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.


Denver Fowler

Licking Heights Central Middle School, Pataskala, OH
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2012, Winter

Mr. Fowler will attend the New and Aspiring School Leaders program at Harvard University. Through the program, Mr. Fowler will gain new tools, frameworks, leadership techniques, instructional practice techniques, and ideas to more effectively build and sustain learning ... more »

Mary Lyons

Morris Grove Elementary School, Chapel Hill, NC
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Ms. Lyons will attend the Reading and Writing Project at the Columbia University Teachers College. Through the program, Ms. Lyons will deepen her understanding of the implementation of effective reading workshops and the integration of the Common Core Curriculum. The ... more »

Jesse Applegate

M.S. 447, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mr. Applegate will read, "The Complete Learning Disabilities Handbook: Ready-to-Use Strategies and Activities for Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities," and attend the Learning Disabilities Association of America's annual conference in Chicago. Using the ... more »

Bryce Cahn

Tompkins Square Middle School, New York, NY
Grades 6-8, Science
2012, Winter

Mr. Cahn will take part in a year-long learning experience through the Mindful Education Institute. Through the study, Mr. Cahn will create student centered social and emotional learning curriculum and staff development strategies grounded in research-based ... more »

Kelly Swanson

Pinewood Elementary, Mounds View, MN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Ms. Swanson will embark on a six-week stay in Guatemala through Casa Xelaju’s Spanish Immersion Program. Through the program, Ms. Swanson will further her knowledge of Latin American culture and languages via experiences in schools, site visits, and a home stay ... more »

Katherine Hedrick

Greenville Middle School, Greenville, MI
Grades 6-8, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

To provide quality writing instruction for students at Greenville Middle School, Ms. Hedrick will attend a one-week internship at the Center for Teaching and Learning during which she will observe, discuss, and reflect on the teaching practices used by educators ... more »

Catherine Cushard

Susick Elementary School, Troy, MI
Grades K-5, English
2012, Winter

Ms. Cushard will attend the What’s Different about Teaching Reading to English Language Learners institute at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. Upon completion of the training Ms. Cushard will lead a study group that will equip colleagues with ... more »

Susan Hansen-Barber

Canyon Elementary Science Magnet School, Cataldo, ID
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Using curriculum from the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry, Mrs. Hansen-Barber and Mrs. Joslyn will facilitate ten professional study workshops for educators in the Wallace and Kellogg School Districts. The first five workshops will introduce teachers to the benefits ... more »

Bejanae Kareem

Parkside Elementary, Atlanta, GA
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Ms. Kareem will travel to a diverse, high performing school in Toronto, Ontario. While there, Ms. Kareem will investigate professional learning communities and parental involvement initiatives aimed at increasing student achievement. The strategies and knowledge gained ... more »

Brett Geier

University of South Florida–Polytechnic, Lakeland, FL
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2012, Winter

Dr. Geier and Mrs. Davis will implement professional development for K-12 administrators at the county school district level. The learning will aim to improve STEM concept knowledge for administrators as they evaluate educators teaching these concepts. The ... more »

Adina Alexandru

Glastonbury High School, Glastonbury, CT
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2012, Winter

Dr. Alexandru will conduct multiple sessions with foreign language teachers within her school district. The sessions will focus on curriculum development that will incorporate efficient interpretive reading strategies in daily instruction that will be reflected in all ... more »

Kevin Crosby

Independence High School, Bakersfield, CA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2012, Winter

Mr. Crosby will attend a workshop that will focus on the development of individualized instruction across all levels of student need using the Common Core Standards. Mr. Crosby will also attend various professional development strands that cover specific educational ... more »

Amber Lancaster

June Jordan School for Equity, San Francisco, CA
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2012, Winter

To improve her Spanish speaking skills to better communicate with Spanish speaking students and their parents, Ms. Lancaster will spend four weeks in intensive language classes in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Through small group classes, individual tutoring sessions, and ... more »

Kory Bootsma

Rancho Verde High School, Moreno Valley, CA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2012, Winter

Mrs. Bootsma and Mrs. Vansant will introduce vertically-teamed, collaborative AP social studies and AP English classes at Rancho Verde High School. Eight collaborative team teachers will be granted self initiated workshops that will enable them to vertically align both ... more »

