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.


Erika Isomura

Glassbrook School, Hayward, CA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Fall

Ms. Isomura and Mrs. Buljan will lead a school wide professional learning community to prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts. Through lesson study and inquiry, the team will refine teaching practices and ... more »

Laura Masbruch

Whitewater High School, Whitewater, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Ms. Masbruch and Mr. Lauersdorf will expand their Digital Electronics course to allow students to create software designs for circuits. The circuits will be used to control LED message boards, raise and lower toll bridge gates, detect jams in copy machines, and make robots ... more »

Debra Ono

Lakeland Elementary School, Auburn, WI
Grades K-5, Librarian
2013, Fall

To assist educators in the implementation of new Common Core Standards, Mrs. Ono and Mrs. Brown will create a guided reading room in Lakeland Elementary School’s library. Educators will be encouraged to check out books to use in daily reading activities and for ... more »

Janice McCurdy

Gar-Field High School, Woodbridge, VA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2013, Fall

Mrs. McCurdy and Mrs. Clarke will introduce “System 44,” an innovative web-based reading improvement program. This foundational program will provide targeted instruction to high school students who struggle with deficits in phonics and are caught in a cycle of ... more »

Karen Ciotta

Epes Elementary School, Newport News, VA
Grades K-5, STEM
2013, Fall

Through “STEM Scientists,” Mrs. Ciotta and Mrs. McEaddy will create a hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classroom environment for kindergarten students and English Language Learners. Students will be provided with daily opportunities to ... more »

Lauren Foster

Discovery Elementary School, Ashburn, VA
Grades K-5, Resource Specialist
2013, Fall

To support struggling readers through the use of current technology, Ms. Foster and Ms. Ragan will introduce “iPad Buddies” in their classrooms. The initiative will serve as a resource for primary teachers to use during intervention groups. Ms. Foster and Ms. ... more »

Kevin Veroneau

Robert E. Lee High School, San Antonio, TX
Grades 9-12, Social Studies
2013, Fall

Mr. Veroneau and Mr. Newberger will improve student participation by introducing Classroom Performance Systems (CPS) in their social studies classrooms. The technology will allow educators to provide immediate and ongoing feedback to students, perform real time formative ... more »

Ioana Agut

Brazosport College, Lake Jackson, TX
Higher Education, Mathematics
2013, Fall

To improve completion of entry level math courses, student retention, and graduation rates, Mrs. and Mr. Agut will pilot the “Calculate2Gether” program. They will create a lending library that will allow struggling students access to common calculators. Students ... more »

Suzanne Costner

Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN
Grades K-5, Library Media Specialist
2013, Fall

“Going Interactive” will allow Ms. Costner and Mrs. Roberts to increase student participation by using Promethean Boards in their classrooms. Students will be encouraged to answer questions from video reviews, participate in “Jeopardy”-style ... more »

William Hughes

Park Forest Middle School, State College, PA
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Through “Renewable Electricity Producing Clean Water,” Mr. Hughes and Mr. McAninch will increase their students’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills by enhancing current curriculum with cross-curricular energy and environmental ... more »

Jaime Lemon

Cold Spring Elementary School, Doylestown, PA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

To improve student reading fluency through the use of tablet technology, Mrs. Lemon and Mrs. Christie will introduce “Project iRead.” The tablets will allow students to read books that they choose and connect kinesthetically, visually, and orally with their ... more »

Jenna Hixson

Southmoreland School District, Alverton, PA
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To address drops in reading proficiency, students in Mrs. Hixson’s and Mr. Brittain’s classes will study the classic texts “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Outsiders.” The books will allow students to ... more »

Gayle Sharp

Wickliffe High School, Wickliffe, OH
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To help students become deeper learners, Mrs. Sharp and Mrs. Shultz will introduce collaborative literature circle groups in their classrooms. Through these groups, students will be given the opportunity to develop higher level creative thinking and complex processing ... more »

David Garcia

Warren Hills Regional Middle School, Washington, NJ
Grades 6-8, Computers / Technology
2013, Fall

Through “On Your Own,” Mr. Garcia’s students will use personal finance software to simulate living independently upon graduating from high school. Students will create budgets, interview for jobs, purchase automobiles, and rent apartments as they are ... more »

Katrina Macht

Hillside Intermediate School, Bridgewater, NJ
Grades 6-8, STEM
2013, Fall

Mrs. Macht and Mr. Sgro will introduce “Classrooms Without Walls,” a science and technology program that will link classroom learning with real world scientific research. Mrs. Macht and her colleagues will partner with scientists affiliated with a local ... more »

Dr. Cynthia Serfass

Westside High School, Omaha, NE
Grades 9-12, Service Learning
2013, Fall

Through “Success through Service,” Dr. Serfass and Mrs. McGeary will introduce a service learning project for at-risk students. Students will be presented with options for local service opportunities and will vote on the options. After determining the sites, ... more »

Teresa Glass

Independent School District 625, St. Paul, MN
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Fall

