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.


Dena Wagner

Norris Middle School, Omaha, NE
Grades 6-8, Language Arts
2015, Fall

Mrs. Wagner and Mrs. Moore will provide middle school students with the motivating tools necessary to become critical thinkers and writers. Within a writer’s workshop setting, students will explore, analyze, and reflect on mentor texts, create writer’s ... more »

Stacey Whitwood

Edgerton Elementary School, Maplewood, MN
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2015, Fall

Through “We Code, What’s Your Superpower?,” Ms. Whitwood and Mrs. Mittelbrun will attempt to close the gender and diversity gap in computer science. All of their students will use Chromebooks to learn computer science concepts and coding. Students will be ... more »

Sherry Kempf

St. Paul Public Schools, Saint Paul, MN
Grades 9-12, History
2015, Fall

“Through Dakota Eyes” will allow students to experience familiar places through a Dakota lens. Students will study local history and culture and understand multiple perspectives of the native peoples of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The project will culminate with ... more »

Katie Squires

Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI
Higher Education, Literacy
2015, Fall

To address the language and literacy needs of preschool children in a low socioeconomic area of Michigan, a universal screening will be utilized to determine the tier of differentiated instruction each child will receive. Students in all three tiers will participate in ... more »

Erin Feldpausch

Messalonskee High School, Oakland, ME
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2015, Fall

To engage students in reading and collaborative conversations, Mrs. Feldpausch and Mr. Podey will implement literature circles in their classes. Students will be exposed to free choice reading assignments that will lead to improved literacy skills. Reading activities will ... more »

Melanie Ramey

Meade Memorial Elementary School, Williamsport, KY
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2015, Fall

To adopt a flipped classroom with blended instruction of online content and small group instruction, Mrs. Ramey will implement “Flipping with QR Codes and Screencasts.” Students will use quick response (QR) codes to view content and answer questions about ... more »

Nancy Smith

Bentwood Elementary School, Overland Park, KS
Grades K-5, STEM
2015, Fall

Through “Engineering Explorations” Mrs. Smith will enhance her science curriculum with the Next Generation Science Standards of engineering. Different engineering concepts will be introduced each month, and students will design challenges, participate in outdoor ... more »

Jordana Scher

Gallatin County Community Unit School District #7, Junction, IL
Grades K-5, Literacy
2015, Fall

“Learning Literacy Through Lyrics” will engage students in an in-depth study of music through the use of computers, books, and apps that will enhance both music and reading curriculum.  Students will bolster their mastery of music and reading while ... more »

Janet Key

Lowell Elementary School, Milwaukee, WI
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

Key will attend the Category 1, 2, and 3 Primary Years Program Workshops, where she will learn methods of Action and Assessment that will enable her to fully implement the Primary Years Program in her classroom. Key will work with teachers in her school to align their six ... more »

Dr. Donna Pasternak

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

Pasternak and Peterson will create a professional learning community in which participants will increase their pedagogical knowledge of writing instruction. Participants will strengthen their writing instruction skills to improve their work with instructional staff within ... more »

Veronica Cook

Shorecrest High School, Shoreline, WA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2015, Spring

To expand her skill set for working with students with Autism, Cook will attend the 2015 Autism Society International Conference. While there, Cook will examine the unique characteristics of students with Autism and ways to address specific learners within this population. ... more »

Katrina Moreno

Wheatley School of Early Childhood Programs, Port Arthur, TX
Grades K-5, Education Support Professional
2015, Spring

To improve the communication skills of struggling learners, Moreno, Young-Jones, and colleagues will introduce an Art and Photography workshop in their Early Childhood Program. Conducting action research, the group will observe students as they are encouraged to use cameras ... more »

Christina Mendenhall

Gilcrease Elementary School, Tulsa, OK
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2015, Spring

To become familiar with other societies, cultural norms, educational systems, and curriculum, Mendenhall will attend seminars offered through the National Consortium of East Asia Studies. Mendenhall will learn Mandarin Chinese and complete classes through the Global ... more »

Nancy Kunsman

Gore High School, Gore, OK
Grades 9-12, English
2015, Spring

Kunsman will attend the Smithsonian Art Institute’s “Teaching Humanities through Art,” where she will learn to develop ways to provide a fuller learning experience in her classroom. During the institute, Ms. Kunsman will work with art experts and education ... more »

Melanie Byers

Kettering Middle School, Kettering, OH
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

To better understand how to use cognitive science to improve and inspire student learning, Mrs. Byers will attend a “Learning and the Brain Conference” centered around educating world-class minds. While there, Byers will learn from distinguished faculty how to ... more »

