Awards Gala

Known as the Academy Awards of public education, 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.

Grantees

Andrew Hirshman

Mundelein High School, Mundelein, IL
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Mr. Hirshman and Mr. Anderson will lead an interdisciplinary team of educators in developing a “Future Selves” curriculum intervention and train fellow educators on its potential classroom uses. The training will focus on enabling educators to encourage students ... more »

Dr. Sandy Cameli

West Hawaii School District, Kailua Kona, HI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Through “iMentor,” veteran educators will use tablet technology to work with first-year teachers to record evidence and collect classroom data. The project will bridge generations of educators and allow them to collaborate to improve learners’ futures. ... more »

Valerie Ledford

Lake Nona High School, Orlando, FL
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Mrs. Ledford will lead a collaborative team of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the use of lesson study to practice and analyze differentiated small group strategies in mathematics. Student data will be analyzed throughout, with the goal of seeing an overall ... more »

Karen Dipres

Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Bear, DE
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Fall

Mrs. Dipres, Mrs. Barnett, and their colleagues will plan, create, reflect, and revise lessons in accordance with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The group will align Smarter Balanced vocabulary, formatting, and depth of knowledge to increase instructional ... more »

Katherine Franssen

North Arvada Middle School, Arvada, CO
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Fall

Mrs. Franssen and Mrs. Clarke will lead an action research program that will study the effectiveness of ALEKS and Khan Academy as online supplemental math interventions. The cohort will determine which supplement is the most effective in raising scores, causing growth, and ... more »

Dr. Diane Sharken Taboada

Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Concord, CA
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Fall

Through “Yo Soy Bilingue–I am Bilingual,” Dr. Taboada and Ms. Vizcay will establish written protocols for the analysis of student writing in Spanish and English, which will in turn guide the development and distribution of a set of model literacy lessons ... more »

Dr. Mark Walling

East Central University, Ada, OK
Higher Education, Lecturer
2014, Fall

Through “Walking the Brain,” Dr. Walling’s capstone course students will track academic success with the amount of work completed on treadmills. During the class, Dr. Walling will monitor student achievement and the time students spend on the treadmills. ... more »

Peter Moran

Frenchtown School, Frenchtown, NJ
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mr. Moran’s students will monitor the Delaware River for cleanliness and sustainability for natural inhabitants. Student will work collaboratively to investigate the effects local farm runoff has had on the wildlife in and near the river. Upon completion of the ... more »

Karen Sizemore

Rocky Branch Elementary, River Falls, WI
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mrs. Sizemore and Mrs. Lenneman will introduce tablets for computer programming instruction. Students will learn basic practices, including coding, looping, decomposition, and abstracting. Ultimately, students will use their newly acquired skills to accomplish individual ... more »

Marc Coyner

Horizons Elementary School, Lacey, WA
Grades K-5, Librarian
2014, Fall

To promote school wide positive behavior, Mr. Coyner and Ms. Cameron will assist students in making short films. Students will be encouraged to seek out unique places and perspectives for filming and will plot, script, film, edit, and upload their creations. The films will ... more »

Karen Ciotta

Epes Elementary School, Newport News, VA
Grades K-5, English
2014, Fall

Mrs. Ciotta’s and Mrs. McEaddy’s English language learners (ELLs) will participate in daily learning opportunities that incorporate innovative education apps via a set of classroom tablets. Apps designed specifically with ELLs in mind will allow students to ... more »

Stefanie Root

Dixon-Smith Middle School, Fredericksburg, VA
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Fall

Ms. Root, Ms. Carson, and colleagues will use iPads to implement the Khan Academy app as a student centered remediation tool. This series of activities will allow students in special education and general education settings to receive a tiered intervention plan specific to ... more »

Kerrin Flanagan

CP Smith School, Burlington, VT
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Fall

Mrs. Flanagan, Mrs. Tetrault, and colleagues will develop an emergent reading program for kindergarten students. The program will allow students to progress at their own pace and improve overall literacy skills. Through parent volunteers, the reading program will create ... more »

Michael Fricko

Redbank Valley School District, New Bethlehem, PA
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2014, Fall

Mr. Fricko and Mr. Bundy will introduce live-streaming, authentic and virtual set design, animation, and additional aspects of video production in their broadcast journalism curriculum. Daily news production, in-depth reporting, and special event broadcasting will be ... more »

Dave Boyer

Kernersville Middle School, Kernersville, NC
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Fall

