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.

Grantees

David Hughes

West Middle School, Andover, MA
Grades 6-8, Physical Education / Health
2014, Spring

Mr. Hughes and Mr. Deschene will introduce “Warrior Wake-Up,” a fitness program that will include workouts and nutritious breakfasts three times a week before school starts. Students will wear heart monitors and track their progress. Ultimately, students will ... more »

April Thompson

South Street Elementary School, Opelousas, LA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Third and sixth grade students at South Street Elementary School will work together to create stories and poems using digital storytelling applications. Sixth grade students will act as mentors for the third grade students throughout the creative process. The students will ... more »

Heather Anderson

Cowles Montessori School, Windsor Heights, IA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Spring

Through “School to Farm,” Ms. Anderson and Mrs. Parmerlee will expose urban students to agriculture. Students will be provided with hands-on learning opportunities by visiting small organic farms, large production farms, historical farms, and the Iowa State ... more »

Joanna Sierka

Waterbury Elementary School, Roselle, IL
Grades K-5, English
2014, Spring

Mrs. Sierka and Ms. Wazydrag will implement a research based Response to Intervention program to improve students’ reading abilities, language proficiency, confidence, and academic success. The project will provide the most struggling readers, mostly English Language ... more »

Melissa Hickey

Steele Elementary School, Galesburg, IL
Grades K-5, Language Arts
2014, Spring

Through “Readers are Leaders,” Mrs. Hickey and Mrs. Mowen will expand upon Steele Elementary School’s first grade reading centers by introducing them to second and third grade classrooms. The team will create a leveled library that will aim to increase ... more »

David Evans

Richard Yates School, Chicago, IL
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Mr. Evans and Mr. Liberto will address the need for proper printing instruction by introducing “Printing for Success.” The team will create a manuscript curriculum that will detail the mechanics and detail of putting word to print. Through the use of tablets, ... more »

Julie Adams

Birch Elementary School, Nampa, ID
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

To improve technology access for students with mild to moderate disabilities, Ms. Adams and Mrs. Englund will introduce iPads in their classrooms. Tablet use will support the development of reading fluency as well as mathematical reasoning and problem solving ... more »

Ruth Goodwin

Burbank Elementary School, Merced, CA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Spring

Through “Science for the Next Generation,” Mrs. Goodwin and Mrs. Gonzalez will enhance the Next Generation Science Standards for each of their grade levels with experiences in visual and performing arts and various technology applications. The project will be ... more »

Tandra Ericson

Mount Diablo Unified School District, Concord, CA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Spring

Through “Literacy for All,” Ms. Ericson and Ms. Conable will ensure that all students have the opportunity to express themselves through writing. The team will create a model literacy program for students with complex instructional needs that will develop ... more »

Judy Duke

Fairview High School, Cullman, AL
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Spring

Ms. Duke will introduce tablet technology in her classroom of special needs students to introduce them to the skills needed to take online courses and prepare for the workforce. Students will learn through direct instruction via the tablets’ assistive technology. The ... more »

Beth Smith

Frank Elementary School, Kenosha, WI
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2014, Winter

Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Neumaier will lead a collegial study that will transform math instruction at Frank Elementary School from a whole group focus to a workshop approach. The new approach will encourage whole group instruction, guided and independent practice opportunities, ... more »

Douglas Ferguson

Martin Sortun Elementary, Kent, WA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Winter

To increase faculty knowledge of the Next Generation Science Standards, Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Rudolph will lead a book study of Betsy Fulwiler’s “Writing in Science” and Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey’s “Common Core ELA.” The project will ... more »

Nichole Calkins

Mount Rainier High School, Des Moines, WA
Grades 9-12, Physical Education / Health
2014, Winter

Mrs. Calkins and Mr. Sundblad will lead a team of elementary, middle, and high school teachers in designing a K-12 Physical Education curriculum map and professional development plans for a newly adopted PE curriculum and software system. The curriculum map will allow ... more »

Dr. Sue Rieg

Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA
Higher Education, Special Education
2014, Winter

The Indiana Area School District and Indiana University of Pennsylvania will collaborate to design a partnership to improve early elementary learning and teaching and simultaneously improve the Early Childhood with Special Education program. A study group will be formed to ... more »

Jennifer Fontana

Alder Creek Middle School, Milwaukie, OR
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

Ms. Fontana will attend the "Tribes Training for District Trainers," which will enable her to train and support teachers to use the Tribes process to examine adolescent development and implement research-based teaching practices that create a caring and inclusive ... more »

Diana Pierson

Sheffield Middle School, Sheffield Village, OH
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To improve her knowledge of behavior management, classroom management, bullying, and economic and social issues, Mrs. Pierson will attend the Character Development Seminar. Upon completing the seminar, Mrs. Pierson will share her newfound knowledge with her colleagues and ... more »

Dr. Theresa Capra

Mercer County Community College, West Windsor, NJ
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To acquire insights into ways to better prepare future educators for rigorous teacher preparation programs, Dr. Capra will attend “Journey into the Future of Community College Education Programs,” a conference sponsored by the National Association of Community ... more »