Cathy Frastaci

Edon Northwest Schools, Edon, OH
Grades 9-12, Music
2015, Spring

To provide her students with authentic musical experiences, Frastaci will travel to Ghana’s Dagbe Cultural Institute and Arts Center to participate in an intensive cultural immersion. While there, Frastaci will study the traditional African arts of drumming, dancing, ... more »

Wendi Pillars

Jordan-Matthews High School, Siler City, NC
Grades 9-12, English
2015, Spring

Pillars will attend the International Forum of Visual Practitioners to improve her use of visual note taking in the classroom. At the Forum, Pillars will attend workshops and sessions focused on the art and science of engaging learners with visual note taking and graphic ... more »

Julia Vaughan

Koontz Intermediate School, Asheville, NC
Grades 6-8, Science
2015, Spring

To improve her knowledge of ecological and global issues, Vaughan will attend a climate change seminar at Glacier National Park. While there, Vaughan will participate in a learning seminar focusing on climate change and its effects on glaciers. Upon completion, Vaughan will ... more »

Karen Cook

PS 77 Lower Lab, New York, NY
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

To enhance her role as a leader in her school and district, Cook will become a National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) Certified Coach. Cook will attend the NSRF summer institute, where she will learn methods to empower educators by providing professional development that ... more »

Dr. Christopher Schmidt

LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY
Higher Education, History
2015, Spring

Schmidt and Miller will facilitate a study group of LaGuardia Community College faculty to examine the United States’ role in the world in the 20th century. The study group will address LaGuardia Community College’s Global Learning core competency by developing ... more »

Michelle Myers

Sterling High School, Somerdale, NJ
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2015, Spring

Myers will enhance interdisciplinary collaboration on human rights by travelling to China and South Korea on a Peace and Reconciliation Study Tour to increase her understanding of the cultural and historical background of China, Korea, and Japan during World War II. Myers ... more »

Lourdes Villacis

Kearny High School, Kearny, NJ
Grades 9-12, Science
2015, Spring

To obtain the necessary tools and skills to successfully implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Villacis will attend PRISM workshops at Montclair State University. The workshops will be geared toward developing and implementing NGSS in lessons and unit ... more »

Paul Creager

Saint Paul Public Schools, St. Paul, MN
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2015, Spring

Creager will research with the Video Volunteers program in Goa, India and observe the organization’s leadership and instructional process. During his research, Creager will study the processes that support media activism and civic engagement within India’s ... more »

Jackie Smith

Cooper High School, New Hope, MN
Grades 9-12, English
2015, Spring

Smith will work with a team of U.S. educators to develop a professional development conference for teachers in rural Bolivia. The cohort will identify effective practices, refine and develop classroom strategies, and develop presentations to share with other teachers. Upon ... more »

Dr. Raymond Martens

Towson University, Towson, MD
Higher Education, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2015, Spring

Martens and Doyle will investigate children’s storying through “Storying Studio.” The project will be a re-conceptualization of writing workshops that value multi-modal composing, particularly in writing and art. A Literacy Community of teachers and ... more »

Amy Sherman

Forest Knolls Elementary School, Silver Spring, MD
Grades K-5, English
2015, Spring

Sherman will partner with the Fujian Institute of Education in Fuzhou, China to participate in a teacher exchange program. During the program, Sherman will share expertise in best practices for teaching English Language Learners. Throughout the program, Sherman will improve ... more »

Jennifer Monday

South Creek Elementary School, Indianapolis, IN
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

To strengthen her knowledge of differentiated instruction, Monday will attend the Teach K! Conference and National Differentiated Instruction Conference. In both settings, Monday will attend sessions on differentiation, best practices, technology, Common Core standards, and ... more »

Carla Elliff

Collinsville High School, Collinsville, IL
Grades 9-12, School Counselor
2015, Spring

Elliff will improve her professional practice by attending the American School Counselor Association Annual Conference. While there, she will learn how to develop and implement a school-wide college application process and enhance college and career readiness skills among ... more »

Daniel Noia

Henry J. Kaiser School, Honolulu, HI
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

Noia and colleagues will lead a school-wide professional development program that will measure students’ metacognition. Educators will use learning logs to measure students’ metacognitive abilities and their abilities to apply their learning to other classes. ... more »

Nancy Hoehn

Kaiserslautern High School, Kaiserslautern, Germany,
Grades 9-12, Science
2015, Spring

To address student achievement gaps in chemistry and physics, Hoehn will attend the Modeling Chemistry Workshop. Through the program, Hoehn will be exposed to classroom management strategies, labs, problem solving methodologies, insights, and experiences aimed to improve ... more »

