New Jersey Educator Top Honoree at the NEA Foundation Awards Gala

Danielle Kovach (above) accepts The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence.


On Friday, February 10, at our 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. Kovach was selected from five Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipients, who received special recognition at the gala and $10,000 each.

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 awards by the New Jersey Education Association. She was one of 35 public school educators nominated by their state education associations who were honored. Kovach’s award was the evening’s finale.


In addition to the outstanding educators, the NEA Foundation 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.


The NEA Foundation also 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.


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


See photos from the event below:


The Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence Finalists (L to R: Jonathan Gillentine, Lisa Esquibel, Cara Haney, Danielle Kovach, Jeff Peneston) joined by Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of the NEA Foundation (far left); Elizabeth Oliver-Farrow, Board of Directors Chair for the NEA Foundation; and Peter Heckman, CEO of the Horace Mann Educators Corporation (far right).


Danielle Kovach (middle) is presented with the evening's top honor. She is joined by (L to R) Barbara Keshishian, NJEA President; Gary Phoebus, President & CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Elizabeth Oliver-Farrow, Board of Directors Chair for the NEA Foundation; Danielle Kovach; Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of NEA Foundation; John Stocks, NEA Executive Director; and Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President.


Will Allen, Founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc. accepts The Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education.


Jeannie Oakes, Director of the Educational Opportunity and Scholarship Programs, accepts The NEA Foundation Award for Philanthropy in Public Education on behalf of Ford Foundation.


Dominique Dawes, three-time Olympic gymnast, motivational speaker, and hosts introduces the Howard University Drummers.


Anaia Cayode, fifth grader at Rebecca M. Johnson Elementary School in Springfield, MA, performs an original dance.

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