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More than 900 Leaders Gather in Washington, D.C. to Salute Football Legend Tiki Barber and Nation’s Top Educators

Outstanding individuals, organizations recognized for commitment to public education


WASHINGTON - February 11, 2008 -

Legendary football great, literacy champion, author and broadcaster Tiki Barber was among the extraordinary individuals honored Friday evening for exceptional contributions to public education at The NEA Foundation’s 13th annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. 

Hosted by local NBC affiliate (WRC-TV) anchor and reporter, Lindsay Czarniak, the red carpet-themed gala drew more than 900 guests—including education and corporate leaders and government officials—who celebrated the men and women who work in America’s public schools.

Barber accepted the prestigious NEA Foundation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, presented each year to an individual who demonstrates exemplary public education achievements and a continued commitment to advancing education issues. 

Barber is a dedicated supporter of literacy campaigns, has co-authored with his brother four successful children's books, and has partnered with Scholastic Book Clubs to pilot a contest designed to motivate students to read and write.  He also serves as a board member for the Children's Miracle Network and the Fresh Air Fund and is a member of the Leadership Council of the Robin Hood Foundation.

“As a product of a public school education, as a champion of literacy and as a parent, I know that a good education can make all the difference in the world,” said Barber.  “Every day, in 97,000 schools around the nation, our public school teachers are working smart and working hard to prepare young people with the skills and knowledge they are going to need to thrive and succeed in the 21st century.  These champions of education deserve our attention, our praise and our thanks.”

In addition to The NEA Foundation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education, more than 50 awards were bestowed upon the nation’s top educators, most notably Lynette Wayne, the recipient of The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence. 

Selected from five national finalists, Wayne, a first- and second-grade teacher at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Hastings, Minn., received a total of $35,000 from The Foundation for her achievements and contributions.  The award, which carries a cash prize of $25,000, honors creative instructional expertise, attention to diversity, community engagement, advocacy for the profession and leadership in professional development. 

Each of the five finalists received The Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, which included $10,000 and financial support from The Horace Mann Companies to attend the gala.  All nominees for the award received The I CAN Learn® Award for Teaching Excellence and funding to travel to the gala from I CAN Learn® Education Systems. 

“Our annual gala pays tribute to these men and women whose extraordinary accomplishments are examples of what is possible in public education,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of The NEA Foundation.  “But we remain committed to helping all educators realize their own potential. 

By investing in public education through grants and other programs, The NEA Foundation is working to inspire and enable teachers to prepare every child to learn and thrive in a rapidly changing world.  This is our mission.  It is what drives us every single day.”  

“We are all impressed by the level of talent exhibited by all the awardees.  NEA and its 3.2 million members congratulate the gala awardees and organizations for their contributions and the pivotal roles they play in advancing public education issues,” said Reg Weaver, NEA president.  “Efforts such as these are not only commendable, they are critical in making good on our commitment to providing great public schools for every child.”

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Note to Editors:  High resolution, downloadable event photos are available at www.nea.org/presscenter/neagala2008.html

About NEA
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. For more details, go to http://www.nea.org/ .

About The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization created in 1969 by the members of the National Education Association and sustained by contributions from educators, corporate sponsors and others.  The NEA Foundation offers grants and programs that support educators' efforts to close the gaps in student achievement, increase classroom innovations, salute excellence in education and provide professional development. 

For more information, visit http://www.neafoundation.org./The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Christiana Campos  (202) 822-7823