Lisa Martinez

Cotton Creek Elementary School, Westminster, CO
Grades K-5, Arts
2015, Spring

Martinez will participate in a month-long Spanish language cultural immersion course at Hablal Ya Spanish School in Bocas del Toro, Panama. While there, Martinez will learn about local culture and how to work with non-native English speaking students. Upon returning, ... more »

Steven Flanagan

Sunnyside Elementary School, San Francisco, CA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2015, Spring

Flanagan will improve his professional practice by attending the Teachers College Writer's Workshop Summer Institute at Columbia University. While there, Flanagan will attend sessions focused on implementing the Writer's Workshop in his classroom. Upon completion, Flanagan ... more »

Elizabeth Mora

Los Angeles High School of the Arts at RFK Community, Los Angeles, CA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2015, Spring

To enhance her cultural geography curriculum, Mora will visit Heifer International’s project sites in Honduras. While there, Ms. Mora will examine how livestock gifts, education, and training in responsible farming practices help impoverished communities.  Upon ... more »

Kimberly Lewis

Los Angeles County Office of Education, Downey, CA
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2015, Spring

To learn about current policy development in deaf education, Lewis will attend the International Congress on Education of the Deaf. Upon returning, Lewis will create a curricular unit focusing on deaf education policy in action. The unit will contain learning modules that ... more »

Dr. Timothy Gallahar

Charles R. Drew Middle School, Lincoln, AL
Grades 6-8, Science
2015, Spring

To learn practical and effective strategies for improving his teaching practice, Dr. Gallahar will attend the National Differentiated Instruction Conference. While there, Dr. Gallahar will address relevant contemporary issues, including how to most effectively incorporate ... more »

Sara Fenn

Eufaula High School, Eufaula, AL
Grades 9-12, Library Media Specialist
2015, Spring

Fenn will attend the International Society for Technology in Education’s national conference to explore technologies that will allow her to lead her district in implementing a successful one-to-one program. After the conference, Fenn will share her experience with her ... more »

Erika Bell

Saks Elementary School, Anniston, AL
Grades K-5, English
2015, Spring

To improve her professional practice, Bell will complete the National Board Certification process for English as a Second Language.  She will use her learning to master both instruction and family advocacy. Throughout the certification process, Bell will positively ... more »

Terri Day

Suquamish Elementary School, Suquamish, WA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2015, Spring

Day and Drover will introduce the “Rolling Reader” program, which will aim to increase students’ reading test scores by providing tutors and new books. Local high school and college students will work with elementary school students to provide assistance ... more »

Daniel Shay

North Central High School, Spokane, WA
Grades 9-12, Science
2015, Spring

Through “Algae to Biodiesel,” biology students at North Central High School will have the opportunity to apply biological concepts learned in research settings. Students will design an optimal protocol for remediating pollution from wastewater using algae. ... more »

Scott Hendrix

Avanti High School, Olympia, WA
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2015, Spring

Through “Songs of Rice and Slavery,” students at Avanti High School will examine African American history through song and art. By examining specific historic moments, students will explore the transmission of culture from Africa to the United States. The ... more »

Cassie Cox

Two Rivers High School, Ogden, UT
Grades 9-12, English
2015, Spring

Cox and Henry will work with author Ingrid Ricks to help at-risk students write personal narratives to be published in a book. Ricks will work one-on-one with students to help them articulate their personal stories. After completing their stories in English classes, art ... more »

Sharon Baillie

Burgettstown Middle and High School, Burgettstown, PA
Grades 9-12, STEM
2015, Spring

Through “Eating Math and Science,” Baillie and Bowersock will assist students in completing experiments with food that will aid them in understanding the mathematical and biological principals of food preparation and consumption. The project will allow students ... more »

Robert Nieman

Henley Elementary School, Klamath Falls, OR
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2015, Spring

Through “Decoding with Magnetic Vowels,” students will benefit from an innovative concept created by Nieman. The project will include hands-on phonics lessons, problem solving, and an exploration of the science of magnetism. Students will work in small groups ... more »

Alisha Steele

Harrison North Elementary School, Scio, OH
Grades K-5, Resource Specialist
2015, Spring

To increase problem solving and critical thinking skills within the classroom, Littlebits circuit kits will be provided to students to construct project-based responses to problems. Classroom discussions will be encouraged and students will work together to explore ... more »

Charles Steinbower

Correction Reception Center School, Orient, OH
Grades 9-12, Librarian
2015, Spring

Collaborating with a local library and several correctional facility schools, Steinbower will introduce lessons that promote awareness of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and School Desegregation. Students and educators will attend a panel discussion of experts, all of whom ... more »

