Awards Gala

The NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools and of the unique bonds that educators and students share.


Janet Woodward

Garfield High School, Seattle, WA
Grades 9-12, History
2012, Spring

To understand the importance of Seattle’s International District in the displacement of Japanese Americans during World War II, Mrs. Woodward and Mr. Lovre will lead a school wide common book project. Garfield High School students and faculty will read the novel ... more »

Christy Nemeth

Troy School, North Troy, VT
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Mrs. Nemeth and Mrs. Boutin will introduce a “grow lab” in their kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. Students will study and monitor the evolution of various plants by planting, cultivating, and harvesting multiple species. Throughout the project, ... more »

Kristene Newcomb

W. Charles Akins High School, Austin, TX
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2012, Spring

Using tablets equipped with reading, writing, and behavior documentation applications, W. Charles Akins High School Social Behavioral Skills (SSBS) students will improve their reading and writing achievement, behavioral choices, and social skills in academic settings. ... more »

Rebecca Farrow

Siegel High School, Murfreesboro, TN
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Spring

Siegel High School agriculture students will gain experience in water conservation techniques by designing and planting a riparian buffer along a local creek. Students will assess the need for reducing runoff and increasing infiltration for a limestone dominated ... more »

Christine Boring

Northgate Middle/Senior High School, Pittsburgh, PA
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Organic chemistry students at Northgate High School will enhance laboratory learning through the incorporation of iPads in the lab setting. Tablet simulations will portray volatile chemical reactions and molecular interactivity and allow students to visualize molecules ... more »

Matthew McKenry

Chambersburg Area High School, Chambersburg, PA
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Spring

Mr. McKenry will implement an “Adopt-a-Stream” classroom project in order to improve student achievement in genetic and ecology lessons and foster a conservation ethic in students. Students will take care of and monitor a local stream in order to determine ... more »

Sherm Koons

Washington County Career Center, Marietta, OH
Grades 9-12, English
2012, Spring

To assist students in fully developing the cultural literacy necessary to excel in AP English, Mr. Koons will introduce Kindle Fires in the classroom. The tablets will provide students with dictionary search functions that will enable them to annotate unfamiliar ... more »

Trudy Giasi

Hilltonia Middle School, Columbus, OH
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

Hilltonia Middle School educators and students will participate in the “Indoor Gardens” project as the initial step in creating a foundation for improving student literacy and achievement. The educators will integrate learning through the use of hydroponic ... more »

Charles Steinbower

William K. Willis High School, Columbus, OH
Grades 9-12, Literature
2012, Spring

Mr. Steinbower will attend the National Council for Teachers of English Assembly on Literature for Adolescents Conference to learn methods in which to incorporate popular young adult literature into classroom lessons. Upon completing the conference, Mr. Steinbower and ... more »

Audrey Gottlieb

Edward J. Milliken Technical Center, Oakdale, NY
Grades 9-12, Physical Education
2012, Spring

To learn about the benefits of community service and personal health, Ms. Gottlieb and Mr. Audiino will lead a group of students in becoming certified personal fitness trainers. Participating students will visit other schools and design lessons to teach fellow students ... more »

Cathleen Morreale

University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY
Higher Education, Social Studies
2012, Spring

Dr. Morreale will present “Community Resources,” a multidisciplinary service learning course that will engage students in their living and learning communities. Through critical reflection, students will be provided with international, national, and local ... more »

Miyo Tubridy

The Renaissance Charter School, Jackson Heights, NY
Grades K-5, English
2012, Spring

Ms. Tubridy will introduce “Poets for Change,” a personal inquiry and poetry project that will use poetry and research as a vehicle from promoting change in students’ lives. Senior ELA students will study the form and craft of poetry and learn ... more »

Ariana Butler

PS 327 Dr. Rose B. English School, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

Ms. Butler will implement a digitized interactive curriculum to deliver personalized lesson plans and homework assignments to students. The system will manage all elements of teaching, learning, and assessment while allowing Ms. Butler to remain at the center of ... more »

Jacqueline Clary

Lebanon High School, Lebanon, NH
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

“Community Wellness through Digital Art” will expand Lebanon High School’s art offerings to include the use of digital tools. Ms. Clary and her colleagues will expand students’ technology resources and provide a diverse group of student artists a ... more »

