $10,000, and recognition as one of the nation’s top educators at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Awards Gala to be held on February 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. They are: 

 

  • Crystal Williams Gordon, a Biology educator at Broadmoor High School in Baton Rouge, LA;
  • Anna E. Baldwin, a English Language Arts and History educator at Arlee High School in Arlee, MT;
  • Terri A. Butts, a curriculum specialist at the Richland Two Child Development Center in Columbia, SC;
  • Allison P. Riddle, a Fifth Grade educator at Foxboro Elementary in North Salt Lake City, UT; and 
  • Richard Erickson, a Chemistry, Physics, and Alternative Education educator at Bayfield High School in Bayfield, WI. 

“These educators have been selected for this award by their peers because they have attained the highest teaching standards, as shown by their exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession, attention to diversity, leadership in professional development, and engagement of parents and community,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Honoring them is our way of thanking them and all the public school educators they represent, for their excellent work.” 

 

The NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence are presented annually at the Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, which attracts more than 800 national leaders from the public education, philanthropic, and business sectors.  The awards recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession.  

The NEA Foundation will live stream video of the event on its website, enabling students, peers, and families of the awardees to join in the celebration from communities around the country.

 

In addition to this recognition, students and educators at the awardees’ schools have produced videos about the awardees that will be premiered at the awards gala. 

 

“On behalf of our employees and agents, Horace Mann is pleased to honor these five teachers with the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence,” said Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of Horace Mann. “These educators teach a variety of topics, each playing an instrumental role in developing well-educated children who we’ll entrust with creating a better tomorrow.  Horace Mann is proud to showcase the great work done by these educators.”  

 

The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present these teaching awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, the Horace Mann Companies, the Pearson Foundation, Promethean, and California Casualty. 

 

Find a profile of each awardee and more details about the awards, here

 

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WASHINGTON, DC (September 29, 2014) – The NEA Foundation announced that Crystal Brown, chief communications officer at the University of Maryland, will chair its board of directors. The NEA Foundation is a public charity that supports student success by helping public school educators work with key partners to build strong systems of shared responsibility.


"Crystal is passionately committed to ensuring that all students have what they need to thrive and succeed in a rapidly changing global economy. She has a deep expertise in the education field and in strategic communications, having represented education clients from the public, non-profit, and corporate sectors," said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. "Her guidance and leadership are especially important, now, as we undertake bold efforts to re-conceptualize the focus and role of educators to improve learning conditions for all students."

 

"Providing a quality public education for all students is the best investment we can make in our future. Nothing is more critical. And the single most important factor in the success of a student is his or her educator," said Crystal Brown. "The NEA Foundation funds programs that support educator-driven solutions. Advancing the profession and helping educators increase student achievement is at the very core of what we do. I am delighted to accept this leadership role during a pivotal time in our history."

 

Brown, a seasoned communications leader, currently serves as the chief communications officer for the University of Maryland (UMD). She has more than 15 years of experience leading award-winning communications campaigns for some of the nation's leading education-focused corporations, non-profit organizations, and foundations. As chief communications officer for UMD, Brown is responsible for the development of communications strategies that enhance the university's reputation locally, nationally, and internationally. She serves as the university's spokesperson and oversees the central communications office, including reputation management, media relations, social media, public affairs, and strategic communications initiatives.

 

Previously, Brown held the position of senior vice president for the PK-12 education practice at Widmeyer Communications agency, overseeing the firm's largest education clients, including W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Brown also served as senior vice president of E-Luminate Group, a marketing and strategic communications firm specializing in education technology and education policy. During her 10 year tenure, she successfully raised the national profile of many companies and advocacy organizations, including the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Dell, LeapFrog, Blackboard, NEA Member Benefits, the Institute for Museums & Library Services, 3M, and the National Council on the Aging. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she received a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric and Communications Skills.

 

"Crystal is a savvy and strategic leader and expert in her field. She offers the NEA Foundation a unique perspective on public education drawn from her experience and relationships within the academic, public, non-profit, and private sectors," Sanford said. "The Foundation will greatly benefit from her experience and commitment to education reform, as she moves into a new leadership role on our Board."


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From school-to-farm programs to endangered species field study in Mexico, public school educators are exploring new pathways to student learning.


WASHINGTON, DC (August 4, 2014) - In Windsor Heights, IA, Heather Anderson, a first through eighth grade educator, will introduce urban students to agriculture through a school-to-farm program, with visits to small organic farms, historical farms, large production farms, and the Iowa State University Bio-Century Learning Farm. In Ridgeville, OH, Jody Yoxthimer, a tenth through twelfth grade educator, will embark on a 10-day field assignment in the Valle de los Cirios Biological Reserve in Baja, Mexico, where she will study unique desert and marine flora and fauna, and bring back to her students and colleagues information about medicinal plants, endangered species, and specialized adaptations that help organisms survive in isolated environments.  


This is a small, random sample of the innovative work the NEA Foundation is funding with its latest round of education grants: awarded to 51 educators across 28 states for a total of $177,000.


“With these grants, we are supporting educator-driven solutions that contribute to improved student performance in public schools,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our support enables educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative approaches to the benefit of students across the country.”  


The NEA Foundation awards two levels of grant funding, $2,000 or $5,000, for two primary categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning and Leadership Grants for high-quality educational professional development activities.


A team of 20 educators, many former grantees, carefully reviewed all applications and evaluated each one against a set of criteria. Funded educator grants were selected for the quality of the grant proposal ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement.


Over the past decade, the NEA Foundation has invested more than $7.1 million in teaching grants to support the work of almost 4,500 educators from every state in the country to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning and Leadership Grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit the NEA Foundation’s Grantee Archive. Search for grantees and projects by most recent, grade level, subject, state, or keyword.


The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. The next education grant deadline is October 15, 2014. Application forms and a video with step-by-step instructions on how to apply can be found in the Grants to Educators section of the NEA Foundation website.


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The NEA Foundation is proud to recognize 39 educators as recipients of the 2015 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, one of public education’s most prestigious awards.

 

WASHINGTON, DC  (June 24, 2014) – The NEA Foundation announced today the 39 recipients of the 2015 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, one of public education’s most prestigious awards. The awardees are highly accomplished professionals: 13 percent are certified by the National Board for Professional Standards and 75 percent hold masters degrees.

 

They will be recognized at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala to be held in Washington, DC on February 13, 2015. One of public education’s most anticipated events, the gala attracts more than 850 of the nation’s leaders from public education, philanthropy, and the private sector.

 

“We give these awards annually to honor and promote excellence in education and to elevate the profession. Educators like these are critical to their students’ academic success, and they deserve national recognition,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We are thrilled that California Casualty has joined us again this year to pay tribute to educators who are making such a difference in the lives of students in classrooms across the country.” 

 

“Educating our youth is so critically important. California Casualty is proud to partner with the NEA Foundation to pause and celebrate excellence in teaching,” said Beau Brown, Chairman and CEO of California Casualty.

 

The educators were nominated by their National Education Association state affiliate. Each educator’s school will receive a $650 award.

 

From the 39 state awardees, five finalists will be selected to receive $10,000 cash awards. At the conclusion of the Washington, DC gala, one finalist will be named the nation’s top educator and receive an additional $25,000.

 

The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards. Find more information about the awards and photos of the awardees.

 
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From marine biology field trips to professional development workshops in Peru, the NEA Foundation extends funding to 47 public school educators to improve student learning.


WASHINGTON, DC (April 23, 2014) – In Sacramento, CA, Brenda Grueneberger, an eleventh and twelfth grade arts educator, will help students correspond with architect mentors from across the nation to redesign a section of their high school. In Kualapuu, HI, Diane Abraham, a fifth grade educator, will lead students on an expedition to Kaneohe Bay, where they will collect samples and analyze levels of salinity, oxygen, turbidity, and acidity. And in Terre Haute, IN, Melissa Jordan, a seventh grade science educator, will attend the 2014 Educator Academy in Iquitos, Peru, where she will collaborate with scientists, researchers, and fellow educators on citizen science projects and field work.


This is a small, random sample of the innovative work the NEA Foundation is funding with its latest round of grants: awarded to 47 educators across 23 states for a total of $175,000.


“With these grants, we are supporting educator-driven solutions that contribute to improved student performance in public schools,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our support enables educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative approaches to the benefit of students across the country.” 


The NEA Foundation awards two levels of grant funding, $2,000 or $5,000, for two primary categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning and Leadership Grants for high-quality professional development activities.


A team of 20 educators, many former grantees, carefully reviewed all applications and evaluated each one against a set of criteria. Funded grants were selected for the quality of the grant proposal ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement.


Over the past decade, the NEA Foundation has invested more than $7.1 million in grants to support the work of almost 4,500 educators from every state in the country to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning and Leadership Grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit the NEA Foundation’s Grantee Archive. Search for grantees and projects by most recent, grade level, subject, state, or keyword.


The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. The next grant deadline is June 1, 2014. Application forms and a video with step-by-step instructions on how to apply can be found in the Grants to Educators section of the NEA Foundation website.


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The NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows engage in year-long study


WASHINGTON, DC (March 18, 2014) –The NEA Foundation today announced the names of 31 public school educators who will participate in the NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship. With this honor, they join a unique cohort of award-winning educators who will spend a year building their global competency skills, the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.