Mr. Boyer and Mr. Shu will guide students through an inquiry-based learning project that will allow students to answer questions about soil formation, classification, measurement, and stewardship. Labs will get students engaged and excited about learning and provide ... more »

Karen Paine

James PB Duffy School #12, Rochester, NY
Grades K-5, English
2014, Fall

The English for Speakers of Other Languages Department at James PB Duffy School #12 will develop language learning center kits for classroom teachers who have beginning-level newcomers. Ms. Paine will train her colleagues to use the materials during a professional ... more »

Kristen Gloumakoff

IS 259 William McKinley, Brooklyn, NY
Grades 6-8, Librarian
2014, Fall

Ms. Gloumakoff and Mr. Speranzo will collaborate on a pilot research skills program using the Independent Investigation Method. In the year-long class, students will learn research skills, responsible use of technology, and presentation skills. Students will be encouraged ... more »

Steven Quinn

Milford School, Milford, NJ
Grades 6-8, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Fall

Mr. Quinn's classroom will monitor the Delaware River for cleanliness and sustainability for natural inhabitants. The class will use a hands-on approach when testing the river water, and students will work with neighboring schools along the Delaware River and across the ... more »

Jacqueline Winn

Concord High School, Concord, NH
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Fall

Through “Opening New Doors,” English language learners will travel beyond the school campus for vivid learning experiences that will make use of their cognitive capacities regardless of their level of English language proficiency. Students will learn about the ... more »

Dana Boam

Desert Rose High School, North Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To improve struggling readers’ skills, Ms. Boam will lead the “Reading Teachers” initiative at Desert Rose High School. Educators will collaborate on implementing explicit phonics instruction, high interest literature, field trips, and training on focus ... more »

Regan Miller

Shelton Elementary School, Shelton, NE
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2014, Fall

Ms. Miller and Mrs. Meyer will encourage student-directed learning by allowing students to act as teachers. Individual and groups of students will research a topic, create a lesson, and then present the lesson to a group of peers or younger students. The students will ... more »

Elodie Sontgerath

Jackson Elementary School, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Fall

Ms. Songerath’s and Mrs. Vang’s fourth grade classes will participate in the “Neighborhood Bridges” program in cooperation with the Minneapolis Children’s Theater. The program will allow students to work with a teaching artist and develop ... more »

Rebecca Biel

Center for Instruction and Professional Development, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Saint Paul Public Schools and the Minnesota International Center will partner to provide standards aligned social studies for students in schools that have the greatest difficulty scheduling social studies and have high percentages of students who receive free and reduced ... more »

Kayla Trundle

Swartz Creek Middle School, Swartz Creek, MI
Grades 6-8, Special Education
2014, Fall

To improve the Community Based Instruction opportunities for her students with cognitive impairments, Ms. Trundle will enable students to receive instruction at 10 different community locations.  Students will learn functional skills that apply to the Michigan Extended ... more »

Christina Sutter

Rockville High School, Rockville, MD
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Fall

Through the “GRIT” (Growth, Resiliency, Intelligence, and Tenacity) program, Ms. Sutter and Ms. Roit will use the growth mindset theory and specific classroom activities to help students who’ve experienced multiple academic failures. Students will learn ... more »

Lisa Liace

Thayer J. Hill Middle School, Naperville, IL
Grades 6-8, School Counselor
2014, Fall

Through the use of the Second Step program, Ms. Liace and Ms. Sharp will establish an effective, research-based social-emotional curriculum. The program will be conducted in classrooms and small groups in order to provide school-wide support and targeted, intensive ... more »

Catherine Urban

Lincoln Elementary School, Belvidere, IL
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Fall

Through the use of iPads, students at Lincoln Elementary School will apply knowledge from their core curriculum and fine arts curriculums to create Claymation films. Students will work in small groups with their classroom teachers to create a curriculum related story and ... more »

Angela Scott

Alton High School, Alton, IL
Grades 9-12, School Social Worker
2014, Fall

Ms. Scott, Mrs. Wittman, and a team of colleagues will develop weekly group counseling sessions for at-risk high school girls. The group will use multiple relational aggression (RA) curriculum materials to increase awareness of RA, encourage empathy and tolerance, and ... more »

Dr. David Lazerson

The Quest Center, Hollywood, FL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Fall

Dr. Lazerson and Mrs. Frost will assist students with profound special needs (including Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy) in becoming recording and performing rock stars through their own personal music videos. Using adaptive switches, assistive technology, and ... more »