Jessica Cole

Magnolia Middle School, Meridian, MS
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2012, Spring

Through the “Pass Path to Math Achievement” project, students will meet the demands of Magnolia Middle School’s 21st century technology goals. Mrs. Cole and Mrs. Webb will appeal to students’ enthusiasm for technology to improve their math ... more »

Katie Thompson

Watertown Mayer Middle School, Watertown, MN
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

Mrs. Thompson will introduce iPads into her language arts classes to help better meet students’ needs as they improve their speaking, listening, viewing, and media literacy skills. Students will engage in differentiated learning projects and work in collaborative ... more »

Nicole Estes

Maple Elementary School, West Bloomfield, MI
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Spring

Mrs. Estes and Mrs. Miller will use iPads to improve ESL and Title I student achievement in reading and writing. Conferences between educators and individual students will be used to record student writing samples both digitally and observationally. Educators will use ... more »

Kate Fanelli

Beacon Day Treatment, River Rouge, MI
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Spring

To increase student understanding of math and science, Ms. Fanelli and Mr. Wachtel will work with students to collect data in laboratory experiments, analyze the data, describe mathematical phenomena, and design experiments to explore self directed, open ... more »

Elizabeth Joki

JFK Middle School, Hudson, MA
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

JFK Middle School students will participate in the conservation of the Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species in eastern Massachusetts. In collaboration with wildlife biologists, students will raise and care for hatchlings which will be released upon maturation ... more »

Valerija Ziglejeva

Pocomoke Middle School, Pocomoke City, MD
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

To address varying readiness levels and interests, educators at Pocomoke Middle School will introduce iPads in classrooms to provide instructional methods that draw on students’ interests. Educators will use instant feedback to prepare for lessons and modify ... more »

Jennie Lewis

Russell Area Technology Center, Russell, KY
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Spring

To encourage students to become technology leaders, educators at Russell Area Technology Center will implement the “SMART Classroom Suite.” Through the use of SMART boards, students will work collaboratively on educational games and discussion questions. ... more »

Megan Marie Dennis

South Ripley Elementary School, Versailles, IN
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

Mrs. Dennis and Mrs. Gilpin will introduce a project based learning experience through which students will determine the best alternative energy source to use on school property. Students will research different “green” energy methods, draft informative ... more »

Sharman Galezewski

Jane Addams Elementary School, Palatine, IL
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2012, Spring

To foster student creativity, Mrs. Galezewski will encourage elementary students to participate in the creative process through musical composition. Students will first observe educators composing music and then will write collaborative compositions through the use of ... more »

Michelle Liberio

Thornwood High School, South Holland, IL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Spring

Mrs. Liberio and Mrs. Hoekstra will introduce touch screen technology to encourage increased academic participation and communication by special needs students diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s, nonverbal learning disorders, and learning difficulties. Students will ... more »

Sue Spencer

Washington Community Schools, Washington, IA
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2012, Spring

To increase the reading proficiency of underperforming and special education students, Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Kinsinger will expand the “System 44 Reading” program. Through the program, students will be exposed to small group instruction, independent reading ... more »

Beth Robinson

Odessa Elementary School, New Port Richey, FL
Grades K-5, Special Education
2012, Spring

Mrs. Robinson and her colleagues will introduce learning activities that pair students with autism with basic education students. The project will serve to enhance academic learning and communication and social skills for both groups. Students will gain a ... more »

Sarah Johnson

Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno, CA
Higher Education, Special Education
2012, Spring

Special education teachers will use iPads to increase student learning and collaboration among educators. Through a hands-on approach to community based learning, educators will present practical lessons on social and communication skills. Students will additionally ... more »

Cecilia Arellano

Stagg Street Elementary School, Van Nuys, CA
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Spring

Through the “Science is Real Life” project, Ms. Arellano and her colleagues will bring grade level standards to life by introducing students to the Los Angeles Conservation Corp’s Sea Lab. Students will see the water cycle in action through direct ... more »

Laura Feldt

Frank West Elementary School, Bakersfield, CA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2012, Spring

Mrs. Feldt, Mrs. Cannon, and a team of colleagues will strengthen math lessons by teaching the “Han-5 System of Mathematics,” a program with differing strategies for visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners to master basic math concepts. Students will learn ... more »