“In order for students to be prepared for the global age, their educators must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to teach in the global age,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our Global Learning Fellows program has an intentional focus on supporting educators as they strengthen their global competencies: investigating the world beyond one’s immediate environment; recognizing multiple perspectives; communicating ideas effectively with diverse audiences; and taking action to improve conditions.”


The fellowship expands on the NEA Foundation’s mission to advance student achievement by investing in public education that will prepare all students to learn and thrive in a rapidly changing world. It is designed to help educators, all recipients of the NEA Foundation’s Award for Teaching Excellence, acquire the necessary skills to integrate global competence into their daily classroom instruction, advance pedagogy in their school/district, prepare students to thrive in the interconnected  global age, and thus contribute to the closing of the global achievement gap.


The Fellowship builds a structured and collaborative learning experience that supports educators as they acquire global competence skills.  Over the course of one year, Fellows are supported by the NEA Foundation staff, partners, and other field experts, as they work through the following:

 

  1. Readings and webinars to introduce global competence and country specific concepts;
  2. Online coursework on global competence and country specific concepts;
  3. Introductory language learning;
  4. A two-day professional development workshop with sessions led by leaders in global competency and country-specific knowledge; and
  5. An international field study designed to focus on the themes of global competence, education (both practice and issues of international, national, and state policy) and economics.


The international field study in China, from June 20-30, includes visits to schools in Beijing and Xi’an to provide educators with structured opportunities to observe high quality instruction and to interact with Chinese teachers and administrators. It also includes opportunities to investigate China’s historical and cultural significance.


In preparation, the Fellows will complete an online course to provide them with a framework to contextualize their experiences in China by examining the impact of its historical and cultural legacies on contemporary Chinese society and educational system.


The NEA Foundation has also partnered with Rosetta Stone to provide Fellows with basic Mandarin language training. “As we know, language is the road map to other cultures and is therefore an important tool for building global understanding,” Sanford said.


Later in the year, the NEA Foundation will share the Fellows’ experiences and observations through blog posts and photos.


At the conclusion of the NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship, educators create a lesson plan, unit plan, or full curriculum integerated with global competency skills. By creating this plan, and then sharing with educators around the world via an open source platform, Fellows are contributing to an increasing field of knowledge on this topic. Furthermore, the Fellows become positioned to lead the profession by becoming advocates for global learning and global competence within their schools, communities, and districts. 


Educators from around the world can access 2013 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows’ plans via an open-source platform, BetterLesson.com, with dozens of global lesson plans created by previous fellows that can easily be replicated.


Names and photos of the 2014 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellows are posted on the NEA Foundation’s website. Find other details about the Fellowship, including photos from a workshop and a video about the awards program and fellowship.


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Chairman Dr. Timothy Shriver accepts award at Washington D.C. Gala


Washington, DC (February 12, 2014) –Special Olympics received the Security Benefit Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 7, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Chairman Dr. Timothy Shriver accepted the award on behalf of Special Olympics. Watch a video of Shriver’s acceptance speech.


Past recipients of this prestigious award include former President Bill Clinton, First Book, Title IX advocate Billie Jean King, and Sesame Street Workshop. The NEA Foundation presents this award to individuals and organizations for their lifelong commitment to advancing public education. It is typically presented to those who work outside the field. As part of this award, Security Benefit Corporation is giving a $5,000 contribution to Special Olympics.


Since 1968, Special Olympics has worked to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people. Special Olympics athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment -- on the playing field and in life. The organization inspires individuals and communities to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.


According to the World Health Organization, up to three percent or almost 200 million people of the world’s population have intellectual disabilities, making this population one of the largest disability populations in the world. Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving 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.


“Unlocking the unique potential that exists in all individuals is one of the most important things we can do to help young people succeed in school and in life,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We are delighted to honor the work of Special Olympics to help these remarkable athletes achieve their goals.”


“As the world gathers in Sochi for the Winter Olympic games, it seems appropriate that we honor an organization that, for more than 40 years, has transformed the lives of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities,” said Michael P. Kiley, Security Benefit Corp. Chief Executive Officer. “The magic of Special Olympics lies in how the power and joy of sport shifts focus to what these athletes CAN do, not what they can't. Attention to disabilities fades away as the athletes succeed.”


“On behalf of the global Special Olympics movement, I am honored to receive the Security Benefit Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education to Special Olympics,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver. “When my mother founded Special Olympics 45 years ago she demonstrated the tenacity, passion and spirit that everyone can and should change the world for persons with intellectual disabilities through sport.  Today, Special Olympics is not just a sports organization-- it is a social revolution using sports to achieve its goals of inclusion, acceptance and joy for all.”


Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala attracts nearly 800 leaders from the education, business and philanthropy sectors. Special Olympics was honored along with 36 of the nation’s top educators, who received the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence.


The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from Security Benefit, Bank of America, California Casualty, Horace Mann Educators Corporation, NEA Member Benefits, Pearson Charitable Foundation, and Promethean.

 

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About Security Benefit
Security Benefit is a 122-year-old, Kansas-based insurance company which in recent years has become one of the fastest growing retirement savings and income companies in the industry. Through a combination of innovative products, exceptional investment management and a unique distribution strategy, we have become a leader in a full range of retirement markets and wealth segments. Security Benefit is indirectly controlled by Guggenheim Partners, LLC. To learn more about Security Benefit, visit www.securitybenefit.com.

 
About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than four million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now take place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities all over the world, from community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard to World Games. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.

WASHINGTON, DC  (February 7, 2014) –On Friday, February 7, at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, Kimberley Gilles, an English educator at Monte Vista High School in Danville, CA, received one of public education’s top honors: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000.


Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. The NEA Foundation presented nearly 40 awards to exceptional educators and dedicated supporters of public education over the course of the program. Gilles’ award was the evening’s finale.


“Gilles has been selected for this award by her peers because she has attained the highest teaching standards, as illustrated by her exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession and staunch support of public education,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “In her classroom, she shares her passion for social justice to inspire students to lift up their own voices through reading and writing.”  


Phylicia Rashad, a Tony Award-winning actress, singer, stage director, and educator, hosted the event. Rashad was nominated for two Emmy Awards for her role as Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” and became the first African-American actress to win a Tony Award for a dramatic leading role.


For the first time, the educators’ students, colleagues, and supporters were able to watch the celebration via a live webcast on the NEA Foundation’s website.

 

This year’s event featured performances by nearly 80 elementary through high school students from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools. Student performers took the more than 800 national education leaders and supporters in attendance on a journey around the globe with cultural performances from salsa dancing, madrigal singing, and African drumming, to a finale performance joined by Rashad.


The Foundation and its guests also celebrated their teachers, who received on-stage recognition.


Gilles was one of five finalists for the top award; all five finalists received special recognition at the gala, the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, and $10,000. The other four finalists included:

 

  • Eileen Sheehy, an AP government and politics and U.S. government educator at Billing West High School in Billings, MT;
  • Kathleen Sims, an early childhood special education and school readiness educator at Foley Elementary School in Foley, MN;
  • Brian Sites, a social studies, math, and technology educator at Rivers Edge High School in Richland, WA;
  • Christopher Stone, a language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science educator at Pond Hill Elementary School in Wallingford, CT.


Gilles’ students have already benefited from her award. Last fall, they received digital arts training, which they used to create an original video honoring their teacher. Watch the student-made video, which premiered at the gala.


She was nominated for the award by the California Teachers Association, and is one of 36 public school educators nominated by their state education associations who were also honored.


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Funding will expand program in Milwaukee to 5 new schools; farming Project grows students’ interest in STEM


MILWAUKEE, WI (January 29, 2014) - AT&T and the NEA Foundation are teaming up to increase low-income students’ interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education by supporting the Milwaukee Public Schools’ Urban Schools Aquaponics initiative through a two-year contribution that  includes $98,000 that will directly impact the program.


The goal: provide more students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need for 21st century jobs and develop curriculum and instructional content that educators can use to build similar programs nationwide.


“Projects like these empower educators to develop and use proven practices to deliver rigorous, engaging learning experiences that we know excite and interest underrepresented student groups in STEM,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.


“In order to keep our country’s economic growth and innovation engine moving, it’s critical that we develop STEM skills in our young people,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin.  “Programs like this one with the NEA Foundation ignite the interest of the next generation in the STEM skills they’ll need to succeed through exciting, real-world applications.”


MPS’ Urban Schools Aquaponics (USA) initiative was selected because of its early success in advancing STEM education among low-income and minority students. The contribution will support the expansion of the program to five new schools, reaching a total of 1,500 MPS students over two years.


It will also support the development of a cohesive, comprehensive aquaponics curriculum aligned with the newly released math and science standards that will be piloted in the participating schools. Ultimately, aquaponics coursework would be available in all MPS high schools and it would be a component of science coursework in all MPS K-8 schools, with the potential to reach all 78,500 students in the district.


“Aquaponics is a strong part of our STEM education efforts and we’re grateful and proud to be able to strengthen and grow that program,” said MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton.  “This program gives students hands-on STEM experience, and exposes them to career options in a new and growing field.”


Aquaponics is a highly efficient and sustainable form of farming in which water from aquatic animals is used to feed hydroponically grown plants. The plants filter the water, which is then re-circulated back to the fish. Aquaponics programs enable students to use and explore science, math and engineering principles in a variety of ways as they gain valuable 21st century skills and knowledge.