Heidi Sullivan

Gahanna Middle School South, Gahanna, OH
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2015, Spring

Sixth grade students at Gahanna Middle School South will use tablet technology to investigate mathematical properties and situations to gain deeper understanding of curriculum. Through this technological integration, students will examine and create visual models to ... more »

Jacqueline Best

Canaseraga Central School, Canaseraga, NY
Grades 9-12, Music
2015, Spring

Through “Making Practice Perfect,” Best and O’Donnell will integrate technology into Canaseraga Central School’s music program. Students will be provided instrumental instruction that will increase their motivation to practice and improve their ... more »

Chuck Boyer

Alcona Community Schools, Lincoln, MI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2015, Spring

Through the collaborative efforts of Mr. Boyer's student leadership team and community partners, the purchase of a Panel Master IV will bring cutting edge industry methods to the school’s technology facility. Students will be able to design and construct raised panels ... more »

Margaret Carr

Donald P. Timony Grammar School, Methuen, MA
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2015, Spring

To differentiate for a variety of learners and to ensure that all students participate in problem solving, Carr and colleagues will have students engage in a variety of literacy tasks that promote critical thinking across content areas using both fiction and nonfiction ... more »

Christine Skog

Harlan Community Elementary School, Harlan, IA
Grades K-5, Music
2015, Spring

To provide students with a means of exploration, discovery, and creation, Skog will implement projects focusing on musical composition. Students will review musical concepts and learn to create their own music through a variety of sound and instrument activities. Through ... more »

Watch the Event!

Educators from across the country traded in their classrooms for a night on stage, where they were honored by more than 900 national education leaders and supporters in Washington, D.C.


Did you miss the live stream of the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 10, 2017? Now, you can watch the entire event above!


View and purchase your favorite photos from the evening. Did you step in to one of our photo booths? View and purchase your best shots here and here


Celebrating 43 Educators From Across the Country

It is our pleasure to distinguish these extraordinary educators with the 2017 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 (left to right):  Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of NEA; Gary Phoebus, President and CEO of NEA Member Benefits; Sonia Galaviz; Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors










In the evening’s finale, Sonia Galaviz, a fifth grade educator at Garfield Elementary School in Boise, Idaho, took home the top honor: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000! 


Five Educators Receive Top Awards

Photo (left to right): Melissa Ladd, of Poplar Road Elementary School in Sharpsburg, Georgia; Stephanie Johnson, of HB Rhame Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina; Kelly Stacy, Senior Vice President for Field Operations and Distribution of the Horace Mann Educator Corporation; Al Rabanera, of La Vista High School in Fullerton, California; Sonia Galaviz, of Garfield Elementary School in Boise, Idaho; Carol Bauer, of Grafton Bethel Elementary School in Yorktown, Virginia;





Of the 43 educators honored that night, five also accepted the 2017 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! During the gala, videos starring each of these five educators premiered. Watch the videos to get a glimpse into the magic these educators share among their students.


Global Kids Honored

Photo (left to right): Host Victoria Rowell; Special Guest Maya Faison of Global Kids; Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors; Evie Hantzopoulos, Executive Director of Global Kids; Jerry O’Flanagan, Executive Vice President, Consumer Banking, First National Bank of Omaha









The NEA Foundation also presented the First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education to Global Kids for its efforts to engage students from Washington, D.C., and New York City by exposing them to global cultures and encouraging them to become active citizens in their own communities and in the world.  



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.


With Host, Actress and Advocate Victoria Rowell

Photo (left to right): Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation; Host Victoria Rowell; Beau Brown, President and CEO of California Casualty, Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Chair of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors











This year, Victoria Rowell, an actress, director, producer, advocate, and New York Times bestselling author of “The Women Who Raised Me,” served as charismatic emcee and host.


A former foster child herself, in 1990, she founded the Rowell Foster Care Children’s Positive Plan, providing services to students in: fine arts, higher education, healthcare, financial literacy, reunification programs, cultural enrichment, and family supports. She has received 12 NAACP Image Awards and been honored with the United Nations Association Award for her commitment to education, human rights, world peace, and her support of foster children.


That night, she 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


Educator Craig Beals, of BealsScience, made it snow onstage! Beals, a former NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow and 2015 Montana Teacher of the Year, wants us all to stay curious.



Performances by Washington, D.C.’s All Souls Church Choir and Christopher Rice, a cast member in the Tony Award-winning Broadway play, “The Book of Mormon,” wowed audiences.   


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 9, 2018


Save the date! We hope you will join us for next year's Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 9, 2018.


NEA Foundation Gala Save the Date