Lauri Tayman

Liberty Elementary School, Santa Maria, CA
Grades K-5, English
2012, Spring

Second grade teachers at Liberty Elementary School will expose students to interactive hands-on visual projects to improve student understanding of the school’s comprehensive language arts program. Educators will create and provide interactive vocabulary ... more »

Georgia Berry

Bartlett High School, Anchorage, AK
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Spring

To improve student reading and writing proficiency, educators at Bartlett High School and its feeder elementary and middle schools will implement the “Step Up to Writing” program as a school wide initiative. The cohesive writing program will provide students ... more »

Tammy Loper

Denton Middle School, Mobile, AL
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Spring

To spark student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, Mrs. Loper and Ms. Williams will introduce “Pathway to STEM,” a hands-on technology project.  The project will combine local and state standards from all core content areas to ... more »

Jennifer Nelson

Valley View Elementary School, Ashwaubenon, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Through Bringing Everyone Together with Technology, Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Johnson will emphasize language acquisition and increased cultural awareness in their students. Educators will infuse 21st century skills throughout the curriculum by incorporating relevance and ... more »

Christine Prahl

Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School, Alexandria, VA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

To reduce student risk factors and promote student achievement, Mrs. Prahl and Ms. Haygood will implement a parent involvement project to train parents in specific reading and math strategies. Parents will participate in learning workshops taught by primary level ... more »

Lisa Carpenter

Burrillville High School, Harrisville, RI
Grades 9-12, English
2012, Winter

Mrs. Carpenter and Mr. Siner will implement the Salon approach to teaching English language learners, in which educators will teach critical theory to students to guide student discussion about text. Educators will teach in a way that utilizes an informal approach to ... more »

David Daugherty

Forest City Regional Elementary School, Forest City, PA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

To address the need for student improvement in science, language arts, and mathematics, a team of educators at Forest City Regional Elementary School will enhance their students’ 21st century learning environment by incorporating tablets into every classroom. This ... more »

Jeannine Macrory

Cheyenne Middle School, Edmond, OK
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Winter

Mrs. Macrory and Mrs. Wolf will create the Cheyenne Outdoor Exploratorium. This learning station will provide an environment where students will conduct experiments and complete research and field studies. The station will be composed of gardens, a greenhouse, alluvial ... more »

Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl

AC Reynolds High School, Asheville, NC
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mr. Kurtz-Nicholl and Mrs. Yurkovich will lead the implementation of iClickers in social studies classrooms at AC Reynolds High School. Educators will build learning communities that focus on common assessments, essential questions, and ways to compare classes. ... more »

Sarah Fish

Brentwood Elementary School, Raleigh, NC
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Ms. Fish and Mrs. Mahone will promote 21st century data collection and learning in early childhood classrooms at Brentwood Elementary. The team will utilize electronic portfolios and real time photographic and video recordings of student learning to promote both data ... more »

Michael Rozalski

Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
Higher Education, Literature
2012, Winter

Dr. Rozalski and Mr. Miller will work with a team of educators to collect, review, and teach literature that will develop students’ social skills. The team will develop, present, and evaluate bibliotherapy lessons in an alternative education setting. The team will ... more »

Amanda Zullo

Saranac Lake High School, Saranac Lake, NY
Grades 9-12, Science
2012, Winter

Chemistry, earth science, and biology teachers at Saranac Lake High School will facilitate classroom learning by using collaborative teaching techniques. Students, teachers, and teaching assistants will form a learning atmosphere to promote the gain of content knowledge ... more »

Paula Conrad

Wahoo Public Schools, Wahoo, NE
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Mrs. Conrad will implement a leveled literacy intervention, which is a research-based, systematic reading program that will enhance Wahoo Public Schools' Title 1 program to accelerate reading proficiency. The intervention, which will be introduced in the elementary ... more »

Faye Johnson

Rogers Middle School, Rogers, MN
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2012, Winter

Ms. Johnson and Mr. Radermacher will assist special needs students in becoming involved in their Individualized Education Plans. Students in the program will learn to identify and describe their personal disabilities through self evaluation and be able to identify their ... more »

Sara Heideman

Park High School, Cottage Grove, MN
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