“Through its Aquaponics program, MPS is providing our young people with the STEM education they need to be prepared for careers in the 21st Century,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.  “We are excited this innovative program is expanding to reach even more students thanks to this public-private partnership.”


Over the last three years, MPS’ Urban Schools Aquaponics initiative has been integrated into nine new schools, thanks in part to support from the NEA Foundation and the AT&T Foundation.  This new contribution will support five new schools, for a total of 18 Milwaukee public schools.  


Research indicates that underperformance in STEM education arises from a variety of complex issues: teachers with little professional support; inadequate alignment of standards and curriculum; and insufficient understanding of the relevance to students’ lives about the need to achieve in these subjects. This project will focus on providing more personal, engaging, coordinated, and consistent STEM learning.


MPS’ Aquaponics initiative is one of two contributions awarded nationally as part of a $300,000 total contribution that will also support the development of case studies and evaluation of the two programs from fall 2013 through fall 2015.  Project EATS, a program of the Active Citizens Project, in New York City, NY, was also selected.


Formative and summative evaluation will be employed throughout the funding period to assess progress in both cities, to identify areas for improvement, gather evidence of success, and enable future replication in schools across the country, with the goal of increasing high school students’ engagement, interest, and excellence in STEM.


Read more about the foundations’ STEM work in the NEA Foundation report, "Harnessing the Potential of Innovative STEM Education Programs: Stories of Collaboration, Connectedness and Empowerment." Watch videos to hear from students and educators involved in the Milwaukee project.


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About Philanthropy at AT&T: AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2012, more than $131 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs. © 2014 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies.

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AT&T & NEA Foundation extend program to more local students; develop curriculum that can be replicated nationwide


NEW YORK, NY (January 29, 2014) -  AT&T and the NEA Foundation are teaming up to extend a popular urban farming program that advances STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning in New York City public schools through a two-year contribution that  includes $98,000 that will directly impact the program. The program, Project Eats (known as PE), is an initiative of the Active Citizens Project that builds farms on school grounds and gets students involved in the farms’ development and care.


PE will be offered in five city high schools that previously did not offer the program, potentially reaching more than 1,500 students from fall 2013 through fall 2015. The program will provide more students with the skills and knowledge needed for 21st century jobs and will develop curriculum and classroom content that teachers can use to begin similar programs in other urban schools nationwide.


PE was selected because of its early success in advancing STEM education among low-income and minority students. The program is one of two awarded nationally as part of a $300,000 total contribution from AT&T that will also support the development of case studies and evaluations of the two programs. The second program that was selected is the Urban Schools Aquaponics Initiative in Milwaukee, WI.


“Projects like these empower educators to develop and use proven practices to deliver rigorous, engaging learning experiences that we know excite and interest underrepresented student groups in STEM,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.


“AT&T is thrilled to help expand Project Eats and build on our work to advance STEM learning in New York City’s indoor and outdoor classrooms,” said Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President, AT&T. “As STEM skills are becoming a necessary aspect of an increasing number of industries and jobs, it is important to teach our students how those skills are applied to different fields. This program will expose New York City students to a unique learning environment, showing the versatility of STEM education and how it is used in almost any sector of the workforce.”


Research indicates that underperformance in STEM education arises from systemic issues: teachers with little professional support; inadequate alignment of standards and curriculum; and insufficient understanding of the relevance to students’ lives about the need to achieve in these subjects. Both projects will focus on providing more personal, engaging, coordinated, and consistent STEM learning.


PE builds farms on school grounds enabling students to work with experienced farmers to grow, package, and market their products as they acquire skills and expertise in homemade product manufacturing, business and marketing, promotion, and sales. With the new funding, PE will be offered in five new high schools, potentially reaching more than 1,500 students. The contribution will also be used to standardize a four-year curriculum, with more focus on STEM learning, as well as experiential and peer-to-peer learning.


Formative and summative evaluation will be employed throughout the funding period to assess progress in the New York City and Milwaukee programs to identify areas for improvement, gather evidence of success, and enable future replication in schools across the country, with the goal of increasing high school students’ engagement, interest, and excellence in STEM.


Read more about this work in the NEA Foundation report, "Harnessing the Potential of Innovative STEM Education Programs: Stories of Collaboration, Connectedness and Empowerment." Watch videos to hear from students and educators involved in the Milwaukee project.


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About Philanthropy at AT&T:AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2012, more than $131 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs. © 2014 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies.


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AT&T and the NEA Foundation extend programs in Milwaukee, NYC; develop curriculum that can be replicated nationwide


WASHINGTON, DC (Jan. 29, 2014) AT&T and the NEA Foundation will support the expansion  of popular urban farming programs in Milwaukee, WI and New York City, NY  to  increase inner city students’ interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) through a two-year total contribution of $300,000 for Fall 2013 through Fall of 2015. The goal: provide more students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need for 21st century jobs and develop curriculum and instructional content that educators can use to build similar programs nationwide.


The Urban Schools Aquaponics Initiative in Milwaukee, WI and Project EATS, a program of the Active Citizens Project, in New York City, NY, were selected because of their early success in advancing STEM education among low-income and minority students.


“Projects like these empower educators to develop and use proven practices to deliver rigorous, engaging learning experiences that we know excite and interest underrepresented student groups in STEM,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.


“In order to keep our country’s economic growth and innovation engine moving, it’s critical that we develop STEM skills in our young people,” said Nicole Anderson, Executive Director of Philanthropy at AT&T. “Programs like this one with the NEA Foundation ignite the interest of the next generation in the STEM skills they’ll need to succeed through exciting, real-world applications.”


Research indicates that underperformance in STEM education arises from systemic issues: teachers with little professional support; inadequate alignment of standards and curriculum; and insufficient understanding of the relevance to students’ lives about the need to achieve in these subjects. Both projects will focus on providing more personal, engaging, coordinated, and consistent STEM learning.


Aquaponics is a highly efficient and sustainable form of farming in which water from aquatic animals is used to feed hydroponically grown plants. The plants filter the water, which is then re-circulated back to the fish. Aquaponics programs enable students to use and explore science and math principles in a variety of ways as they gain valuable 21st century skills and knowledge.


Thanks to support from the NEA Foundation and AT&T, over the last three years, the Urban Schools Aquaponics Initiative has been integrated into nine new schools, for a total of 13 Milwaukee public schools. A professional learning community meets regularly and allows educators and schools to exchange ideas, brainstorm ways to improve, and bring in outside experts to present new information.


The new contribution will support five new schools, reaching a total of 1,500 Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students over two years. It will also support the development of a cohesive, comprehensive aquaponics curriculum aligned with the newly released math and science standards that will be piloted in the participating schools. Ultimately, an aquaponics curriculum would be available to all 49 MPS high school and 125 K-8 schools, with the potential to reach all 78,500 students in the district.


In New York City, Project EATS (PE) builds farms on school grounds enabling students to work with experienced farmers to grow, package, and market their products as they acquire skills and expertise in homemade product manufacturing, business and marketing, promotion, and sales. With the new contribution, PE will be offered in five additional high schools, potentially reaching more than 1,500 students. The funding will also be used to standardize a four-year curriculum, with more focus on STEM learning, as well as experiential and peer-to-peer learning.


Formative and summative evaluation will be employed throughout the funding period to assess progress in both cities, to identify areas for improvement, gather evidence of success, and enable future replication in schools across the country, with the goal of increasing high school students’ engagement, interest, and excellence in STEM.


Read more about this work in the NEA Foundation's report, "Harnessing the Potential of Innovative STEM Education Programs: Stories of Collaboration, Connectedness and Empowerment." Watch videos to hear from students and educators involved in the Milwaukee project.


###


About Philanthropy at AT&T: AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2012, more than $131 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs. © 2014 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies.


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WASHINGTON, DC  (November 21, 2013) – Five educators will receive the 2014 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, $10,000, and recognition as one of the nation’s top educators at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Awards Gala to be held on February 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. They are:


  • Kimberley Gilles, language arts educator at Monte Vista High School in Danville, CA;
  • Eileen Sheehy, Advanced Placement government and politics and U.S. government educator at Billing West High School in Billings, MT;
  • Kathleen Sims, early childhood special education and school readiness educator at Foley Elementary School in Foley, MN;
  • Brian Sites, social studies, mathematics, and technology educator at River’s Edge High School in Richland, WA;
  • Christopher Stone, language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science educator at Pond Hill School in Wallingford, CT.


The NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence are given annually at the Foundation’s black-tie event— known as the Academy Awards of public education— that attracts more than 800 national leaders from the public education, philanthropic, and business sectors.  The awards recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession.  


“These educators have been selected for this award by their peers because they have attained the highest teaching standards, as shown by their exemplary instruction, advocacy


for the profession, attention to diversity, leadership in professional development, and engagement of parents and community,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Honoring them is our way of thanking them for their excellent work.”


In addition to the recognition, students and educators at the awardees’ school will receive digital arts training from the Pearson Foundation.  Video profiles of the awardees will be produced during the trainings and featured at the Awards Gala.  