Janis Poole

Memorial Elementary School, Arcadia, FL
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Fall

Mrs. Poole and Mrs. Stauffer will introduce inquiry based science experiments in their fifth grade classrooms. Labs will be open to students and will allow them to think critically and logically. The inquiry method will ensure that all students within a mobile population of ... more »

Melinda Barron

Segerstrom High School, Santa Ana, CA
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Fall

To increase students’ knowledge of research methods, technology, and global skills, Ms. Barron and Mrs. Gerdes will create a blended learning classroom through the use of tablet technology. Students will work autonomously and collaborate with peers to improve their ... more »

Yvonne Brown

Annalee Avenue Elementary School, Carson, CA
Grades K-5, Social Studies
2014, Fall

Through “Westward Movement,” students at Annalee Avenue Elementary School will learn about the perspectives of multiple cultural groups that have migrated to western parts of the United States. Students will research the motives for these groups’ ... more »

Kim Floeter

Riverview Elementary School, Wautoma, WI
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

Through the use of “Assisting with Early Literacy Instruction: A Manual for Paraprofessionals,” Mrs. Floeter and her colleagues will deepen their understanding of early literacy instruction. By reading, discussing, and practicing literacy skills outlined in the ... more »

Rhonda Chalone

Huegel Elementary School, Madison, WI
Grades K-5, Music
2014, Spring

Ms. Chalone will complete the Orff Certification Level One, a methodology of teaching students music which includes rhythmic speech, singing, body percussion, elemental movement, and improvisation. Upon completing the certification, Ms. Chalone will reorganize her ... more »

Carrie Hale

Kimball Elementary School, Seattle, WA
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

To gain valuable skills and improve her teaching practice, Ms. Hale will attend the Columbia University Teachers College Summer Writing Institute. Upon completing the institute, Ms. Hale will use her newly acquired knowledge to strengthen student engagement, collaborate ... more »

Leon Reed

Woodbridge Senior High School, Woodbridge, VA
Grades 9-12, History
2014, Spring

To learn of the Roman and Byzantine civilizations, Mr. Reed will conduct research in Turkey and Italy. While there, Mr. Reed will photograph places and museum artifacts and use the materials to complete a series of photo history books on the Roman Empire and Middle Ages. ... more »

Catherine McCabe

Mantua Elementary School, Fairfax, VA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To improve her knowledge of number sense, Mrs. McCabe will attend the Math Recovery Conference. While there, she will gain knowledge and resources that will allow her to improve math instruction with her special needs students. Upon completing the conference, Mrs. McCabe ... more »

Candice Belt

Ooltewah Middle School, Ooltewah, TN
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

Mrs. Belt will lead a book study for Ooltewah Middle School educators that will allow staff to learn about growth and fixed mindsets. In reading “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Mrs. Belt and her colleagues will investigate how students learn and how to ... more »

Lisa Albert

Elizabethtown Area School District, Elizabethtown, PA
Grades K-5, Nurse
2014, Spring

To improve her knowledge of health promotion, leadership and legal issues, school nurse practice, and research, Mrs. Albert will attend the National Association of School Nurses Conference. After attending the conference, Mrs. Albert will expand her school nurse practice by ... more »

Jody Yoxthimer

North Ridgeville High School, Ridgeville, OH
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Spring

Through Earth Expeditions, Mrs. Yoxthimer will embark on a ten day field assignment in the Valle de los Cirios Biological Reserve in Baja, Mexico. During the assignment, Mrs. Yoxthimer will learn about unique desert and marine flora and fauna, medicinal plants, endangered ... more »

Sara Thorburn

Lexington High School, Lexington, OH
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2014, Spring

Ms. Thorburn will attend the National Council of Teachers of English Convention to engage with forward thinking educators and experts in the field. While there, Ms. Thorburn will listen to speakers and participate in interactive sessions and workshops in which she will ... more »

Kathryn Haughney

Progressive Education Program, Asheville, NC
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To improve her ability to teach a print-based assistive technology, Mrs. Haughney will attend a series of workshops hosted by the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre. The workshops will allow her to develop and implement personalized books that suit the varying communication, ... more »

Heather Klug

Osseo Senior High School, Osseo, MN
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2014, Spring

To examine available mindfulness curricula, Ms. Klug will attend the Way of Mindful Education Level Two Training in Costa Rica. While there, she will participate in exercises and activities that will be used in the classroom and spend time learning how to lead teacher ... more »

