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In the News


Press Releases

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.


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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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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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