Dr. William Roweton

Chadron State College, Chadron, NE
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To assist classroom teachers in rural schools, Dr. Roweton and Dr. Brown will produce six self-paced instructional modules that will examine fundamental program assessment concepts. The web-based modules will reinforce psychometric knowledge and skills and emphasize ... more »

Susan Irion

Billings Public Schools, Billings, MT
Grades 9-12, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Winter

Mrs. Irion and Ms. Martin will extend professional development opportunities within Billings Public Schools by incorporating effective tools for reflecting on instructional practices and student engagement and learning. Participants will film themselves teaching lessons and ... more »

Brad Ollmann

Saint Anthony Park Elementary School, Saint Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Music
2014, Winter

Mr. Ollmann will spend eleven weeks in central Mexico conducting choirs, studying Spanish, learning Mexican folk dances, and observing elementary music classes. While in Mexico, Mr. Ollmann will work with a music teacher who utilizes popular music to meet state and national ... more »

Jacqueline Walker

John F. Kennedy School, Holbrook, MA
Grades K-5, Nurse
2014, Winter

To improve student health and wellness, Mrs. Walker will attend a professional yoga training program. Upon returning, she will implement relaxation and behavioral control practices with students that will assist them in meeting their education goals. The practice of yoga ... more »

Mark Ashe

Cape Elizabeth High School, Cape Elizabeth, ME
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Winter

Mr. Ashe will lead a team of educators in the design of a teacher evaluation system that will incorporate student growth measures, teaching standards, and peer review. The group will research evaluation models, assess the school’s current evaluation system, and design ... more »

Melissa Jordan

Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Terre Haute, IN
Grades 6-8, Science
2014, Winter

Mrs. Jordan will attend the 2014 Educator Academy in Iquitos, Peru. While there, she will work with scientists, researchers, and fellow educators on citizen science projects and field work. Mrs. Jordan will use the strategies, ideas, and understandings gained at the academy ... more »

Gary Simonian

Stuart R. Paddock School, Palatine, IL
Grades K-5, Physical Education / Health
2014, Winter

To improve his ability to create, implement, and evaluate programs that promote lifelong wellness, Mr. Simonian will attend the Spark P.E. Summer Institute. Upon returning to the classroom, Mr. Simonian and his colleagues will incorporate information and insight gathered ... more »

Robbie Kline

Kansas Elementary School, Kansas, IL
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Winter

To engage students in writing, each teacher in the Kansas School District will attend a professional development seminar presented by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Teachers will spend time in group settings and work hands-on with guided instruction. On the final ... more »

Laurie Dupree

Salmon Pioneer Primary School, Salmon, ID
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

Through training and curriculum provided by the Leader in Me Foundation, Pioneer Elementary teachers and staff will develop a culture at the school in which children learn leadership habits and discover within themselves personal strengths that will be used to demonstrate ... more »

Karen Chun

James Campbell High School, Ewa Beach, HI
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2014, Winter

To strengthen Campbell High School’s global literacy program, Ms. Chun will take part in a service learning project in Viet Nam. While there, Ms. Chun will interview government and non-government groups, visit historic monuments, and converse with citizens of Viet ... more »

Mickey MacDonald

P.K. Yonge DRS, Gainesville, FL
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Winter

Mrs. MacDonald and Ms. Garison-Gabbard will lead a professional learning community that will engage in lesson study to examine elements specific to teaching biology and English language arts as a cross-curricular experience. Educators will engage students in a unit that ... more »

Kristy Corbett

La Tercera Elementary School, Petaluma, CA
Grades K-5, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Winter

To assist faculty and staff with La Tercera Elementary School’s transition to a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Magnet School, Mrs. Corbett will attend the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference in Washington, DC. While at the conference, Mrs. Corbett ... more »

Debra Kruger

School District of Laona, Laona, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2014, Winter

To improve student achievement and enhance teacher effectiveness, Mrs. Kruger and her colleagues will implement the use of a Student Response System in middle and high school science classes. The system will provide educators immediate feedback and show which students are ... more »

Tabatha Brownschidle

Yorktown Middle School, Yorktown, VA
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Winter

Through “One Way Ticket to Mars,” Mrs. Brownschidle and Mrs. Fox’s students will design and build modules to be used in the first Mars colony. Student will interview experts in the fields of space exploration, space technology, and energy production in ... more »

Kayleigh Zinkham

Cougar Elementary School, Manassas Park, VA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Winter

Ms. Zinkham and Ms. Urban will introduce “Kids Integrating Technology Everyday (K.I.T.E.)”, a program that will utilize tablets to enhance learning opportunities by integrating technology into the curriculum. Any array of leveled texts will allow educators to ... more »

Danelle Moser

Catoctin Elementary School, Leesburg, VA
Grades K-5, History
2014, Winter

Through the “Living Wax Museum” project, students at Catoctin Elementary School will learn about prominent figures in Virginia’s history. Each student will be tasked with researching a different historical Virginian and then representing that person ... more »

Dr. Leslie Chekin

Annandale High School, Annandale, VA
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Winter

Through “Teaching Vocal Techniques to English Language Learners,” Dr. Chekin and Mr. Liacopoulos will introduce voice instruction to develop students’ acting and public speaking skills. Working with professionals at Synetic Theatre, students will ... more »