To increase student comprehension of grade level material, Ms. Glass and Ms. Tetlie will incorporate tablet technology into their special education classrooms. Educators will use the tablets to introduce research-based audio content to improve reading comprehension with ... more »

Ross Chakrian

Waverly Elementary School, Ellicott City, MD
Grades K-5, Physical Education / Health
2013, Fall

Through “Heart to Heart,” Mr. Chakrian and Ms. Heisey will implement a heart rate monitoring program at Waverly Elementary School. The program will allow students to monitor their exercise intensity in a safe and individualized manner. Data collected by the ... more »

Michelle Jordan

Summit Middle School, Johnston, IA
Grades 6-8, Reading, Spelling, Writing
2013, Fall

Mrs. Jordan and Mrs. Heston will introduce “Reaching the Summit,” a unique after school program designed to close the achievement gaps for struggling students. School staff members and community volunteers will facilitate the program and engage students in ... more »

Kent Houston

William Henry Harrison High School, Evansville, IN
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

Mr. Houston and Mr. Elpers will team teach a global leadership curriculum designed to assist Harrison High School’s students to improve academically and develop into mature global leaders. The innovative, standards-based curriculum will include cultural diversity, ... more »

Sara Hay

Belvidere Central Middle School, Belvidere, IL
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2013, Fall

To integrate language arts and literacy skills into social studies classes, Ms. Hay and Mrs. Zarembski will incorporate the use of Kindles into their classroom lessons. Students will participate in novel studies from a variety of genres, and use the tablets to access online ... more »

Thomas Riherd

Lake Butler Middle School, Lake Butler, FL
Grades 6-8, Social Studies
2013, Fall

Mr. Riherd will introduce tablet technology into his social studies classroom, enabling students to explore primary and secondary online sources to enhance their learning experience. Students will share their discoveries with their peers and engage in collaborative ... more »

Dr. Kimberly Clements

Colonial Elementary School, Fort Myers, FL
Grades K-5, School Counselor
2013, Fall

Dr. Clements and Mr. Marino will introduce “STEM-ulating Students through Robotics,” a unit that will allow students to develop their knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. Students will design, build, and program small scale robots ... more »

Kevin Brodie

Lyman Memorial High School, Lebanon, CT
Grades 9-12, Mathematics
2013, Fall

Through “What Makes You Tick?,” Mr. Brodie and Ms. Escott will lead a project in which students will connect self-perception with the ways they view other people. Students will answer identity questions, formulate personal essays, and take self-portraits to be ... more »

Lindsay Parrish

Fox Ridge Middle School, Aurora, CO
Grades 6-8, Science
2013, Fall

To create tangible, authentic experiences that promote student understanding of the human body, Ms. Parrish and Ms. Voreis will introduce the “Living Life Science” project. Students will develop critical thinking skills that will target the “why” ... more »

Norma Williamson

La Mirada High School, La Mirada, CA
Grades 9-12, Foreign Language Teacher
2013, Fall

“Community Connections for Watershed Protection” will allow students to use a project based learning approach to research how the La Mirada community can help reduce ocean pollution and conserve drinking water. Students will interview scientists, members of ... more »

Lisa Aburto

Yucca Loma Elementary School, Apple Valley, CA
Grades K-5, Science
2013, Fall

Through “Robo-Mentors,” students at Granite Hills High School will team with Yucca Loma Elementary students to assist them with assembling basic robots. The high school students will collaborate weekly with their elementary counterparts to guide and support them ... more »

Brandi Ashby

West Morgan High School, Trinity, AL
Grades 9-12, Language Arts
2013, Fall

To reach students at their level and provide hands-on activities that will bring history to life, Mrs. Ashby and Ms. Dickerson will introduce “Live in Your Classroom, Play in Ours.” The project will promote friendly competition through trivia and gaming and will ... more »

Joe Mink

Edgerton High School, Edgerton, WI
Grades 9-12, Computers / Technology
2013, Spring

Barbara Mills

Shorewood High School, Shoreline, WA
Grades 9-12, Special Education
2013, Spring

Ms. Mills will participate in the Combined Summer Institute, which will address support for students with deaf-blindness, multiple disabilities, and autism. While attending, Ms. Mills will gain vital knowledge that will enable her to more effectively support students with ... more »

Mary Silvia

Viewlands Elementary School, Seattle, WA
Grades K-5, Special Education
2013, Spring

Mrs. Silvia and a team of colleagues will learn to work with behaviorally challenged special needs students. The team will learn to execute Applied Behavioral Analysis in the classroom, support students with autism and oppositional defiance, and manage disruptive behavior ... more »

Cassie Cox

Two Rivers High School, Ogden, UT
Grades 9-12, English
2013, Spring

Mrs. Cox will improve her English teaching practice by attending the National Council of Teachers of English’s Annual Convention. During the convention, Mrs. Cox will attend workshops, listen to keynote speakers, and work with leaders in the field. Following the ... more »

Dr. Michelle Salazar Perez

New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2013, Spring

Dr. Perez will travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to participate in a language and culture immersion program for educators. While living with a host family, she will participate in language study and visit elementary schools and historical sites to learn about Mexican culture ... more »