Michelle Pauken

Rockwall High School, Rockwall, TX
Grades 9-12, Arts
2011, Fall

Dr. Pauken will travel to Belize, where she will experience archeological field work, contribute to ongoing research, and gain a deeper understanding of Mayan culture. She will work with archeologists and anthropologists, and will learn how to use the required tools and ... more »

Sharon Eanes

Double Eagle Elementary School, Albuquerque, NM
Grades K-5, Special Education
2011, Fall

Mrs. Eanes will attend the Davis Dyslexia Correction Methods, a training that will provide insight into how the dyslexic brain works.  At the four day training, Mrs. Eanes will learn theories, principles, and procedures regarding dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ... more »

Meredith Cummings

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AK
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Ms. Cummings and Ms. Parsons will participate in the mentoring program of the Journalism Education Association, which will enable them to provide ongoing training and support for new journalism teachers and advisers. Acting as mentors, Ms. Cummings and Ms. Parsons will ... more »

Erica Kogely

Hayward Elementary School, Sioux Falls, SD
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Using iPads, the speech therapy team at Hayward Elementary will enhance student motivation, improve collaboration among educators, and increase student productivity. The technology will bring speech and language therapy into classrooms that previously have not had access to ... more »

Hope Shirley

Central Elementary, Central, SC
Grades K-5, Science
2011, Fall

Mrs. Shirley and Ms. Forbes will introduce Plants, People, and Our Planet which will allow third and fourth grade students to explore the environmental factors that negatively affect plants and humans. Students will develop a garden and outdoor reading courtyard to ... more »

Katy Norris

Welsh Valley Middle School, Narberth, PA
Grades 6-8, Arts
2011, Fall

Eighth grade students from two diverse schools in the Lower Merion School District will collaborate on a yearlong service learning project through Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. Students will work collaboratively to explore social issues effecting ... more »

Eileen Wuthrick

Washington Elementary, Alliance, OH
Grades K-5, Special Education
2011, Fall

Ms. Wuthrick and Ms. Hall will incorporate iPads into the classroom so that students will identify, analyze, and comprehend issues inherent in diverse ecosystems. The learning will enhance students’ understanding of the ways in which living ecosystems function and the ... more »

Alana Chill

Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, Washington, DC
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2011, Fall

To improve student literacy and public speaking, Ms. Chill and Ms. Peck’s fourth grade students will host daily news programs for the entire school. The broadcasts will focus primarily on social studies themes, allowing students to report on both past and present ... more »

Susan Anglada Bartley

Franklin High School, Portland, OR
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

To address an influx of students at Franklin High School due to the closure of another school within the district, Mrs. Anglada Bartley and Ms. Garrett will expand the Advanced Scholar Program, which requires students to commit to taking four advance placement classes ... more »

Travis Anderson

Lawrence-Lawson Elementary School, Sparta, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Lawrence-Lawson Elementary students will become actively engaged in technology using iPod Touch devices. Feeding the 21st Century Learner with Technology will motivate students to increase their knowledge of reading and math skills while differentiating instruction to meet ... more »

Susan Persson

Barnet Elementary School, Barnet, VT
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Ms. Persson and Ms. Boardman will incorporate the use of laptop computers into their classrooms to support the integration of the arts and technology with the disciplines of science, language arts, and social studies. Student work in the core curriculum will connect with ... more »

Kimberly Foland

Spring Hill Elementary School, Knoxville, TN
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2011, Fall

Educators at Spring Hill Elementary will introduce Discover Intensive Phonics with the objective of helping at-risk students increase their decoding and reading skills. Ms. Foland and Mrs. Pena will implement the program and monitor improvements in students’ reading ... more »

Lani Banner

Hudson City Schools, Hudson, OH
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

The Hudson Appalachia Project will provide students with a service learning opportunity in rural Ohio. Students will participate in a week of service which includes volunteering at several nonprofit and educational organizations. Through classroom instruction and community ... more »

Ryan Harwood

Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2011, Fall

Through Connecting Cultures Across the World, students at Mendenhall Middle School will correspond with their peers in a sister school in Tema, Ghana. Students in each school will create videos about their school, town, region, and country. Video versions of ... more »

Adi Madden

Fairmount School, Hackensack, NJ
Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented
2011, Fall

Students will explore the realities of extreme poverty in their communities and at the global level through Eradicating Global Issues through 21st Century Technology. Students will identify latent issues and produce videos about the issues and ways to eradicate them. Mrs. ... more »

