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Maryland Educator Receives Top National Award for Teaching Excellence

Maryland Educator Receives Top National Award for Teaching Excellence


WASHINGTON — February 12, 2021 —The NEA Foundation awarded one of public education’s top honors to Casey Keyser, a third-grade elementary school teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary School in Frederick, Md., this evening at the NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala.

The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence, which comes with $25,000, was presented to Keyser by NEA Member Benefits President and CEO Gary Phoebus.

“Casey’s commitment to her students and to creating impactful learning experiences for them should inspire us all,” said Sara A. Sneed, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “She is as creative as she is passionate about helping her students to develop leadership skills, interact with powerful role models, and dream big. Casey exemplifies teaching excellence.”

Keyser has said that her goal is to help students be “the best that they can be.” Always thinking creatively, she created an after-school program called the Bow Tie Club, to inspire the next generation of African-American student leaders. Each week, the students wear their dress clothes and bow ties to welcome a guest speaker from the community. These guests have included prominent artists, educators, athletes, barbers, members of Congress, and physicians.

Also recognized as the 2020 Maryland Teacher of the Year, Keyser was nominated for the NEA Member Benefits Award by the Maryland State Education Association. She also was one of 46 public school educators selected by their state education associations to be honored at the gala with California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Of these 46, five educators are selected to receive Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, and $10,000. Keyser was one of the five Horace Mann Awards recipients, thereby eligible to receive the top NEA Member Benefits award.

Each Horace Mann Award recipient receives special recognition at the Gala. Along with Keyser, other Horace Mann Award recipients and finalists for the NEA Member Benefits Awards, included

• Amy Gallaway, a high school social studies educator at West Valley High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, nominated by NEA–Alaska;

• Sara Medalen, an elementary school English and math interventionist at Sunnyside Elementary School in Minot, North Dakota, nominated by North Dakota United;

• Leila Kubesch, an English as a second language and Spanish educator at Norwood City School in Norwood, Ohio, nominated by Ohio Education Association; and

• Takeru Nagayoshi, a high school English and resource educator at New Bedford High School in New Bedford, Massachusetts, nominated by Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Each year, the NEA Foundation presents its awards to exceptional public school educators and dedicated supporters of public education from across the country.

During the 2021 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, the Foundation also posthumously honored Allison R. Brown with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education for her accomplishments as an education justice champion.

The event was hosted by Emmy award-winning co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline, and ABC News’ chief national correspondent, Byron Pitts. It also featured a performance by Step Afrika and the Resistance Revival Chorus, both of which also recently performed during the U.S. Presidential Inaugural.


About the NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a national nonprofit and philanthropic organization that works in partnership with others to promote the very best in public education. Learn more, Facebook and Twitter.

About the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala
The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is a national celebration of public school educators and public schools. At this annual event, the Foundation recognizes and promotes educators’ excellence in teaching, attention to diversity, and advocacy for the profession. The NEA Foundation presents its awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, The Horace Mann Educators Corporation, California Casualty, and First National Bank of Omaha.. Other major sponsors of the event include American Fidelity, Bank of America, and Southwest Airlines.

Note to Editor: Please refer to us as The NEA Foundation. We never spell out the NEA part of our name.