Awards Gala

Educators Shine at the 2018 NEA Foundation Gala

The NEA Foundation 2018 Awards Gala (Full program)
The NEA Foundation 2018 Awards Gala

Awards Gala

  • California Casualty Group Shot
  • Horace Mann Awardees
  • Clemente Music Rocks
  • Harriet, Buck, and Sharon
  • gala1


The 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, watch student and guest performances, and hear the stories of the educators we honor.

And the winner is...

The winner of the NEA Member Benefits Award was 12th grade language arts educator Bobbie Cavnar of Belmont, North Carolina (second from right). Pictured with Bobbie are (from left to right) Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of the NEA Member Benefits; Mark Jewell, President, North Carolina Association of Educators; and Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation.

When the nation's top educators come together, magic happens.

The 2018 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, held on February 9th in Washington, D.C., was a celebration of the power of innovation, artistry, and teacher leadership.

Jazz virtuoso Cyrus Chestnut demonstrated the rare ability to generate percussive soul from the piano, and dancer Charles “Lil Buck” Riley reinvented the way we think about dance. Educator Shanna Peeples moved and inspired us with her speech about the power of teaching, and the students of Clemente Music Rocks! brought us to our feet with their rockin' performance.

Multi-talented host Debbie Allen, an actress, dancer, director, choreographer, and executive producer, helped the more than 900 guests and over 1400 live stream viewers cheer on the 38 educators who received the 2018 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence recipients.

Five finalists also received the 2018 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and $10,000.

In the evening’s nail-biting finale, Bobbie Cavnar, a 12th grade language arts educator from Belmont, NC, took home the top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000!

Watch the video featuring Bobbie that premiered during the gala.

The NEA Foundation also recognized the American Indian College Fund for their work to support Native American students on the path to college graduation, changing outcomes not only for individuals but for communities. The American Indian College Fund received the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education.

Miss any of these moments? See all of the top tweets from public education’s big night or re-watch the full event in our livestream at the top of this page.

Want some keepsakes of your own? View and purchase photos from the night.

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 America, California Casualty, Horace Mann, American Fidelity, First National Bank of Omaha, NEA Member Benefits, and Southwest.

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