Patricia Piscetta

Belmont Middle School, Belmont, NH
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Mrs. Piscetta and Ms. West will upgrade Belmont Middle School’s Accelerated Reader Program with AR Enterprise, a web based application which will enhance their ability to reach all students. The program is designed to encourage independent reading and measure student ... more »

Jeff de Varona

Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy, Niles, MI
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2011, Fall

To increase student engagement and provide differentiation for students in math classes, Mr. de Varona and Mr. Watson will create a new course that integrates algebra and geometry and focuses on project based learning. Students will create and post high quality online ... more »

Celeste Cruse

Lawrence School, Falmouth, MA
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Ms. Cruse will lead a team of educators in the implementation of Kindles and eBooks at Lawrence School. The project will improve students’ ability to analyze and interpret text by allowing them to practice active reading comprehension strategies while developing ... more »

Beth Groeneman

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Bethesda, MD
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Through Building Bridges with Ecuador, Ms. Groeneman and Mrs. Lyddane will work with a team of student volunteers to give humanitarian services to indigenous people in Ecuador. Three service teams will provide healthcare, education, and community construction improvements. ... more »

Christopher Eldridge

Scarborough High School, Scarborough, ME
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2011, Fall

As part of a unit on culture and ethnocentrism, students in Mr. Eldridge’s sociology course will visit local ethnic restaurants, using food as a foundation for broader discussions of culture. Students will work with local chefs to prepare traditional meals of ... more »

Desiree Dufrene

Lockport Middle School, Lockport, LA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2011, Fall

Mrs. Dufrene and Mrs. Sevin will introduce the MyMathLab online program into eighth grade pre-algebra classes. The program will allow students to take control of their own learning as they work at their own pace and receive immediate feedback after completing assignments, ... more »

Melanie Belcher

Feds Creek Elementary School, Feds Creek, KY
Grades K-5, English
2011, Fall

Soaring Higher to Literacy Success will utilize a research based intervention program to help at-risk fourth and fifth graders accelerate their reading ability and apply decoding and comprehension strategies learned in reading class to other subjects. Mrs. Belcher and Mrs. ... more »

Brunilda Dickenson

Chestnut Elementary School for Science and Engineering, Kissimmee, FL
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

To enhance diversity and inclusion at Chestnut Elementary, Ms. Dickenson and Mrs. Carter will develop a school wide program to expose students to multiple cultures. Every month, students at each grade level will choose a different country to research and create digital ... more »

Janet Hughes

La Mirada Elementary School, San Ysidro, CA
Grades K-5, History
2011, Fall

La Mirada Elementary students will participate in historic reenactments to build background knowledge and key vocabulary related to California’s history. Students will be immersed with a tour of a seventeenth century clipper ship, a walk on paths used by Spanish ... more »

Sergio Villegas

Vintage High School, Napa, CA
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2011, Fall

To improve English language learners’ understanding of algebra, Mr. Villegas will lead an initiative to offer physics class as a support for ELL algebra students. In teaching algebra and physics in tandem, Mr. Villegas and Mr. Rutherford will transform the physics ... more »

Kary Towne

Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, South Burlington, VT
Grades 6-8, Education Support Professional
2011, Fall

Mrs. Towne will develop a hands-on, face-to-face training program that will enable school nurses to prepare for mandatory online training properly. The program will be a training opportunity that will enable other nurses to correctly use their screening equipment, network ... more »

Sarah Ibson

Harwood Union/Middle/High School, Moreton, VT
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

Mrs. Ibson and six colleagues at Harwood Union Middle/High School will form a study group to explore interactive instructional strategies using iPads to improve engagement and academic performance. After an initial training, the group will research educational apps with a ... more »

Cynthia Robinson-Carney

John Marshall High School, Richmond, VA
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Mrs. Robinson-Carney will strengthen her professional practice and improve her teaching performance by obtaining national board certification. Through a series self assessments? including videotaping classroom sessions, documenting quality instruction and planning, and ... more »

Doris Herrmann

Clear Falls High School, League City, TX
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2011, Fall

To increase her knowledge of integrating student owned technology in the classroom, Ms. Herrmann will attend and present at the Texas Computer Education Association Convention. She will discuss ways to encourage students to use their personal technology as learning tools in ... more »

Cheryl Simmons

East Greenwich Public Schools, East Greenwich, RI
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2011, Fall

Ms. Simmons and Ms. Macleod will lead an effort to implement assistive technology tools to enhance new student integration and learning.  The team will work to improve their skills in developing creative and engaging ways to foster inclusion and learning for all ... more »