Emily Brill

Keystone Oaks School District, Pittsburgh, PA
Grades 6-8, Foreign Language Teacher
2013, Spring

To develop the necessary skills and acquire the technology needed to record her lectures, Mrs. Brill will attend workshops and conferences through the Flipped Learning Network. Upon completing the training, Mrs. Brill will pilot a “flipped learning curriculum” ... more »

Joyce Kaplan

Portland Community College, Portland, OR
Grades K-5, Science
2013, Spring

Ms. Kaplan will participate in the “Earth Expeditions Primate Conservation” course in Borneo and work with other educators to conduct field studies in an environment of extraordinary cultural and ecological diversity. Ms. Kaplan will learn to apply field methods ... more »

Lori Adams

Bixby Public Schools, Bixby, OK
Grades 9-12, General Pedagogical Practice
2013, Spring

To immerse herself in in-depth learning experiences with colleagues from throughout the nation, Ms. Adams will attend the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association Schools Conference. While attending, Ms. Adams will participate in sessions that will offer updates on ... more »

Zakiya Atkinson

Memorial High School, West New York, NJ
Grades 9-12, Arts
2013, Spring

Ms. Atkinson will travel to South Africa to conduct a case study for the development of a cross curricular unit on human rights, the Holocaust, and genocide studies. While abroad, Ms. Atkinson will conduct a performance workshop with a group of adolescents affected by the ... more »

Filomena Vine

Edward W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV
Grades 9-12, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
2013, Spring

Mrs. Vine will attend the National Science Teachers Association’s STEM Forum and will present on cross-curricular connections and solutions to promote weather and climate readiness.  Forum workshops will provide a venue for Mrs. Vine and colleagues to collaborate ... more »

Dr. Julie Riales

Grenada School District, Grenada, MS
Grades K-5, Math and Science
2013, Spring

To prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, 4th through 8th grade teachers in the Grenada School District will meet monthly to study and engage in the new standards. Through a partnership with the Center for Mathematics and Science ... more »

Cory Shah

Hilton Elementary School, Brighton, MI
Grades K-5, Arts
2013, Spring

Mrs. Shah will attend the “Reading and Writing Project” at Columbia University’s Teachers College.  While there, she will work in advance sessions to improve her proficiency in the Common Core Reading Standards.Upon returning to Hilton Elementary ... more »

Jay Mooney

North Brookfield Public Schools, North Brookfield, MA
Grades K-5, Mathematics
2013, Spring

To aid in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Mr. Mooney and Mrs. Laflamme will implement “Creating a Mathematical Community.” The project will provide coaching, support, modeling, and guidance to all elementary school staff throughout ... more »

Debra Lawson

Prairie Creek Elementary School, Spring Hill, KS
Grades K-5, School Counselor
2013, Spring

Mrs. Lawson and Mrs. Moore will organize “iPad Applications for Classroom Instruction,” a district-wide professional learning community. Through group activities, Mrs. Lawson and Mrs. Moore will facilitate effective teaching through the examination of ... more »

Michaela Campbell

Riverton High School, Riverton, IL
Grades 9-12, School Counselor
2013, Spring

To better enhance students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, Riverton High School will strengthen its “Project Lead the Way (PLTW)” curriculum. Required training will be provided to educators for certification, which will allow them to teach a ... more »

Karen Sandler

Harry S. Truman College, Chicago, IL
Higher Education, General Pedagogical Practice
2013, Spring

A team of high school and college teachers will coordinate “GEARed UP for Truman,” a summer college readiness program for Chicago public high school graduates who have applied to Truman College and tested below college levels on the COMPASS placement exam. The ... more »

David Cook

Cary-Grove High School, Cary, IL
Grades 9-12, Teacher
2013, Spring

Mr. Cook will embark upon an action research project studying the business and economics of Northern Kenya’s desert region. Mr. Cook will examine and record the actions being taken by Non-Governmental Organizations to develop a sustainable marketplace for an ... more »

Jeff Hudson

Alton High School, Alton, IL
Grades 9-12, English
2013, Spring

Mr. Hudson and Mrs. Brave will create a literacy library at Alton High School.  Working with teachers throughout the district, the team will assist in delivering literacy-based instruction across all content areas.  Educators will be provided with strategies to ... more »

Carley Grant

Westhill High School, Stamford, CT
Grades 9-12, Science
2013, Spring

To study the social and environmental effects of rising sea levels, Mrs. Grant will travel to Venice, Italy and Kiel, Germany to participate in the “Cities by the Sea” program. While studying urban coastal zone processes and city management, Mrs. Grant will ... more »

Michael Persinger

James Monroe Elementary School, Santa Rosa, CA
Grades K-5, Computers / Technology
2013, Spring

To address the implementation of the Common Core Standards at James Monroe Elementary School, Mr. Persinger will travel to Manchester, New Hampshire to participate in the “Constructing Modern Knowledge” program. During the program, Mr. Persinger will refine ... 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