Foundation Voices

EDVentures | June Foundation Update

EDVentures | June Foundation Update

Educators and Public Education Champions Shine at Salute to Excellence in Education

On May 3, The NEA Foundation celebrated educators and supporters of public education at the 2024 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala.

Hosted annually by The NEA Foundation, The Salute honors the critical contributions of public school educators to students’ lives and communities and the important contributions of organizations making a positive impact on public education. The event was held at The Anthem in Washington, D.C., and included an awards ceremony, original spoken word poetry, live music performances, documentary screenings, and more.

Hosted by actress and comedian Lisa Ann Walter, best known for her roles in The Parent Trap and Abbott Elementary, the evening concluded with the announcement of Kimberly Johnson of Auburn, Alabama as this year’s recipient of the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence. This highly anticipated award was presented by NEA Member Benefits President and CEO Leona Lindner and came with $25,000.

Enjoy some of our favorite photos from this special evening, and be sure to check out our YouTube playlist of highlights or the full recording of the event, available on our website.

Educator Feature: Transforming a Library into a STEAM Learning Lab

For Aaron Burke, a veteran educator with 25 years of experience, fostering curiosity and wonder in his students has always been a top priority. As the librarian at an elementary school in Beacon, a small city on the Hudson River in New York, Burke saw an opportunity to transform his school’s library into a hub of hands-on exploration and discovery.

One way he has made this vision into a reality is with the addition of a stream table, made possible by an NEA Foundation Student Success Grant. This innovative piece of equipment allowed students to simulate natural river phenomena such as erosion and deposition, witnessing firsthand how water flow can destabilize nearby structures, and how river banks can become more secure with the addition of certain plant life. From building landscapes to exploring environmental resiliency, the stream table became a means by which students could better understand their surroundings and explore issues pertaining to climate change.

Burke likes to think of the library, which is full of a range of hands-on tools and activities related to STEAM subjects, as a dynamic learning environment akin to a “mad scientist lab.” With the school within walking distance of the Hudson River, Burke also organizes regular field trips to the river, where students gain real-world access to the concepts they explore using the stream table.

Reflecting on the impact of the grant, Burke emphasized the importance of play in education, noting how it fosters problem-solving skills and deepens students’ understanding of complex concepts. The stream table not only brought the river into the classroom but also served as a catalyst for meaningful learning experiences. In the words of one fourth-grade student, “When we enter the library, it is like a new world.”

Grant applications for Fall 2024 open on June 15.

Award-Winning Educator Brings Cultural Exchange and Teacher Prize Celebration to His Native Gambia

As a heartwarming example of cross-cultural exchange and appreciation for educators, the inaugural Gambia Teacher Prize celebration took place in February 2024, drawing inspiration from The NEA Foundation’s Awards for Teaching Excellence (ATE). Founded by Alhassan Susso, a New York City public school educator and past ATE awardee, the Gambia Teacher Prize aimed to uplift and celebrate educators in Susso’s home country, The Gambia.

Partnering with the Gambia Ministry of Education, the Gambia Teachers’ Union, and the U.S. Embassy, Susso’s nonprofit organization, The Namie Foundation, established an awards program mirroring the format of The NEA Foundation’s educator awards program. The ceremony, attended by esteemed dignitaries and educators, marked a milestone in recognizing the invaluable contributions of teachers across The Gambia.

Beyond the accolades, the Gambia Teacher Prize facilitated a cultural exchange. With grant support from The NEA Foundation, 27 American educators journeyed to The Gambia to partake in the ceremony and engage in dialogue with their Gambian counterparts. These types of exchanges not only broaden perspectives but can also enrich teaching practices, fostering a globalized approach to education.

As Susso eloquently put it, “We fear what we do not understand.” Through stories and shared experiences, educators can bridge divides and cultivate empathy, shaping a brighter future for generations to come.

Exploring Global Perspectives: Highlights from the NEA Foundation Global Learning EdCamp

Educators from 30 countries recently gathered virtually for the NEA Foundation Global Learning EdCamp. This event, hosted by the Foundation, empowers educators to shape their own learning experiences emphasizing global perspectives.

President and CEO of The NEA Foundation Sara A. Sneed kicked off the event with remarks on the importance of global education. Keynote speaker Chris Dier, a 2023 Global Learning Fellow, shared insights from his experiences in South Africa, emphasizing the transformative power of global thinking in the classroom. Participants engaged in sessions driven by their peers, exploring topics like intercultural virtual exchanges and AI-enhanced learning.

Sponsor Spotlight: American Fidelity’s Commitment to Honoring Excellence in Education

The NEA Foundation is honored to partner with American Fidelity to promote the absolute best in public education. Founded on the idea of helping others, American Fidelity has been a trusted provider since 1960 of supplemental benefits products, serving individuals in various industries, including education. For over 60 years, American Fidelity has helped educators protect their finances and save for medical expenses and retirement.

In addition to the pivotal role it plays in providing benefits to educators, American Fidelity has further demonstrated its commitment to public education by generously supporting education programs both in its home state of Oklahoma and around the country.  For the past 18 years, the company has been a generous sponsor of The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education gala. At this annual event, the Foundation honors the remarkable achievements of its distinguished Awards for Teaching Excellence recipients and other champions of public education.

American Fidelity’s invaluable support helps the Foundation to recognize and celebrate extraordinary teachers for their invaluable contributions to students, school communities, and fellow educators. The generosity of American Fidelity also ensures that the Foundation can continue to equip educators with the essential tools and resources they need to foster growth and create opportunities for students and families.

The Foundation extends its heartfelt gratitude to American Fidelity for its generous ongoing support and their steadfast commitment to uplifting the essential work of our country ’s public-school educators.

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