Congratulations to the 42 public schools educators who were nominated by their NEA state affiliates for the 2016 NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence. 

Watch videos created by their students

Five extraordinary educators from across the country received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence. And their students have already benefitted. Each class received digital arts training from Scena Media to produce a video, which premiered at the gala on Feb. 13, 2015, to honor their award-winning teachers. Watch all of the student-made videos below. 


Who are the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipients?

“I advocate for the profession by positioning myself as someone who others can come to when they need help…Being placed in this position truly shows me how important it is to be up-to-speed on current educational issues and further drives my desire to be an active member of my local affiliate.” 


Crystal Williams Gordon

 Biology educator


Louisiana Association of Educators

Broadmoor High School

Baton Rouge, LA



Crystal Williams Gordon‘s students engage in a simulation activity about natural selection, survival of the fittest, adaptability, and evolution, as well as other introductory AP Biology concepts. Working in teams, students “prey” on 10 different paper “bugs” that are scattered over a colorful, patterned fabric. Their goal is to remove 75 percent of each population. As they repeat the exercise, the students also learn the rate at which the survivors will reproduce and make predictions about what will happen in successive generations.  This knowledge is then applied to a real-life examination of the white peppered moth’s evolution.


Currently the Science Department Chair at her school, Gordon also served as a Curriculum Content Trainer for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System for five years. As such, she trained teachers in science content, pedagogy and literacy; and brain-based research strategies. In addition, she co-authored a 4.6 million dollar grant to implement professional development for 1,000 elementary school science teachers in her large, urban district. 


Gordon earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences at Southern University-Baton Rouge and an M. Ed from Louisiana State University in Secondary Science Education.   She is currently the Recording Secretary for the East Baton Rouge Parish Association of Educators and has served as a recruiter at new teacher events. In addition, she supervises student teachers and interns during their transitions to the profession.

"New teachers need to understand that nobody expects them to know everything in their first years. I tell them to ask for help...and polish the paint on a mentor's doorway by leaning on it every day, looking for inspiration or solace.” 


Anna Baldwin

English and history educator



Arlee High School

Arlee, MT




Anna Baldwin is teaching about the allotment of tribal lands in Montana more than 100 years ago. Primary source documents for the lesson include a 1909 letter to President Taft sent on behalf of eight chiefs and 217 Native Americans living on the Flathead Reservation and a government response which cites the “inestimable benefits derived from the effect of civilization and contact with white settler.” Two land status maps and an article from the Daily Missoulian help the student to piece together the story about what happened as their area—and their people—prepared for the rush of homesteaders who would take more than half of their reserved land.


Baldwin is a primary teacher voice across the state for Indian Education for All, a statewide multicultural initiative that focuses on teaching about Montana's first people. Her published work, which includes Inside Anna’s Classroom: Engaging Students in Discovering Community and History, earned an Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching Award from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2013.       


The 2014 state Teacher of the Year earned a B.A. in English Literature from Georgetown University, an M.A. in Teaching English from the University of Montana–Missoula, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the same institution.  


She has served as the President of the Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts, Secretary and Collective Bargaining Agreement Negotiator for the Arlee Federation of Teachers, on the state’s Additional Content Working Team for Common Core State Standards, and as an NEA Teacher Ambassador.   

“The decisions I make concerning how I teach are based on the likes, loves, and needs of my students. I utilize small group instruction because it meets their needs. I engage them with lots of technology because I know they love it, and we sing and dance every Friday because they like it.” 


Terri Butts 

 Curriculum Effectiveness Specialist 


South Carolina Education Association

 Richland 2 Child Development Center 

Columbia, SC



Terri Butts creates a “learning pond” in her classroom where students have a desire to learn, feel safe to take risks, and strive to excel. In an introduction to economics lesson, she asks the students to imagine that they are going on a trip to a deserted island.  If you can take one thing that you need, she says, and one thing that you want; what would you take? After the students write or illustrate their answers, they discuss their reasoning and learn that needs and wants differ greatly for different people. Their definitions for these terms are not the same either which leads to an understanding of personal financial planning and budget decision-making.


Butts achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as a Middle Childhood/Generalist in 2002 and was recertified in 2011. She was named the 2012–2013 Richland School District Teacher of the Year, was selected as South Carolina Education Association Superhero in 2013, and became a Certified Mentor in 2014.


She earned a B.A. in Psychology at Hampton University in Hampton, VA and an M.A. in Teaching at the University of South Carolina–Columbia.  


As President of her local association early in her career, Butts was instrumental in the implementation of a sick leave bank policy for district employees. Currently, she serves on the Leadership Council of her local’s Teacher Forum which ensures that the voices and opinions of teachers are heard and considered during discussion of local education policies. 

“I am proud to be a teacher alongside so many other strong men and women in my school and district.”


Allison Riddle

Elementary school educator 


Utah Education Association

Foxboro Elementary School 

North Salt Lake, UT






Allison Riddle’s students play a game called “Beat the Clock” to learn about mathematical expressions and other skills related to the Common Core State Standards. They roll three dice at a time and then add, subtract, multiply, or divide the numbers in any combination to eliminate the numbers on the face of a clock one by one. The goal is to find the combinations that will allow their team to be first to cross off all 12 numbers and win the game. While working with classmates who are not their closest friends, the students also enhance their non-cognitive skills, such as listening and cooperation, as they use the activity to construct and solve math problems and have some fun. At the end of the lesson, the students discuss what kinds of jobs use the skills that they just learned.


In addition to teaching at the elementary level, Riddle has served as an Elementary Mentor Leader in her school district and was a Consultant who organized and implemented staff development workshops in mathematics for individual faculties and schools in other districts. She was honored with the 2013 Utah Teacher of the Year award and was named with Utah State University Cooperating Teacher of the Year in 2011.  


Riddle also created and implemented a mentoring program at Foxboro Elementary and collaborated on the award-winning math website, "Shadow of a Swan." She earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

“Students hope to develop a nurturing connection with their teacher, one that honors irrevocable trust, a lack of judgment, a promise to provide challenges, a refusal to yield to failure, and no semblance of an ending.”


Richard Erickson

 Alternative education, chemistry, and physics educator


Wisconsin Education Association Council

Bayfield High School

Bayfield, WI




Technically, Richard Erickson is a science teacher. But for this lesson on science and the scientific method, he adds geography, history, math, and real life problem solving to the mix. Erickson teaches at the uppermost tip of the state on the shores of Lake Superior and the problem that he poses is this—how has the duration of the ice season near Bayfield changed since the city was established 150 years ago? The hypothesis is that the season has shortened.  Students use data on the local ferry line from 1975 to 2007 to quantify the rate of change over time. Newspaper articles on the number of days without boat traffic dating back to 1856 are also consulted and support the conclusion that the ice season has gotten shorter by .33 days per year.        


Erickson’s love of learning has taken him through the process for certification by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards in 2002 and to Siberia last summer with a group of his students. He earned a Bachelor of Applied Science, teaching Physical Science Summa Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. 


The 2014 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year received the Herbert Kohl Educational Foundation Fellowship Award in 2013. Erickson has served in leadership roles—including President, Vice President and Head Negotiator—at the Bayfield Education Association for more than two decades.