“We are pleased to honor these five teachers with the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence,” said Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of Horace Mann. “These educators teach a variety of topics, each playing an instrumental role in making sure the children of tomorrow are well-educated. Horace Mann is proud to showcase the great work done by these educators.”  


The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, the Horace Mann Companies, the Pearson Foundation, and California Casualty.


For the first time, this year, on February 7, 2014, the NEA Foundation will live stream the event on its website, enabling students, peers, and families of the awardees to join in the celebration.  


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Crystal Brown, Vice Chair; Sean Patrick Corcoran, Christian Duffus, Peter Heckman, Julian Vasquez Heilig, and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, Members


WASHINGTON, DC  (November 7, 2013) – The NEA Foundation announced today that Crystal Brown, chief communications officer and executive director of communications at the University of Maryland, will serve as the new vice chair, while five new members will join its board of directors.


“Crystal brings deep expertise in the education field and in public relations, having represented education clients from the public, non-profit, and corporate sectors,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Her guidance and leadership are especially important, at a time when education and communications changes in the education sector are occurring so rapidly and the tools used to support and discuss education are changing at the same pace. We welcome her leadership as we undertake bold efforts to reconceptualize the focus and role of educators to prepare students to thrive in this rapidly changing global economy.”


Crystal Brown is a public relations, marketing, and communications veteran who has developed successful media relations programs, branding strategies, and award-winning campaigns for corporate, nonprofit, and foundation clients. Previously, Brown held the position of senior vice president for the PK-12 practice at Widmeyer Communications. In this role, she oversaw strategy for the firm’s largest clients, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Brown also served as senior vice president of E-Luminate Group, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in education technology and education policy. During her 10 year tenure, she successfully raised the national profile of many long-term clients, including the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Dell, LeapFrog, Blackboard, NEA Member Benefits, the Institute for Museums & Library Services, 3M, and the National Council on the Aging. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Communications Skills. 


“The NEA Foundation’s efforts to improve outcomes for students will depend in part on our ability to share knowledge and to engage education leaders to help advance our work,” said Brown.  “I am delighted to accept this leadership role during a pivotal time in our history. Public support of education will be key to the future of our children, our communities, and our nation.”


The NEA Foundation also announced the names of five new board of directors members: Sean Patrick Corcoran, associate professor of educational economics at New York University; Christian Duffus, founder of LEAF College Savings; Peter Heckman, former president and CEO of the Horace Mann Educators Corporation; Julian Vasquez Heilig, associate professor of educational policy and planning at the University of Texas at Austin; and Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, executive vice president of sales at Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions.


“Not only are they savvy and strategic experts in their fields, each of our new board members offers a unique perspective on public education drawn from their experience and relationships within the academic, public, non-profit, and private sectors,” Sanford said. “The Foundation will greatly benefit from the impact of their work and commitment to education reform, as they move into new leadership roles on our Board.”


Sean Patrick Corcoran is associate professor of education economics at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and an affiliated faculty of the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. He has been a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, since 2004, and was visiting scholar in residence at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2005. He is currently conducting several studies on the high school choice behavior of middle school students in New York City.


Christian Duffus is the founder of LEAF College Savings, LLC, an education focused, digital payments company that makes it simple and secure for parents, family, friends, and organizations to contribute to a child's college savings. Additionally, he founded the Scholars Club (now part of Florida Gulf Coast University), a leading extracurricular student organization promoting a peer culture of accomplishment and academic excellence among “at-risk” students throughout Southwest Florida. Duffus began his career in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. He earned a MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia and a BS from Florida A&M University.


Peter Heckman is the recently-retired president and chief executive officer of The Horace Mann Companies, the largest multiline insurance group focusing on the personal insurance and retirement needs of the K-12 educational community. Heckman also served on the Board and as Treasurer of the Springfield Public Schools Foundation. He received his MBA degree (with distinction) from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where he also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.


Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.  He is also a faculty affiliate of the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Warfield Center for African and African American studies at the same institution. Since 2007, he has served as an associate director for the University Council of Education Administration. He blogs at Cloaking Inequity. He obtained his Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy Analysis, and a master’s degree in Sociology from Stanford University. He also holds a Masters of Higher Education and a bachelor’s degree of History and Psychology from the University of Michigan.


Carmen Ortiz-McGhee is executive vice president of sales for Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions, a division of Aon, the leading global risk management, reinsurance and human capital resources consulting and outsourcing firm. In this role, she leads the sourcing, vetting, and development of joint go-to market strategies with Women and Minority-owned firms who operate in the same verticals as Aon.  Ortiz-McGhee also drives Aon Cornerstone revenue generation and oversees all Cornerstone activities throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States.  She is a Dean’s List graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in psychology.  

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Outstanding records of achievement qualify five teams for the NEA Foundation Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning


WASHINGTON, DC (September 16, 2013) –
The NEA Foundation has selected five new teams led by teacher union presidents and superintendents from across the country to join the NEA Foundation Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, a national effort to address challenges facing public education. The new teams hail from: St John the Baptist Parish (LA) Public Schools; Durango (CO) School District 9-R; West Springfield (MA) Public Schools; Clark County (NV) School District; and San Antonio (TX) Independent School District.


Teams were competitively selected based on applications co-authored by teacher union presidents and superintendents demonstrating their ability to address difficult issues of systems change and collaborative reform, with a sense of urgency and focus. The NEA Foundation also sought to develop a cohort whose actions plans would reflect a diverse set of issues, increasing what it will learn from these sites’ experiences in order to share with the field.


“Each team has identified issues most critical to their students and has made a commitment to work together toward a common goal: to improve the quality of education for their students,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “The teams will participate in a two-year program becoming part of a network of collaborative teams tackling some of the most pressing issues in public education, such as engaging and motivating teachers to be the drivers of their individual and collective professional growth through the design of comprehensive development systems— including career ladders. And each will develop an action plan with a focus on the impact it will have on instructional practices and ultimately student learning.”


These teams join five others, now in their second year. Together, they are addressing complex issues of educator commitment to higher performance standards and training for evaluators and peers, while also implementing comprehensive evaluation systems, such as Peer Assistance and Review (PAR), strengthening the use of professional learning communities, broad community engagement, and teacher mentoring.


The Institute supports the local work in several ways. Staff and coaches provide technical assistance and data-based feedback to the teams, in support of their joint reform work. Learning resources, including curricula addressing the context of educational reform, new forms of labor-management relations, and educational equity for all students are also provided to help build knowledge and capacity. Teams will become part of a community of practice, in which they will share experiences and learn from one another.


New this year is the development of online curricula developed by experts in the field specifically for union-district leadership teams and designed to provide professional learning experiences to support collaborative work. Modules can be used by teams to support their work in specific ways. Topics include Leading Change and Reform and New Forms of Labor-Management Relations.


“We truly believe that it will be through this kind of deep collaborative work that we will see the changes required to prepare every student for college, career, and life,” Sanford said.


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The NEA Foundation Awards 52 Grants to Support Educators’ Innovative Ideas


WASHINGTON, DC (July 12, 2013) — In Columbus, OH, Charles Steinbower will lead a civil rights and social justice unit at William K. Willis High School to teach students about the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on the southern United States and apartheid on past, present, and future South Africa using readings, panel discussions, and a traveling exhibit that will focus on the injustices of the landmark Emmett Till case. In Milton, VT, Courtney Reckord, an art teacher at Milton High School, will introduce “Art: A Common Language” to inspire communication between students in India and Milton, VT by sharing students’ original art on the Vermont Young Writer’s Project website. And in Richmond, VA, Brianne Gunn of Falling Creek Middle School will conduct a service-learning project that will teach students about clean-up efforts in the James River watershed, giving students the tools necessary to lead a community river clean-up day.


This is a small and very random sample of the innovative work the NEA Foundation is funding with its latest round of grants: awarded to 52 educators across 26 states for a total of $187,000, reaching a total of nearly 18,000 students and more than 1,800 educators.


“With these grants, we are supporting educator- driven solutions that contribute to improved student performance in public schools,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our support enables educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative approaches to the benefit of students across the country.”  


The NEA Foundation awards two levels of funding, $2,000 or $5,000, for two primary categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning and Leadership Grants for high-quality professional development activities. Of these, thirteen have been awarded for literacy projects in collaboration with strategic Foundation partner Mazda.


A team of 20 educators, many former grantees, carefully reviewed all applications and evaluated each one against a set of criteria. Funded grants were selected for the quality of the proposed ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement.


The NEA Foundation has invested more than $8.6 million in grants to support the work of almost 4,000 educators from every state in the country to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership Grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit our newly redesigned Grantee Archive, where you can search for grantees and projects by most recent, grade level, subject, state, or keyword.


The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. The next grant deadline is October 15, 2013. Application forms and a video with step-by-step instructions on how to apply can be found in the Grants to Educators section of our website.


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WASHINGTON, DC (June 17, 2013) – The NEA Foundation today announced the names of the 36 public school educators who will receive the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, one of the nation’s most prestigious honors.


These educators will be honored at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala to be held in Washington, DC on February 7, 2014.  Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the gala attracts more than 850 of the nation’s leaders from public education, philanthropy, and the private sector.


“We give these awards annually to honor and promote excellence in education and to elevate the profession. Educators like these are critical to their students’ academic success, and they deserve national recognition.” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We are thrilled that California Casualty has joined us again this year to pay tribute to educators who are making such a difference in the lives of students in classrooms across the country.”  


