Foundation Voices, Stories from the Field

Foundation Update – March 2021


Virtual Gala Celebrates Public Education in Style!

Educators’ big night was one to remember! More than 1,100 educators and public education advocates tuned in virtually to celebrate the achievements of outstanding educators from across the country at the NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on Feb. 12. Casey Keyser (pictured below), a third-grade elementary school teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary School in Frederick, Md., received the top honor, the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence. Learn more about Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence educators Amy Gallaway, Leila Kubesch, Sara Medalen, and Takeru Nagayoshi here, who also were honored at the Gala.

The night was filled moments of inspiration and joy with the program being hosted by a familiar face, Byron Pitts, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline. Along with seeing and hearing from so many powerful educator voices, viewers also enjoyed knockout performances from Step Afrika, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and the Resistance Revival Chorus.

During the program46 outstanding educators were recognized at the Gala. The California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence awardees were nominated by peers for their dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development, attention to diversity, and advocacy for fellow educators. The NEA Foundation also honored the late Allison Ranelle Brown for her tireless work to support children and civil rights. If you missed the live show or simply want to re-live the magic of the evening, view the full show here.

The NEA Foundation would like to extend our gratitude to our major Gala sponsors. With their support, we are able to ensure that our awardees receive the accolades they deserve.

Thank you to California Casualty, First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO), Horace Mann, American Fidelity, Bank of America and NEA Member Benefits for supporting the absolute best in public education!


Foundation Builds Strategic and Programs Expertise with Two Hires

The NEA Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of Elizabeth G. Schneider and LaTanya L. Dixon to our staff. Both Schneider, chief officer for strategic initiatives, and Dixon, senior program officer, will play critical roles in the Foundation’s work to promote greater equity, excellence, and opportunity in public education nationwide. Elizabeth will play a key role in the Foundation’s development of new partnerships, policy and strategic initiatives, and she will lead the Foundation’s grantmaking to advance the very best in public education. LaTanya will primarily focus on the Foundation’s new community schools initiative, supporting educators and educational partnerships increasing educational equity and opportunity across the American South.

Learn more about Elizabeth and LaTanya here.


Global Fellows Continue Legacy of Collaboration Through Alumni Network

Last fall, the Foundation was thrilled to establish the Global Learning Fellowship Alumni Network in an effort to bring together the knowledge, expertise and experiences of the hundreds educators who have completed the Global Learning Fellowship. In October, the group gathered for a virtual reunion and kickoff convening, where they were joined by an international panel of educators from China, Brazil, South Africa and Peru that spoke about teaching in a virtual setting during pandemic and how global learning plays a critical role in finding success.

A Global Learning Advisory Council of 15 past fellows is actively engaged in efforts to strengthen the GLF program and program partnerships, and to engage the GLF alumni community. The council will be led by three outstanding educators and past fellows Al Rabanera, Ed.D., (2016/17), Noah Zeichner (2017/18), and Makisha Rogers (2019/20).

Join the fellows on Zoom on March 9, 2021 at 7 p.m. EST for the first of a series of three Global Learning Workshops. This first session titled “Global Learning at a Distance”, will feature practical tips for how to bring a global perspective to remote learning. Facilitators will share lessons from their own classrooms and you will have an opportunity to swap ideas with educators from around the country in breakout rooms. Teachers of all subjects and grade levels are welcome. Register here today!


Foundation Voices Support for Community Schools Approach to Public Education

Now, more than ever, various education stakeholders are acknowledging the role of community-wide partnerships in educational equity and excellence in public schools. One evidence-based partnership strategy is the community school, which integrates academic, medical, dental, mental health, nutrition, afterschool enrichment, and family services into one neighborhood hub. To support the need and demand for this approach in the South, the NEA Foundation recently launched its Southern Regional Partnership for Community Schools.

Additionally, to lift educator interest in community schools, the NEA Foundation has joined other national, state and local organizations in supporting the recent Coalition for Community Schools’ letter to Congress urging that community schools be an allowable use of future COVID-19 relief funds and passage of the the Full-Service Community Schools Expansion Act..That legislation would increase the existing federal investment of $30 million for full-service community schools to $500 million in community schools for FY 2021 and increase the funding to $1 billion by FY 2025. As there are only around 5,000 community schools in the nation and the existing federal full-service community school grant only reaches 54 communities, the NEA Foundation believes the legislation is critical to the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the educational inequities the pandemic has exacerbated.

Foundation Taps Trusted Educators to Inform New Strategic Work

New this year, the Foundation has convened a group of educators, representing K-12 schools from all across the country, to provide their perspectives, insights, and reflections on current and potential programs. The NEA Foundation Advisors are led by Monica Washington, a member of the Foundation’s Board and the 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year. The Advisors were appointed from a pool of educators who have had a connection to the Foundation at some point and demonstrated dedication and passion for creating schools that work for all students. The Foundation looks forward to a long term partnership with these Advisors as it collectively searches for new ways to assist public educators.

“I leave each meeting of the Advisors with a renewed excitement for the possibilities for our work,” Washington said. “Their commitment to strong public education is boundless. They are willing to look at issues from all angles and are generous with their innovative suggestions. Their voices are essential to our strategic consideration of programming that best supports the mission to prepare each of America’s children to learn and thrive in a world that changes every day.”

The advisors have already begun providing reflections on programmatic concepts, progress and outcomes as the Foundation works to create effective and strategic programming.

Educator Finds Creative Ways to Engage Students Virtually

With Help of COVID-19 Grant

At the onset of the pandemic and the transition to virtual learning, Joyce Click, who teaches choir at North Central High School in Indianapolis, realized how challenging it would be to keep students engaged. After realizing some students thrived more during individual instruction than they did in their regular choir class setting, she set out to create more opportunities and to find strategies that were fun and that all could participate in.

After applying for and receiving a NEA Foundation COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant, Joyce gained access to online tools such as Choral Tracks, which helped to bridge the instruction gap and provided learning files of songs they studied as a group. The grant also supported video editing services that helped her combine individual student videos into a final performance.

“The parents of the students were very thrilled to see that their students were still singing and dancing and participating in something they love and the responses to the final product videos were so inspiring,” Click said. “The students learned while having fun and were proud of the end product.”
To see the final product, check out their performance of “All to Soon,” the first song the mixed choir learned completely using the virtual learning files.


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