Patricia Keck

Riverview East High School, Marine City, MI
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

To gain a better understanding of the implementation of Project Based Learning (PBL), Mrs. Keck will attend the Buck Institute for Education’s PBL World conference. While there, Mrs. Keck will attend workshops that will provide information and resources to impact her ... more »

Deborah Dubord

Mt. Vernon Elementary School, Fayette, ME
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

Mrs. Dubord and Mrs. Hatt will convene a study group to deepen their ability to understand and effectively respond to the growing number of children entering school with a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The cohort will act as critical interventionists and ... more »

Jessica Powell

Henderson County Schools, Henderson, KY
Grades K-5, Special Education
2014, Spring

To improve her ability to engage with and support preschool children with special needs, Ms. Powell will participate in the Reggio Emilia study tour in Italy. Through the study, Ms. Powell will learn to use arts-based activities to support development and explore the design ... more »

Delena McGuire

Am Yealey Elementary Schoo, Florence, KY
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2014, Spring

Ms. McGuire and Mr. Eppley will take part in the Ron Clark Academy teacher training program. The experience will provide an in-depth look at a model school environment and introduce opportunities to witness innovative instructional strategies. The team will study new ways ... more »

Donna Bohlmann

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Community School District, Eddyville, IA
Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented
2014, Spring

To improve the practice of enrichment-based differentiated teaching within multiple regional school districts, Mrs. Bohlmann will attend the Confratute Institute at the University of Connecticut. Upon completing the institute, Mrs. Bohlmann will lead a consortium of small ... more »

Abbey Evans

Culver Family Learning Center, Evansville, IN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Spring

Mrs. Evans will participate in the North American Study Group in Reggio Emilia, Italy. While there, she will visit preschools and infant toddler centers, form relationships with other early childhood educators, and experience research exhibitions at the Loris Malaguzzi ... more »

Robert Kuhn

Centennial High School, Roswell, GA
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Spring

To strengthen his teaching practice and ensure that students learn biology more meaningfully, Mr. Kuhn will attend the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study/National Association of Biology Teachers AP Biology Leadership Academy. While there, Mr. Kuhn will learn to analyze ... more »

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.

Did you miss the live webcast on the Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 7, 2014?

 

Now, you can watch the entire program and catch all of the best moments-- from host and Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad to student performers from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools and the 36 educators from across the country who were celebrated on stage.  

 

 

 

The 2014 NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, featuring host Phylicia Rashad

More than 800 national leaders in education, philanthropy, and business gathered at the National Building Museum in the nation’s capital on February 7, 2014 to celebrate excellence in public education.


Phylicia Rashad, the Tony Award-winning actress best known as Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” hosted the event and helped celebrate the work of exceptional public school educators alongside student performers from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools.


In addition to the 36 educators honored with the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence, the following top honors were presented.

 

California educator Kimberley Gilles receives the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence

Kimberley Gilles, an English teacher at Monte Vista School in Danville, CA and member of the California Teachers 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.

 

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

 

(Left to right: Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of The NEA Foundation; Gary Phoebus, President & CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Kimberley Gilles, NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence recipient; Mark Chichester, Chair of The NEA Foundation Board of Directors)

 

“He was my son who happened to be gay,” his father states. His mother is grateful that “he was surrounded by friends—the sun, the wind, and the smell of sage brush” as he died, badly beaten and tied to a fence. In between these statements and others made by local residents interviewed by the playwrights, a Tibetan singing bowl mournfully chimes.

With this choral reading of The Laramie Project, students in Kimberley Gilles’ class learn what happened to Matthew Shepard on the day he was murdered. Afterwards, she invites them to share their thoughts and the comments are honest and profound. One student simply asks, “Why?” Gilles shares her passion for social justice and inclusion with her students with this lesson that intentionally provokes and, she hopes, invokes in them a love of reading and writing. She tells them that the purpose of writing is to communicate their inner truths and encourages each student to find his or her unique voice.

Gilles has taught high school since 2003 and was previously a humanities and leadership teacher at the middle school level. In June of 2014, Rethinking Schools will publish her work, “Bringing LGBT Issues Out of the Curricular Closet: Teaching The Laramie Project.” She was awarded a B.A. cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles and a M.Ed. in Instruction and Curriculum, Specialization: Integration of the Arts in 2012 from Lesley University.