To promote global thinking and strengthen students’ reading and writing skills, Mrs. Heideman and Ms. Middendorf will instruct their students to read narrative, nonfiction text based on young adults from a variety of geographic areas. Students will build and ... more »

Hannah Pontius

Posen Consolidated Schools, Posen, MI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

To encourage students to meet Michigan Merit Curriculum standards in visual, performing, and applied arts, Ms. Pontius and Mr. Budnick will outfit a lab for industrial arts students at Posen Consolidated Schools. The educators will assist students in choosing personal ... more »

Brian Gilman

Berkshire Trail Elementary School, Cummington, MA
Grades K-5, Arts
2012, Winter

Students will enhance their understanding of math and social science concepts by designing and fabricating ceramic tile quilts. The quilt murals will illustrate local social, cultural, and natural history, and will also link local events to social and cultural histories ... more »

Kelly Corbett

Broadmeadow Elementary, Needham, MA
Grades K-5, Science
2012, Winter

Ms. Corbett and Mrs. Rizzuto will lead an inquiry-based learning unit designed to encourage the development of students’ critical thinking skills and science content knowledge. Students will use these materials in conjunction with science notebooks to construct ... more »

Cindy Norell

Greencastle Elementary School, Silver Spring, MD
Grades K-5, Arts
2012, Winter

Creating Original Opera (COO) participants from two schools will work collaboratively throughout the school year to create, produce, and perform original dramatic operatic works. Using Skype cameras, web based portfolios, Promethean Board technology, artist visits, and ... more »

Lee Pernice

Derby Middle School, Derby, KS
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2012, Winter

Through iLove Math Again, Mrs. Pernice and Mrs. Habermehl will introduce math centers in their classrooms that incorporate technology through the use of iPads. Educators will focus on students’ levels of engagement and interest to improve student achievement. ... more »

Watch the event!

On February 12, 2016, educators from across the country will trade their classrooms for a night on stage among more than 850 national education leaders and supporters in Washington, D.C.


Watch the live stream, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET), right here, to see 42 public school educators receive the 2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, recognizing their innovation in teaching and advocacy for the profession. 


7:30 PM


  • Opening remarks and performances by Furia Flamenca and classical guitarist Torcuato Zamora


8:20 PM


  • Student performance by English Language Learners who participated in a NEA Foundation-funded, high school theater program in Annandale, Virginia


  • 2016 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence presented


8:55 PM


  • Performance by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City


  • 2016 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence (continued)


  •  2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence


9:45 PM


  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund accepts the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education


  • One educator wins the evening’s top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000!



These five educators — Dirk Andrews (WY), Debra McDonald (OH), Mohsen Ghaffari (UT), Heather LaBarbara (KY), and Pam

Wells (SD) — are all finalists for the evening’s top award.


Five of those educators will also receive the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and $10,000.


And stay tuned for the evening’s highly-anticipated finale, when one of the five educators above will be announced the winner of the top award and $25,000!



The NEA Foundation will also present the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for its efforts to address a growing population of Hispanic American students.



Esai Morales, the award-winning actor who has appeared in the biopic “La Bamba,” the HBO series “The Brink,” and can currently be seen on CBS’ “Criminal Minds”,” will host the night’s celebration.


He’ll also help us cheer on student performers, including English Language Learners from a NEA Foundation-funded, high school theater program, and others.


Don’t miss any of these special moments! Tune in, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET).


Prepare to be entertained by host, Esai Morales, an

accomplished actor and co-founder of the National

Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.


Watch the event!

Did you miss the live stream of the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 13, 2015? Now, you can watch the event in its entirety right here!


As one of the most prestigious awards events in public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala attracts more than 800 national education leaders and supporters to honor these educators each year in Washington, D.C. 


Did you attend the gala? View and purchase photos from the event.


Celebrating 39 educators from across the country

This year, 39 educators selected by their peers received the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. In addition to these awards, the following top honors were presented.


Who won the evening’s top honor?

Terri Butts, a curriculum effectiveness specialist for the Richland 2 Child Development Center in Columbia, SC, and a member of the South Carolina Education Association, received the evening's top honor: The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000. This award recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession.


Butts and four other educators also received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. These five educators were finalists for the evening's top award.


Watch Terri Butts' acceptance speech below. 