Deborah Getman

PS 207, Brooklyn, NY
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2011, Fall

Dr. Getman will lead of team of third and sixth grade educators through a collaborative professional learning community that will enable participants to perfect their instructional strategies. Specifically, groups of educators will attend sessions at Columbia ... more »

Daisy Rooks

University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Higher Education, Mathematics
2011, Fall

Dr. Rooks will examine individuals who have taken “alternative” pathways into the teaching profession.  Specifically, she will analyze sixty in-depth, semi-structured interviews with participants, staff, and critics of Teach for America, the largest ... more »

Amy Huset

Forest View Elementary School, Forest Lake, MN
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2011, Fall

Mrs. Huset and Mrs. Kuschke will implement an action research project in which students will learn to “read pictures,” discuss authors’ purposes, and analyze the word choices used in texts. Painting techniques will also be taught, as students will create ... more »

Join us on February 10, 2017!

Educators from across the country traded their classrooms for a night on stage, where they were honored by more than 850 national education leaders and supporters in Washington, D.C.


Did you attend? Now, you can purchase photos from the evening.



Celebrating 42 educators from across the country

It is our pleasure to distinguish these extraordinary educators with the 2016 California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. These prestigious awards recognize, reward, and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. All deserve our recognition and sincere thanks, but we had to choose one for our highest honor.


And the award goes to...

Photo: Esai Morales, award-winning actor and gala host; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Debra McDonald; Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits.














In the evening’s finale, Debra McDonald, an early childhood education instructor at Wayne County Schools Career Center in Smithville, Ohio, took home the top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000! 


Watch Debra McDonald’s acceptance speech below.



Five educators receive top awards

Photo: Dirk Andrews, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (WY); Pam Wells, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (SD); Debra McDonald, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (OH); Crystal Brown, The NEA Foundation Board Chair; Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President; Heather LaBarbara, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (KY); Mohsen Ghaffari, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (UT)





Of the 42 educators honored that night, five also accepted the 2016 Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence and $10,000, as finalists for the evening’s top honor. Their students could not be more proud of them!


Watch all five videos, which premiered during the gala, that students created using iPads to honor their award-winning educators.


Harriet Sanford shares story of hearing from former student—40 years later

Watch Harriet Sanford, the NEA Foundation's President and CEO, share a heartfelt story about a blast from her past — a text message she received from a student she taught 40 years ago — below.



Hispanic Scholarship Fund honored

Photo: Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Esai Morales, award-winning actor and gala host; Crystal Brown, NEA Foundation Board Chair; Fidel A. Vargas, President and CEO of  the Hispanic Scholarship Fund; Stephen Eulie, Executive Vice President of Consumer Banking, First National Bank of Omaha










The NEA Foundation also presented the Hispanic Scholarship Fund with the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, paying tribute to their distribution of more than $470 million dollars in scholarships Latino college-bound students since 1975.


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.


Watch Fidel A. Vargas, President and CEO, accept the award of the behalf of Hispanic Scholarship Fund below.



With host, actor and activist Esai Morales

Photo: Esai Morales, award-winning actor and self-described "actorvist," reads tweets from the audience live on stage: "@MarkMautone: @Esai_Morales you rocked it! Thank you for supporting educators."














This year, Esai Morales, an accomplished actor who appeared in the biopic “La Bamba,” the HBO Series, “The Brink,” and the television series “NYPD Blue” and “Criminal Minds,” served as charismatic emcee and host. Morales cofounded the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, following in the activist footsteps of his mother, who was an organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.


That night, he led guests and those watching the live stream from home or at viewing parties in cheering on the night’s biggest stars.


Special guests take the stage

Photo: Students from the Young People's Chorus of New York City, which now has 1,400 students from New York, ages 7 to 18, participate annually.















With students at the center of public education, a group of English Language Learner students, who participated in a NEA Foundation-funded, high school theater program in Annandale, Virginia, also took center stage to perform Shakespeare. The Young People's Chorus of New York City wowed audiences with renditions from "The Sound of Music," and audiences also enjoyed the music and dance of Furia Flamenca and Torcuato Zamora, an accomplished flamenco guitarist from Spain.


Watch the Young People's Chorus of New York City perform the evening's finale below.



A special thank you to all who helped us celebrate the best in public education! Save the date for next year’s gala on February 10, 2017.