“Educating our youth is so critically important. California Casualty is proud to partner with the NEA Foundation to pause and celebrate excellence in teaching,” said Beau Brown, Chariman and CEO of California Casualty.


The educators were nominated by the National Education Association’s state affiliates.  Each educator’s schools will receive awards of $650.  


From the 36 state awardees, five finalists will be selected to receive $10,000 cash awards. At the conclusion of the Washington, DC gala, one finalist will be named the nation’s top educator and receive an additional $25,000.


The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from California Casualty, NEA Member Benefits, Pearson Foundation, and the Horace Mann Educators’ Corporation.


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The NEA Foundation Announces the 2013 Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellows


WASHINGTON, DC (April 23, 2013) –
The NEA Foundation today announced the names of 36 award-winning public school educators who, as the Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellows, will build their global competency skills, or the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.


“In order for students to be prepared for the global age, their educators must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to teach in the global age,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our Global Learning Fellows program has an intentional focus on supporting educators as they strengthen their global competencies: investigating the world beyond one’s immediate environment; recognizing multiple perspectives; communicating ideas effectively with diverse audiences; and taking action to improve conditions.”


The fellowship expands on the NEA Foundation’s mission to advance student achievement by investing in public education that will prepare all students to learn and thrive in a rapidly changing world. It is designed to help educators acquire the necessary skills to integrate global competence into their daily classroom instruction, and prepare students to thrive in the interconnected  global age, and thus contribute to the closing of the global achievement gap.


The Fellowship builds a structured and collaborative learning experience that supports educators as they acquire global competence skills. Over the course of one year, Fellows are supported by the NEA Foundation staff, partners, and other field experts, as they work through the following:

  1. Readings and webinars to introduce global competence and country specific concepts;
  2. Online coursework on global competence, country specific concepts, and interactive language learning;
  3. A two-day professional development workshop with sessions led by leaders in global competency and country-specific knowledge; and
  4. A study-tour designed to focus on the themes of global competence, education (both practice and issues of international, national, and state policy) and economics.


The tour of Brazil, from June 19-28, includes visits to schools in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to provide educators with structured opportunities to observe classroom instruction and to interact with Brazilian teachers and administrators. It also includes opportunities to investigate Brazil’s rich historical and cultural landmarks.


In preparation, the Fellows will complete an online course to provide them with a framework to contextualize their experiences in Brazil by examining the impact of its historical and cultural legacies on contemporary Brazilian society and educational system.  


The NEA Foundation has also partnered with Rosetta Stone to provide Fellows with basic Portuguese language training. “As we know, language is the road map to other cultures and is therefore an important tool for building global understanding,” Sanford said.


Together with the Pearson Foundation, the NEA Foundation will share the Fellows’ experiences and observations through blog posts and photos as they travel.


At the conclusion of the Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellowship, educators begin working  on a final project to create a lesson plan, unit plan, or full curriculum integerated with global competency skills. By creating this plan, and then sharing with educators around the world via an open source platform, Fellows are contributing to an increasing field of knowledge on this topic. Furthermore, the Fellows become positioned to lead the profession by becoming advocates for global learning and global competence within their schools, communities, and districts.   


Names and photos of the 2013 NEA Foundation Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellows are posted on the NEA Foundation’s website. The tour is sponsored by the Pearson Foundation and the NEA Foundation and is designed by Education First. Complimentary Portuguese language training is provided to each of the Fellows by Rosetta Stone.


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The NEA Foundation Awards 55 Grants to Support Educators’ Innovative Ideas


WASHINGTON, DC (March 25, 2013)  —In Oakland, CA, Kathleen Bailey dreamt up the “Healthy Academy” at Oakland Technical High School to teach students about nutrition, cooking, and the impact of various food choices on the environment and local community through class demonstrations, health fairs, and writing assignments meant for publication. In Portland, OR, Michelle Peake, a school counselor at César Chávez School, will lead a group of Advancement via Individualized Determination (AVID) students in an environment awareness experience on sustainability, recycling, and clean energy at Oregon State University. And in Mount Washington, KY, Jackie Kessler of Mount Washington Elementary School will help provide school-wide professional development through a nationally-recognized program for the mastery of Common Core Standards called “Thinking Strategies.”

 

This is a small and very random sample of the innovative work the NEA Foundation is funding with its latest round of grants: awarded to 55 educators across 28 states for a total of $176,000.

 

“With these grants, we are supporting educator- driven solutions that contribute to improved student performance in public schools,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our support enables educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative approaches to the benefit of students across the country.” 

 

The NEA Foundation awards two levels of funding, $2,000 or $5,000, for two primary categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning and Leadership Grants for high-quality professional development activities. Of these, nine have been awarded for literacy projects in collaboration with strategic Foundation partner Mazda.

 

A team of 20 educators, many former grantees, carefully reviewed all applications and evaluated each one against a set of criteria. Funded grants were selected for the quality of the proposed ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement. Eighteen grantees plan to conduct interdisciplinary projects. The remaining grantees will address nine different subject areas, reaching a total of nearly 21,000 students and more than 1,600 educators at schools, where the average free or reduced lunch rate is 48 percent.

 

 

The NEA Foundation has invested more than $8.6 million in grants to support the work of almost 4,000 educators from every state in the country to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership Grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit our newly redesigned Grantee Archive, where you can search for grantees and projects by most recent, grade level, subject, state, or keyword.

 

The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. The next grant deadline is June 1, 2013. Application forms and a video with step-by-step instructions on how to apply can be found in the Grants to Educators section of our website.


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The NEA Foundation Funds Project for English Language Learners to Discover California History


WASHINGTON, DC (January 15, 2013) — Janet Hughes and Lianne Loomis of La Mirada Elementary School in San Ysidro, CA have completed a $5,000 Student Achievement Grant from the NEA Foundation. The program supported fourth grade students’ participation in historic reenactments to teach them about California history. Hughes aimed to make California history understandable and meaningful to students who were English Language Learners.


“With these grants we are helping educators to improve their practice so students can increase their academic achievement and develop 21st century skills,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our support enables students and educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative work.”


Students used iPod Touches to record their experiences at the “History in a Trunk” presentations, during a train ride and visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano, and during a tour of Old Town San Diego. They also spent a night on the sailing ship, Star of India, where they got a glimpse of another historical era. Hughes said her students can now speak in English about California’s Native Americans, the Spanish and the building of the missions, the Gold Rush, and more.


The NEA Foundation funds and supports public educator solutions to improve student performance with two categories of grants: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning & Leadership Grants for high-quality professional development activities. The Foundation awards about 150 of these grants every year. On average, each grant impacts the learning of about 200 students.


The 2013 deadlines for applications are Feb. 1, June 1, and Oct. 15. Application forms and an instructional video on how to apply can be found on the NEA Foundation’s Grants to Educators page.


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Daniel Leeds and First Book also honored at Washington, D.C. Event


WASHINGTON, DC (February 8, 2013) — On Friday, February 8, at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, Leslie Nicholas, a language arts teacher at Wyoming Valley West Middle School in Kingston, PA, received one of public education’s top honors: The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000.

 

Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. The NEA Foundation presented more than 40 awards to exceptional educators and dedicated supporters of public education over the course of the program. Nicholas’s award was the evening’s finale.

 

“Nicholas has been selected for this award by his peers because he has attained the highest teaching standards, as illustrated by his exemplary instruction, community engagement, and staunch support of public education,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “In his classroom he brings learning to life, weaving together poetry, history, and music, for example, to help his students discover that Rosa Parks is the Beatles’ ‘blackbird singing in the dead of night.’”

 

This year’s event included student performers from the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps schools in Lee County, FL. Students brought to life through dance, music, and readings, the essays, and poems written by their peers and inspired by their teachers.

 

Kevin Eubanks, a musician, composer, former music director for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and like his mom, a music teacher, emceed the evening’s program. Performing together for the event’s finale, Eubanks and the Lee County students entertained more than 800 leaders from the education, philanthropic, and business sectors who were in attendance. The Foundation and its guests also celebrated their teachers, who received on-stage recognition.

 

Nicholas was one of five finalists for the top award; all five finalists received special recognition at the gala, the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, and $10,000. The other four were:

 

  • Kellie Blair Hardt, special education teacher, Metz Middle School, Manassas, VA;
  • Melissa Collins, second grade teacher, John P. Freeman Optional School, Memphis, TN;
  • Julia Marshall, teacher interventionist and literacy coach, Rosewood Elementary International School, Rock Hill, SC;
  • Jennifer Thomas, an instructional coach and English language arts teacher, San Jose Unified School District, San Jose, CA

 

Nicholas’s students have already benefited from his award. Last fall, they received digital arts training, which they used to create an original video honoring their teacher.

 
Watch their video, which premiered at the gala.


He was nominated for the award by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and is one of 38 public school educators nominated by their state education associations who were also honored.

 

In addition to the outstanding educators, the NEA Foundation presented Daniel Leeds, Cofounder and Board Chair of Alliance for Excellent Education, with The NEA Foundation Award for Philanthropy in Public Education for his extraordinary commitment to informing and transforming public education policy at the national level.


The NEA Foundation also presented First Book, a DC-based literacy non-profit organization, with The Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education for pioneering groundbreaking channels to provide new books and educational resources to schools and programs serving children in need.  