Natalie Mew

George Middle School, Portland, OR
Grades 6-8, Service Learning
2014, Winter

In beautifying the George Middle School courtyard, students will be provided an opportunity to work with professional artists, promote the visibility of student art, and develop a sense of community pride and purpose. Pupils will create panels of fused glass and learn about ... more »

Stacey Johnson

Junction City High School, Junction City, OR
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Winter

Through the “Robotics Challenge,” Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Buenau will increase student achievement in math and science through the use of robotics. Students will design, build, and test a fully functioning robot with the goal of successfully completing a series of ... more »

Jason Miller

Kelly Middle School, Eugene, OR
Grades 6-8, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To help foster leadership skills, Mr. Miller and Mrs. Cohen will train 8th grade students to act as mentors and role models for incoming 6th grade students. The program will allow educators at various levels to boost academic performance, social awareness, and positive ... more »

Jodi Gwin

John Clem Elementary School, Newark, OH
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2014, Winter

To increase individualized interventions and enrichment, Ms. Gwin and Mr. Kemmenoe will incorporate a set of iPads into their classrooms. Multiple applications will be used to help meet the widely varied instructional needs of individuals and small groups. Ultimately, ... more »

Michelle Creech

Montgomery County Educational Service Center, Dayton, OH
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2014, Winter

To address the unique learning needs of students with emotional and learning disabilities, Ms. Creech and Mr. Johnson will introduce tablet technology to their students. Educators will provide students applications that have been demonstrably successful in assisting ... more »

Amanda Zullo

Saranac Lake High School, Saranac Lake, NY
Grades 9-12, Science
2014, Winter

Ms. Zullo and her colleagues will allow students to design, market, and construct plans to build an outdoor classroom. Once built, teachers will integrate science topics within the outdoor classroom while guiding students to apply knowledge learned within the traditional ... more »

Gauri Kolhatkar

Ithaca High School, Ithaca, NY
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2014, Winter

Ms. Kolhatkar and Mrs. Perl will introduce LEGO Education sets and software in the Academic Intervention Services math lab at Ithaca High School. Students will work in groups of three and spend the spring building a robot. Students will be encouraged to actively gain a ... more »

Alyssa Bartosh

Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN
Grades K-5, Arts
2014, Winter

Through “Parkview Elementary and Stepping Stone Theatre Create a Play,” students will engage in a two month performing arts program. Students will use theater arts to develop cultural competence and a deeper understanding of both community and fictional story ... more »

Kelly Oltman

Seward Montessori School, Minneapolis, MN
Grades K-5, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2014, Winter

To assist students struggling with reading fluency, decoding, and comprehension, Ms. Oltman and Ms. Andries will introduce Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) systems. Reading interventionists will work with struggling students and look to make ... more »

William Edwards

Poplar Bridge Elementary School, Bloomington, MN
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2014, Winter

To increase student participation in multiple subject areas, Mr. Edwards will train students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in puppetry and performing arts techniques. Students will collaborate with teachers in writing, rehearsing, and performing an ... more »

Cari Smith

Fulton Middle School, Middleton, MI
Grades 6-8, Mathematics
2014, Winter

Mrs. Smith and Mr. Sherrik will use the ALEKS program to find and address learning gaps in 7th and 8th grade math students. Student strengths and weaknesses will be identified and progress will be monitored bi-quarterly.  Educators will compile data and look for a ... more »

Mary Ann Giasson

Oceanside High School, Rockland, ME
Grades 9-12, English
2014, Winter

Through “March Community Read,” a common book title will be read by all students and staff at Oceanside High School. Students will enhance their communication skills by working in small groups to create student run blogs and participate in weekly group ... more »

Elizabeth Jackson

Takoma Park Elementary School, Takoma Park, MD
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2014, Winter

To encourage collaboration and creativity and to improve student learning, Mrs. Jackson will introduce iPads into the classroom, with an emphasis on the evaluation of mathematics. Educators will use feedback, work samples, application data, and anecdotal notes to assess ... more »

Laurah Jurca

Prince George's County Public Schools, Adelphi, MD
Grades K-5, English
2014, Winter

Mrs. Jurca will implement “Our Lives, Our Words,” a project that will assist in improving the writing scores of elementary English language learners throughout the district. The project will provide coaching, support, materials, and guidance to ESOL teachers and ... more »

Airyell DeFord

United West Elementary School, Monmouth, IL
Grades K-5, General Pedagogical Practice
2014, Winter

To increase engagement in the classroom by enabling all students to build models to illustrate their understanding of various curriculum concepts, Ms. DeFord will introduce LEGO Education’s “BuildtoExpress.” Students will learn to actively listen, think ... more »

Diane Abraham

Kualapuu School, Kualapuu, HI
Grades K-5, Science
2014, Winter

Through “Discovering Disciplines of Tropical Marine Science,” Mrs. Abraham and Mr. Link’s students will learn that the planet’s oceans support a variety of ecosystems, organisms, shapes, and landforms. Students will collect sea waters and analyze its ... more »

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.

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.