As an active member of the Hayward Education Association, she played an integral part in leading a strike and then afterwards helped mend the fences and bind the wounds that had been created. Gilles currently serves as a union representative at her school in the San Ramon Valley Education Association and is a regular advocate for educators at school board meetings and community events. She is a State Representative to the California Teachers Association and currently serves on the Civil Rights in Education Committee. She received the CTA Members Human Rights Award in 2012.

Five educators receive the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence

Five extraordinary educators from across the country received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. Their students have already benefitted from the award. Each class received digital arts training from Pearson Foundation to produce a video, which premiered at the gala, to honor their award-winning teachers. Watch the videos below.

 

(Left to right: Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of the NEA Foundation, Christopher Stone (CT), Kathleen Sims (MN), Kimberley Gilles (CA), Marita Zuraitis, President & CEO of Horace Mann Educators Corporation, Eileen Sheehy (MT), Brian Sites (WA), Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President)

 

 

Student-made videos honoring their teachers premiere at the 2014 Gala

Timothy Shriver accepts the Security Benefit Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education on behalf of Special Olympics

The NEA Foundation presented the 2014 award to Special Olympics. Dr. Timothy Shriver, chairman of the orgazination, accepted the award on its behalf. Watch Dr. Shriver's speech.

 

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.

 

 Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

 

This gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students of Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools take the stage for cultural performances

 

                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gala began with an original piece titled, "This is what my teachers said," by Blessed Sheriff, an eleventh-grade student at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD, and an award-winning poet. Watch her performance above.

 

In the evening's finale, host Phylicia Rashad joined Sheriff on stage. Watch Sheriff perform her original poem titled, “On the definition of hope," with the help of Rashad above.

 

Nearly 80 students from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools took us on a virtual world tour through the performing arts— from salsa dancing and madrigal singing to African drumming.

 

Thank you to all who helped celebrate the best in public education. Save the date for next year’s gala on February 13, 2015.

 

 

Original poems written and performed by Blessed Sheriff:

 

Be bold. This classroom will be a womb 
And it will deliver courage
And it will deliver voices
And it will deliver your courage
And it will deliver your voices

Strive. These books are a pedestal
They will lift you beyond your potential
And you will know things worth knowing
And see things worth seeing
They will teach you how to spell words like believe,

(Remember the “i” comes before the “e” except after “c”)
So that you will one day believe in a higher cause beyond yourself.

Listen, to me. This classroom will be the silence you need,
A worthy citadel for your thoughts
So let them roam free
And when you find one worth catching
Bring it back to me.
I want to see.

DO NOT BE AFRAID.

This is something they cannot steal.
The mind, like a thunderstorm
Stands dignified as the only God-sent instrument amidst humanity
And we
Each of us
With our own minds…
Our own eternal infinity.
Ideas don’t die, people do.

Understand that courage, kindness, wisdom, and love transcend time and when we go
What we made of them will still be here.
Make something of them
And this is how:

(This is what my teachers said to me:)
DO NOT BE AFRAID
One day you will rise and I may be a distant memory
But for now
Take your seat.
Breathe.
Breathe.
Class is in session.

Hope.
One syllable.
Four letters:
H.
O.
P.
E.
Noun. A feeling of expectation and desire. Derived from Old English hopa or hopian meaning to wish, expect, to look forward to. A word of German origin, connected as well to the Dutch language.
Hope.
A word with so many sounds, so many souls, it doesn’t get by on just one syllable.
It’s the words of a man, a King, with a dream. It’s attached to the faces of the one’s who are screaming
For freedom.
Four letters? More like six – and it’s spelled like
this:
V.
I.
S.
I.
O.
N.

And do you see now what I mean?
Where there is no vision the people perish-
we are a species defined by our progress-
from the moment we climbed up off our knees and onto our feet…
and we’ve been doing it ever since.
Off our knees and onto our feet.

Hope. A noun in action,
And whether we are shuffling, mumbling, or running at breakneck speed it makes
sure that we are moving.

Hope. Derived from the one who makes all things new -
a spirit that lives on the inside,
like a wish waiting to come true. It’s true,
we are made of stardust. So the next
time you see a shooting star turn around and look inside you:
You’re on fire.
Know that the only things that burn are the things that last forever.
Know that fire ignites, and we’re called to leave this world in ashes more
beautiful than the icebergs before.

Hope. A word which has its origins in the smile of a newborn child, and in the spark of
a newborn mind which has the power to change a generation.

And if there’s one thing important enough to remember about what hope is,
It’s that H.O.P.E stands for one thing W.E: and that is WE.
We are hope.