Awards Gala

Awards Gala

  • Resistance Revival Chorus
  • HM Awardees
  • California Casualty Awardees
  • Cicely Woodard and Beth Brown
  • FunkyWunks
  • 50th Signage


Our annual event is always an evening filled with great talent, inspiration, surprise, laughter and maybe even a few tears. Every year, we’re thrilled to celebrate educators, applaud student and guest performances, and learn more about the excellent educators who we honor.

2019 Gala

On February 8, the NEA Foundation honored educators from across the country, rang in our 50th anniversary year, and celebrated the promise of public education for all of America’s students.

The Resistance Revival Chorus moved us with their music and the Funkywunks delighted us with their dance.

Our hosts for the evening were renowned actor, director, poet and musician Malcolm Jamal-Warner and award-winning speaker, author, and philanthropist Soledad O’Brien. Together they helped the more than 900 guests and hundreds of livestream viewers cheer on the 46 educators who received the 2019 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence.

Of those 46 educators, five finalists also received the 2019 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and $10,000.

In the evening’s thrilling finale, Cicely Woodard, an 8th grade mathematics educator at Freedom Middle School in Franklin, TN, took home the top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000!


Watch the video featuring Cicely Woodard that premiered during the gala.

The NEA Foundation also recognized EF Education First for their leadership in international education with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education.

We were pleased to honor Minnesota educator Luke Merchlewitz with the 2019 Harriet Sanford Award for Distinguished Global Learning. The award was created in recognition of outgoing President and CEO, Harriet Sanford, for her fourteen years of service in support of educators across the country. The award recognizes an alumnus of the NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship who has demonstrated sustained commitment to global learning, both through his or her teaching practice and through ongoing engagement with the Foundation’s community of Global Learning Fellows.

Miss any of these moments? See all of the top tweets from public education’s big night and view your favorite shots from the celebration.

We greatly appreciate your generous support to help make the gala the perfect evening of celebrating educators!

A special thanks to our corporate gala sponsors at the Genius and Sage levels, including Bank of AmericaCalifornia CasualtyHorace Mann, NEA Member Benefits, American Fidelity, First National Bank of Omaha, and Southwest.

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