Friday, February 7, 2014

California Educator Receives Top Honor at the NEA Foundation’s Awards Gala

WASHINGTON, DC  (February 7, 2014) –On Friday, February 7, at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, Kimberley Gilles, an English educator at Monte Vista High School in Danville, CA, received one of public education’s top honors: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000.

Known as the Academy Awards of public education, the NEA Foundation’s gala is an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. The NEA Foundation presented nearly 40 awards to exceptional educators and dedicated supporters of public education over the course of the program. Gilles’ award was the evening’s finale.

“Gilles has been selected for this award by her peers because she has attained the highest teaching standards, as illustrated by her exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession and staunch support of public education,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “In her classroom, she shares her passion for social justice to inspire students to lift up their own voices through reading and writing.”  

Phylicia Rashad, a Tony Award-winning actress, singer, stage director, and educator, hosted the event. Rashad was nominated for two Emmy Awards for her role as Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” and became the first African-American actress to win a Tony Award for a dramatic leading role.

For the first time, the educators’ students, colleagues, and supporters were able to watch the celebration via a live webcast on the NEA Foundation’s website.


This year’s event featured performances by nearly 80 elementary through high school students from Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools. Student performers took the more than 800 national education leaders and supporters in attendance on a journey around the globe with cultural performances from salsa dancing, madrigal singing, and African drumming, to a finale performance joined by Rashad.

The Foundation and its guests also celebrated their teachers, who received on-stage recognition.

Gilles was one of five finalists for the top award; all five finalists received special recognition at the gala, the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, and $10,000. The other four finalists included:


  • Eileen Sheehy, an AP government and politics and U.S. government educator at Billing West High School in Billings, MT;
  • Kathleen Sims, an early childhood special education and school readiness educator at Foley Elementary School in Foley, MN;
  • Brian Sites, a social studies, math, and technology educator at Rivers Edge High School in Richland, WA;
  • Christopher Stone, a language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science educator at Pond Hill Elementary School in Wallingford, CT.

Gilles’ students have already benefited from her award. Last fall, they received digital arts training, which they used to create an original video honoring their teacher. Watch the student-made video, which premiered at the gala.

She was nominated for the award by the California Teachers Association, and is one of 36 public school educators nominated by their state education associations who were also honored.

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About The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators' dues, corporate sponsors, and others who support public education initiatives.We partner with education unions, districts, and communities to create powerful, sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. Visit for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and visit our blog.

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