 

About the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education

The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is a national celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. At this annual event, the Foundation recognizes and promotes excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, The Horace Mann Companies, The Pearson Foundation, California Casualty, and Promethean.


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Washington, DC (February 5, 2013) – First Book will receive The Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on Feb. 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. Past recipients of this prestigious award include former President Bill Clinton, Title IX advocate Billie Jean King, and Sesame Street Workshop.


The NEA Foundation presents this award to individuals and organizations for their lifelong commitment to advancing public education. It is typically presented to those who work outside the field.

 

First Book has pioneered groundbreaking channels to provide new books and educational resources at deeply reduced prices, and for free, to schools and programs serving children in need. Ninety seven percent of First Book's revenue goes directly to these books. To date, First Book has distributed more than 100 million new books to children in thousands of communities throughout the US and Canada.

 

“Instilling a love of reading in young children is one of the most important things we can do to help them on the path to success in school and in life,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “This is why First Book’s goal to end global illiteracy is so critical.”

 

“Studies show that interest in reading more than triples among children who have received new books from First Book,” said Michael P. Kiley, Security Benefit Corporation Chief Executive Officer. “We applaud First Book for transforming the lives of children, and we are pleased and honored to recognize First Book for their efforts to end illiteracy.”

 

In partnership with Lee County Public Schools and the NEA Foundation, First Book will donate 20,000 new books in honor of the six student authors whose work was selected to be presented at the NEA Foundation’s annual Gala.

 

“Supporting teachers is at the heart of what we do at First Book,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO. “Teachers, librarians, support staff, and other educators are doing the hard work every day of transforming lives, and our mission is to ensure they have the books and resources they need. This award is so important to us, and we’re honored and delighted to receive it.”

 

Known as the academy awards of public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala attracts close to 800 leaders from the education, business and philanthropy sectors. First Book will be honored along with 38 of the nation’s top educators, recipients of the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, and Daniel Leeds, Co-founder and Board Chair of the Alliance for Excellent Education, who will accept the NEA Foundation’s Award for Philanthropy in Public Education.

 

The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from the Horace Mann Companies, NEA Member Benefits, the Pearson Foundation, California Casualty, and Promethean.

 

About First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 100 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. For more information, please visit them online or follow their latest news on Facebook and Twitter.


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Washington, DC (January 28, 2013) – Daniel Leeds, Co-founder and Board Chair of the Alliance for Excellent Education and founder of the Education Funder Strategy Group, will receive the NEA Foundation’s Award for Philanthropy in Public Education at this year’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on Feb. 8, 2013 in Washington, DC.  One of public education’s most prestigious honors, the award will recognize Leeds for his extraordinary commitment to informing and transforming public education policy at the national level. 

 

The NEA Foundation presents this award to individuals, foundations, and corporations of stature in recognition of their significant and demonstrated financial commitment to improving public education or supporting public schools, students, and educators.

 

"We’re paying tribute to Daniel Leeds for his demonstrated leadership in the development and implementation of a federal public education policy agenda that supports effective high school reforms,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation.  “Since he helped found the Alliance for Excellent Education in 2001, Dan has been at the forefront of their work to make quality public education for all students a national priority.  Their focus on the six million American students who are most at-risk of dropping out of high school addresses a critical problem in our nation’s schools.” 

 

“Daniel Leeds’ policy advocacy is enhanced by his leadership in forging collaborations with public education funders and his entire family’s commitment to improving public education,” said Mark Chichester, Chairman of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors. “In addition to the Alliance and the Education Funders Strategy Group, Leeds and his extended family, the Leeds and Jobin-Leeds, have launched, funded, and advocated on behalf of the Schott Foundation for Public Education and the Institute for Student Achievement and other organizations with similar goals.”

 

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award from the NEA Foundation. My advocacy for education is a reflection of my family’s philanthropic values and leadership,” said Leeds. “Certainly our democracy and economy are powered by a strong public education system. Our teachers are building the future of our nation and we all share responsibility for their success in whatever way we can help as citizens and voters, taxpayers and charitable givers. We know that every penny of investment in teaching and learning is returned a hundred-fold in the quality of our society, security, enterprise, and happiness as a people.”

 

Leeds also serves as President of Fulcrum Investments LLC, a private investment firm. Until the sale of CMP Media in 1999, he was President of International Publishing and a member of the Office of the President. CMP, a leading media company, published titles such as Information Week, Computer Reseller News and Electronic Engineering Times. The company was cited as “One of the Best Companies to Work for” by Fortune and Working Women magazines.

 

Leeds will be honored along with 38 recipients of the NEA Foundation’s Awards for Teaching Excellence. This year, the NEA Foundation will also present First Book, a DC-based literacy non-profit organization, with The Security Benefits Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education.  Kevin Eubanks, a musician, composer, former music director for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and like his mom, a music teacher, will host the evening’s event.

 

The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, the Horace Mann Companies, the Pearson Foundation, California Casualty, and Promethean.


About the Alliance for Excellent Education

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information, visit www.all4ed.org.


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WASHINGTON, DC (September 19, 2012) – Five educators will receive The Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, $10,000, and recognition as one of the nation’s top educators at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education awards gala to be held on Feb. 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. They are:

  • Kellie Blair-Hardt, special education teacher, Metz Middle School, Manassas, VA;
  • Melissa Collins, second grade teacher, John P. Freeman Optional School, Memphis, TN;
  • Julia Marshall, teacher interventionist and literacy coach, Rosewood Elementary International School, Rock Hill, SC;
  • Leslie Nicholas, language arts teacher, Wyoming Valley West Middle School, Kingston, PA;
  • Jennifer Thomas, an instructional coach and English language arts teacher, San Jose Unified School District, San Jose, CA


The NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence are given annually at the Foundation’s black tie event that attracts 850 national leaders from the public education, philanthropic and business sectors, and is known as the Academy Awards of public education.  The awards recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. 


“These educators have been selected for this award by their peers because they have attained the highest teaching standards, as shown by their exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession, attention to diversity, leadership in professional development, and engagement of parents and community,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Honoring them is our way of thanking them for their excellent work.”


In addition to the recognition, students and educators at the awardees’ school will receive digital arts training from the Pearson Foundation.   Video profiles of the awardees will be produced during the trainings and featured at the awards gala. 


The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, the Horace Mann Companies, the Pearson Foundation, and California Casualty.


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Outstanding records of achievement qualify five teams for the NEA Foundation Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning


WASHINGTON, DC (August 22, 2012) –  The NEA Foundation has selected five new teams led by teacher union presidents and superintendents from across the country to join the second cohort of the NEA Foundation Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, a national effort to address challenges facing public education. The new teams hail from: San Juan Unified, CA; Jefferson County Public Schools, CO; Escambia Public Schools, FL: Fayette County Public Schools, KY; Oregon City Public Schools, OR.


The teams will participate in a two-year program, becoming part of a network of collaborative teams tackling some of the most pressing issues in public education, such as the creation of a strategic compensation plan and engaging and motivating teachers to be the drivers of their individual and collective professional growth through the design of comprehensive development systems— including career ladders.


“We welcome these teams and feel confident in their capacity and joint commitment to lead the profession through the design of strong reform programs,” said NEA Foundation President & CEO Harriet Sanford. “The Institute will provide opportunities for them to engage in a partnership to change teaching and learning in their communities, and ultimately, improve the opportunities of their students.”


Teams were competitively selected based on applications co-authored by teacher union presidents and superintendents demonstrating their ability to address difficult issues of systems change and collaborative reform, with a sense of urgency and focus. Sanford said the Foundation also sought to develop a cohort whose actions plans would reflect a diverse set of issues, increasing what it will learn from these sites’ experiences in order to share with the field.


Founded on the belief that good instructional practices will have the greatest impact on student learning, the Institute was formally launched in 2010. The first cohort includes union/administrative teams from: School District U-46 (Elgin), IL; Peoria Public Schools, IL; Springfield Public Schools (District 816), IL; Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville), KY; Cambridge Public Schools, MA; Montgomery County Public Schools, MD; Portland Public Schools, ME; Columbus Public Schools, OH; Fond du Lac School District, WI; and Milwaukee Public Schools, WI.


Together, they are addressing complex issues of teacher commitment to higher performance standards and training for evaluators and peers, while also implementing comprehensive evaluation systems, such as Peer Assistance and Review (PAR).


Each of the Institute’s inaugural cohort of teams identified issues most critical to their students and communities. The Institute supports the local work in several ways. Staff and coaches provide technical assistance and data-based feedback to the teams, in support of their joint reform work. Learning resources, including curricula addressing the context of educational reform, new forms of labor-management relations, and educational equity for all students are also provided to help build knowledge and capacity.


Powerful examples of the Institute’s impact appear in Fond du Lac, WI, where the joint team actively works with groups like the Boys and Girls Club to engage low-income students in meaningful community activities. In Montgomery County, MD, the joint team, including a representative of higher education and teacher training, developed a graduate certificate in teaching for equity and social justice. The first group of students completed four courses and reported improvement in their practice as a direct result.


“We truly believe that it will be through this kind of deep collaborative work that we will see the changes required to prepare every child for college and career,” Sanford said.