Photo (left to right): Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Terri Butts; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation




Five educators receive top awards

These five extraordinary educators from across the country received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence, and found themselves finalists for the evening’s top award. And their students have already benefitted. Each class received digital arts training from Scena Media to produce a video, which premiered at the gala, to honor their award-winning teachers.


Photo (left to right): John Stocks, NEA Executive Director; Crystal Brown; Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Awardee Allison Riddle (UT); Awardee Anna Baldwin (MT); Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of the Horace Mann Educators Corporation; Awardee Crystal Williams Gordon (LA); Awardee Terri Butts (SC); Awardee Richard Erickson (WI)


Watch all of the student-made videos below. 


Beloved children’s book author, the late Walter Dean Myers, and author and illustrator son, Christopher Myers honored

The NEA Foundation also presented award-winning children’s author, Walter Dean Myers, posthumously, and his son, award-winning illustrator and author, Christopher Myers, with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, honoring their lifelong contributions to children’s literature. 


The father-son duo collaborated on stories for and about children of color who don’t see themselves reflected in children’s literature. According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, only 93 of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 were about black people. In an op-ed for the New York Times in March 2014, Walter Dean Myers wrote, “What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?”


Their collaborative works include “Jazz,” a winner of the Coretta Scott King award for illustration, “Harlem,” a Caldecott Honor book, “Blues Journey,” and “We are American: a tribute from the heart,” to name a few.


This award recognizes individuals and organizations for their lifelong commitment to advancing public education and is typically presented to those who work outside the field. Awardees have included former President Bill Clinton, Title IX advocate Billie Jean King, and Sesame Workshop.

In honor of Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers, and their wonderful family, First Book dedicated a gift of 5,000 brand new books to children in need across the country. First Book is a social enterprise that currently serves more than 155,000 programs and classrooms serving children in need ages 0-18 years of age. First Book hopes that everyone serving children in need will join their network and continue to grow the Myers' family legacy of high quality, diverse content for all children.


Watch Christopher Myers' acceptance speech.  


 Photo (left to right): Donna Meacham Blackman, Member of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Crystal Brown, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Honoree Christopher Myers, award-winning illustrator and author; Lily Eskelsen García, NEA President; Stephen Eulie, Executive Vice President Consumer Banking of First National Bank of Omaha



Hosted by actress and activist Anne-Marie Johnson

Anne-Marie Johnson, who most recently appeared in the TNT series, "Murder in the First," and is best known for her role as Althea Tibbs on the hit television series, "In the Heat of the Night," and as a cast member of the sketch comedy series, "In Living Color," hosted the event.  


Johnson helped celebrate exceptional public school educators alongside more than 50 student performers— many of whom are past NEA Foundation gala stars, invited back for an encore.


Photo (left to right): Awardee Allison Riddle (UT); Awardee Anna Baldwin (MT); Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of the Horace Mann Educator Corporation; Anne-Marie Johnson, actress and activist; Awardee Crystal Williams Gordon (LA); Awardee Terri Butts (SC); Awardee Richard Erickson (WI)


Students take the stage for return performances

From Montgomery County, Maryland, the Sogo African Rhythm Ensemble of 35 drummers and dancers from Forest Knolls Elementary, who performed at last year’s gala, took the stage under the direction of educator, Lou Persic.


Also returning this year was Blessed Sheriff, a young poet, who performed two original poems with last year’s gala host, Tony Award-winning actress, Phylicia Rashad, of “The Cosby Show” fame. Sheriff performed her tribute to the Walter Dean Myers alongside Joseph Morag, a violinist and first chair and concertmaster of the New York Youth Symphony. A second tribute to Myers came from young writers from Lee County, Florida, who performed an interpretation of Walter Dean Myers’ acclaimed book, “The Story of the Three Kingdoms.”


Memorable performances also include Brooklyn-based singer and Princeton musicology doctoral student, Cory Hunter, who is lead soloist of the Boys Choir of Harlem, as well as the Counterpoints, directed by Michael Raunik, from Indianapolis, Indiana, who have been ranked the nation’s top concert show choir.


Watch Blessed Sheriff and Joseph Morag's performance below.


Photo (left to right): Cory Hunter, student performer; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Blessed Sheriff, student performer


A special thank you to all who helped us celebrate the best in public education! Save the date for next year’s gala on Feb. 12, 2016.