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The NEA Foundation Awards 60 Grants to Support Educators’ Innovative Ideas


WASHINGTON, DC (June 19, 2012) — In South Holland, IL, Michele Liberio’s non-verbal students will use iPads to become members of a highly social technological environment as they learn how to communicate in class more efficiently. In Hudson, MA, Elizabeth Joki’s students will collaborate with wildlife biologists to care for, study, release, and track endangered turtles, learning about scientific research methods, turtle ecology and biology, and the complexities of species conservation. In Norfolk, VA, Dr. Angela Eckhoff will guide a teacher learning community of recent graduates as they navigate their first teaching year in a primary grades classroom.


This is a small and very random sample of the innovative work the NEA Foundation is funding with its latest round of grants: awarded to 60 educators in 28 states, for a total of $216,000.


“With these grants, we are supporting educator- driven solutions that contribute to improved student performance in public schools,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our support enables educators to engage in a wide variety of innovative approaches to the benefit of students across the country.” 


The NEA Foundation awards two primary categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning & Leadership Grants for high-quality professional development activities. Of these, four are the NEA Foundation– EarthEcho Water Planet Challenge Grants, which support service-learning programs that improve the health of our water planet.


A team of 20 educators, many of whom are former grantees, carefully reviewed all applications and evaluated each one against a set of criteria. Funded grants were selected for the quality of the proposed ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement. The latest grants were awarded to educators in 28 different states. 


The NEA Foundation has invested more than $8.6 million in grants to support the work of almost 4,000 educators from every state in the country to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership Grants.


The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. The next grant deadline is October 15, 2012. Links to the application, and grant guidelines, including a video with step by step instructions on how to apply, can be found at neafoundation.org.


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The NEA Foundation and California Casualty to Honor Educators at Washington, DC Awards Gala in February


WASHINGTON, DC (July 25, 2012) – The NEA Foundation today announced the names of the 38 public school educators who will receive the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, one of the nation’s most prestigious honors.


These educators will be honored at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala to be held in Washington, DC on February 8, 2013.  Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the gala attracts more than 850 of the nation’s leaders from public education, philanthropy, and the private sector.


“We give these awards annually to honor and promote excellence in education and to elevate the profession. Educators like these are critical to their students’ academic success, and they deserve national recognition.” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We are thrilled that California Casualty has joined us again this year to pay tribute to educators who are making such a difference in the lives of students in classrooms across the country.”  


“Educating our youth is so critically important. California Casualty is proud to partner with the NEA Foundation to pause and celebrate excellence in teaching,” said Beau Brown, President and CEO of California Casualty.


The educators were nominated by the National Education Association’s state affiliates. Each educator’s schools will receive awards of $650.  


From the 38 state awardees, five finalists will be selected to receive $10,000 cash awards. At the conclusion of the Washington, DC gala, one finalist will be named the nation’s top educator and receive an additional $25,000.


The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from California Casualty, the Horace Mann Companies, NEA Member Benefits, and the Pearson Foundation. 


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New Grant Helps Build on Success


WASHINGTON, DC (May 25, 2012) -- The NEA Foundation today announced that it will expand its ongoing work to document and share  successful strategies being used by collaborative union-district teams to contribute to improved student performance, thanks to a $550,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The announcement comes on the heels of the US Department of Education’s Labor-Management conference, “Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession,” that brought together hundreds of leaders in the national education reform movement to discuss ways for unions and districts to better work together to improve student learning.


“For many years, the NEA Foundation has provided philanthropic and technical assistance to support the critical joint work of union district teams to make their districts and schools better places for students to learn and teachers to teach,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help us accelerate the sea change underway in the way unions and districts work together to ensure high quality teaching and seed change by leveraging resources and widely disseminating knowledge.”


“The only way for meaningful reform to take root is with teachers and their unions fully engaged as partners. We appreciate that the Gates Foundation understands that, and supports this effort,” said Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association. “It is exactly this type of collaboration that allows all of us to look our students in the eyes and assure them that they’re at the center of our reform efforts.” 


The work will leverage the expertise developed from the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative (beginning in 2004) and Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (funded by a $358,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2009), across 10 school districts.


Together, these teams of union, district, and community leaders are building enduring infrastructures and systems that are tackling head-on issues of increased teaching effectiveness through school-based collaborative leadership teams focused on issues of teaching and learning and teacher evaluation systems and professional growth models.


The new grant will fund the development of case studies that illustrate successful union-district collaborative practices, identify lessons learned, and provide operational tools that will help other communities begin this work. Funding will also help accelerate the development of the NEA Foundation’s collaborative, skill-based curriculum to build the capacity of local leaders to engage in jointly designed reform. This online curriculum is slated for a Fall 2012 launch.


Learn more about the NEA Foundation’s Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative and its Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.


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Seven Thought Leaders to Advise and Accelerate Efforts to Close U.S. Achievement Gaps


WASHINGTON, DC (May 15, 2012) -- The NEA Foundation today named seven globally recognized scholars and practitioners to serve as the inaugural cohort of its Senior Fellows Advisory Group. Drawing upon the unique talents and expertise of these leaders, the Foundation aims to bring critical thought leadership to deepen and accelerate improvement of systems to increase teaching effectiveness and the quality of academic and non-academic supports to students and their families. The Senior Fellows will provide insight into the “why” of the achievement gap, how to address it, and on broader issues of effective teaching and collaborative reform.

The NEA Foundation Senior Fellows Advisory Group members are:

  • Michael Fullan, Professor Emeritus, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto;
  • Gloria J. Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in Curriculum & Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison;
  • Luke Merchlewitz, second grade teacher (MN) and Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow, in Winona, MN, and adjunct faculty member at Winona State University;
  • Susan Moore Johnson, Jerome T. Murphy Professor in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Academic Dean from 1993 to 1999;
  • Pedro Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University;
  • Mary Pinkston, high school math teacher (DE), Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow, Brandywine High School, District, and State Teacher of the Year; and
  • Jerry D. Weast, retired Superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MD).


“Formation of this group represents an important milestone in the growth of the NEA Foundation’s work and impact,” said Harriet Sanford, President  & CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Over the years, we have formally engaged the expertise, knowledge and resources of many groups, including our Board of Directors, local educators, corporate and philanthropic partners, and others. Guidance from our Senior Fellows will support further our local education reform projects that are co-developed by unions, districts, and communities and that are squarely focused on achieving equity and excellence.”


Partnerships like these are a signature feature of the NEA Foundation Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative and Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, in which collaboration helps ensure a high-quality education for all students.


Learn more about the NEA Foundation’s Senior Fellows Advisory Group.


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The NEA Foundation Awards $1,000 to Top 10 Best Ideas


WASHINGTON, DC (May 10, 2012) -- When given a chance to voice their thoughts on how gaming can be used in student learning, educators have an unlimited number of ideas. To spotlight some of the best, the NEA Foundation, in partnership with Microsoft Partners in Learning and the U.S. Department of Education, is recognizing 10 innovators, selected by their peers and a panel of experts, to receive the NEA Foundation’s Challenge to Innovate (C2i) Gaming Award, and $1,000.


“Game-based learning and interactive technology can help build technological and communication competencies valued in the workplace and the 21st century economy.  So we asked educators to share, discuss, and evaluate ideas about how to use these tools to support classroom instruction,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation.  “We discovered educators who are using technology in fun, creative ways. By initiating this discussion and knowledge sharing, we hope to help educators better equip their students with the skills they’ll need to be successful in college, work, and life.”


The NEA Foundation uses crowd sourcing on the Department of Education’s innovation portal as a way to ensure that educators have a voice in determining new instructional strategies. Continuing a multi-year partnership, the Foundation partnered with Microsoft to solicit and share ideas on how gaming could be integrated into the curriculum to meet students where they are highly engaged while improving their learning.


The 10 winners were selected from a pool of more than 150 ideas from 38 states and five countries by their peers and a panel of educational experts. They are:

  • Adeline M. Bee, Attleboro High School, Attleboro, MA
    Idea Name: Crime Scene Reporter;
  • John V. Binzak, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA
    Idea: Friends of a Feather;
  • Kimberly Brown, Signal Mountain High School, Chattanooga, TN
    Idea: Curriculum APPlications;
  • Melanie Dolifka, Falcon Elementary School of Technology, Peyton, CO
    Idea: Challenge the World;
  • Serdar Aslan, Osman Balci, Kirby Deater-Deckard, Michael A. Evans, and Anderson Norton, Virginia Tech; Mido Chang, Florida International University
    Idea: The Candy Factory Game;
  • Andrew Miller, ASCD/Buck Institute for Education, Tacoma, WA
    Idea: Creating Citizens with Game Based Learning and Authentic Assessment;
  • Soumya D. Mohanty, University of Texas—Brownsville, Brownsville, TX
    Idea: STEM learning with video games;
  • Brendan Noon, Williamson High School, Williamson, NY
    Idea: Game-Based Learning with Online ‘Quiz Shows’;
  • Gerol C. Petruzella, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, MA
    Idea: Dungeons and Discourse;
  • Kathryn Thomas, Windber Area Middle School, Windber, PA
    Idea: Learn to Earn: Game Based Learning;


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Ford Foundation and Will Allen also honored at Washington, DC, Event


WASHINGTON, DC (February 11, 2012) — On Friday, February 10, at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, Danielle Kovach, a special education teacher at Tulsa Trail Elementary School in Hopatcong, NJ, received one of public education’s top honors: The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000.


Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools.  The NEA Foundation presented more than 30 awards to exceptional educators and dedicated supporters of public education over the course of the program. Kovach’s award was the evening’s finale.


“Danielle’s innovative lessons have made her a favorite among her students and a leader among teachers of special education,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Her use of the latest technology to engage students – from showing videos on her Smart Pad to projecting books on a screen– is just one of the many reasons that she is being honored with this award.”


This year’s event included an original score composed by a public school educator and celebrated the connection between educators and their students. Talented students, ranging from a flutist and an alto saxophone player to a young dance prodigy, entertained more than 800 leaders from the education, philanthropic, and business sectors who were in attendance. The Foundation and its guests also celebrated their teachers, who received on-stage recognition.


Kovach was one of five finalists for the top award; all received special recognition at the gala, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, and $10,000. The other four finalists were:

  • Lisa Esquibel, a kindergarten educator at Davis Elementary School in Cheyenne, WY;
  • Jonathan Gillentine, an early childhood educator at Reverend Benjamin Parker School in Kaneohe, HI;
  • Cara Haney, a kindergarten educator at Panther Lake Elementary in Kent, WA; and
  • Jeff Peneston, a ninth grade science educator at Liverpool High School in Liverpool, NY.


During the gala, videos honoring each of the finalists premiered. The videos were created by their students, with digital arts training from the Pearson Foundation.  


Kovach was nominated for the award by the New Jersey NEA. She was one of 35 public school educators nominated by their state education associations who were honored at the event.


In addition to the outstanding educators, the NEA Foundation presented the Ford Foundation with The NEA Foundation Award for Philanthropy in Public Education for its significant commitment to public education and ongoing support of public schools, students, and educators.


The NEA Foundation also presented Will Allen, a former professional basketball player-turned urban agriculturalist and founder of Growing Power, Inc., with The Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education for his commitment to advancing public education.  


Dominique Dawes, the three-time Olympic gymnast and motivational speaker, emceed the event.


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WASHINGTON, DC (January, 23, 2012) – When Will Allen left his Rockville, MD family farm to play basketball at the University of Miami, he thought he’d left farming for good. But after playing professional basketball around the world, followed by a career as an accomplished corporate salesperson, Allen found himself back in the business of growing. Only today, in addition to healthy food, he’s growing young minds and building a movement.


Widely considered one of the leading authorities in the expanding field of urban agriculture, Allen teaches inner-city youth about farming, business management and marketing, by taking them through the entire process, from planting seeds to selling produce at farmers’ markets. To date, he has developed partnerships with more than 10 Milwaukee Public School (MPS) schools to put into action school-based food projects that include curriculum-based programs complying to Wisconsin State Standards. Will Allen’s organization, Growing Power, has also supplied 40,000 Milwaukee Public School children in 75 elementary schools with the food it grows. Many of these youth have participated in a hands-on tour of the Growing Power Community Food Center or were introduced to the organization through an educational video accompanying their locally grown snack.  


For this work, the NEA Foundation will present Allen with The Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education during the Salute to Excellence in Education Gala to be held at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC on Feb. 10, 2012. Past recipients of this prestigious award include former President Bill Clinton, Title IX advocate Billie Jean King, and Sesame Street Workshop.


“Will Allen is making an enormous difference in the lives of thousands of students,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We have supported his workshops for teachers and students that include training in urban sustainable agriculture practices, because we believe that in addition to encouraging students to adopt healthy habits for themselves and our planet, he is also providing them with 21st century skills they’ll need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.”


At Growing Power, a farm and community food center that he founded in Milwaukee, WI, and in community food projects across the nation and around the world, Allen promotes the belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods at all times. Using methods he has developed over a lifetime, he trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food without regard to political or economic forces.


“I am honored to receive this NEA Foundation Award on behalf of my dedicated staff, community partners, Milwaukee Schools, and the City of Milwaukee,” said Mr. Allen. He continued, “Without our valuable community partners, such as the Milwaukee Public School System and the NEA Foundation, much of our work would not be possible….and I especially give thanks to Milwaukee children, their families, and teachers for their commitment to working with us to improve our community’s health, our educational system, and to provide opportunities for our young people to lead the way in developing a healthier, more sustainable, and equitable society.”


In 2010, Mr. Allen joined First Lady Michelle Obama as she launched the White House’s “Let’s Move” campaign to address issues affecting American youth and the risk of obesity. Allen was also recognized as one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010.


At the NEA Foundation Gala, which attracts more than 800 leaders from the education, business and philanthropy sectors, Allen will be honored along with 35 of the nation’s top educators, recipients of the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, and Jeannie Oakes, director of Ford Foundation’s Educational Opportunity and Scholarship Programs, who will accept the NEA Foundation’s Award for Philanthropy in Public Education on behalf of the organization.


About the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education

The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is a national celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. At this annual event, the Foundation recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from Bank of America, California Casualty, Horace Mann Educators Corporation, NEA Member Benefits, the Pearson Foundation, and Security Benefit Corporation.


About Growing Power

Growing Power was started in Milwaukee, WI, in 1993 by Will Allen, a 2008 winner of a MacArthur “Genius Award” who has long worked to produce and deliver healthy food to low-income communities. It is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. Growing Power implements this mission by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.


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National Awards Gala Salutes Excellence in Public Education on Feb. 10, 2012


WASHINGTON, DC (February 6, 2012) – The NEA Foundation will honor the Ford Foundation with its Award for Philanthropy in Public Education, one of public education’s most prestigious honors. The award recognizes Ford for its conviction that social, economic, and political equality requires that marginalized and disadvantaged people have access to high-quality education and for its work to strengthen educational systems around the globe toward that goal. The award will be presented on February 10, 2012 at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala in Washington, DC.


The Ford Foundation believes that social, economic and political equality all require that marginalized and disadvantaged people have access to high-quality education. Toward that end, it focuses on strengthening educational systems to ensure all young people receive an education that enables them to engage in meaningful work and contribute as citizens in diverse societies. For this work, the organization will receive the NEA Foundation Award for Philanthropy in Public Education.


“The NEA Foundation Award for Philanthropy in Public Education recognizes the Ford Foundation’s significant commitment to public education, and its ongoing support of public schools, students, and educators,” said Elizabeth Oliver-Farrow, Chair of the NEA Foundation’s Board of Directors. “Ford Foundation’s visionary education programs are truly inspiring as is their 75 year history of advancing progressive social change around the globe. As one of world’s preeminent philanthropies, the Ford Foundation has improved the lives of many people.  From supporting the arts to advancing social and economic justice to endorsing sound environmental practices, the Ford Foundation’s impact is nothing less than extraordinary.”


“We are honored to receive this award from an organization that shares our commitment to public education,” said Jeannie Oakes, director of Ford Foundation’s Educational Opportunity and Scholarship Programs. “Like the NEA Foundation, we seek to make a difference by collaborating with and supporting organizations that work to create a system of public schools, so that the nation’s most vulnerable young people have equitable, high-quality schooling and the full range of post-secondary opportunities.” 


“When districts, teachers, unions and communities focus on student learning, their performances improve,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Our work shows that engaging all stakeholders increases shared accountability for and investment in student success. These awards are our way of celebrating and sharing the stories of those individuals and organizations that are making a difference in the lives of students across the country and around the world. We hope that this recognition will inspire others.


Oakes will accept the award on behalf of the Ford Foundation at the NEA Foundation’s awards gala. The Ford Foundation will be honored along with 35 recipients of the NEA Foundation’s Awards for Teaching Excellence and Will Allen, Founder and President of Growing Power.


About the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education

The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is a national celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. At this annual event, the Foundation recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from Bank of America, California Casualty, Horace Mann Educators Corporation, NEA Member Benefits, the Pearson Foundation, and Security Benefit Corporation.


About the Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Visit www.fordfoundation.org for more information.


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New Challenge to Innovate Query Offers $1,000 Awards for Educators’ Best Ideas


WASHINGTON, DC (Jan. 23, 2012) -- How can interactive technology and game-based learning help students learn? In its latest Challenge to Innovate (C2i) initiative, the NEA Foundation has partnered with Microsoft – US Partners in Learning to encourage public school educators to explore, share, and discuss their responses to this question on the Department of Education’s Open Innovation Portal. The best 10 ideas, as judged by the C2i community on the portal, will receive $1,000 cash awards and recognition as their solutions are shared with educators nationwide.


“Nine out of 10 kids, between the ages of two and 17, play electronic games in the U.S, according to a recent national study. Should these new tools be limited to simple fun, or can they open new doors to learning?” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “The next great teaching frontier is light years away from chalk and erasers. If we change the classroom conversation from a one-way exercise to an engaging process that is constantly being renewed and refined, what would happen? Can gaming and education be combined in effective ways?”


Sanford said that the Foundation created C2i last year in partnership with the Department of Education to explore crowd sourcing as a way to exchange ideas and identify innovative solutions to a range of instructional challenges. With the help of an expert panel, the Foundation reviews the community’s top selection and gives cash awards for the best ideas. To date, more than 9,350 individuals have joined the C2i community.


Proposed solutions for the gaming challenge will be accepted from Jan. 23 through March 5, 2012. To submit or to review, comment, or vote on solutions, participants must register on the Department of Education’s Portal.


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