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Awards Programs for Teachers -- Giving Credit Where It Is Overdue!

Great teachers deserve great rewards, and nothing is more effective than praise and recognition in the form of a national teacher award. Many organizations and companies around the country offer such commendations because they recognize the value of excellent educators. With a little time and effort, your multi-talented, innovative staff can be award winning as well! Included: Links to more than a dozen organizations that sponsor yearly awards for U.S. teachers!

"Freedoms Foundation's mission is to help students become informed and active citizens. They become informed and active citizens through the help of their teachers. It is important to recognize those educators who go above and beyond the call of duty to inspire their students to great heights," Carolyn Hallman, director of the Freedoms Foundation Awards, told Education World.

The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, located in Pennsylvania, is a national not-for-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian, educational organization that was founded in 1949. Its mission is to help preserve the ideals and principles on which the United States was founded. "We have two award programs that benefit teachers," explained Hallman. "The most prestigious award program is our Leavey Awards for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education. Through the annual cash awards, teachers from every grade level are honored for work in promoting in their students a better understanding of the private enterprise system and what it means to the democratic system. Each winning program earns a $7,500 award, with up to 20 programs annually recognized.

"The second awards program is our National Awards," Hallman continued. "The awards are given to those who help ignite the spirit of America with their individual deeds and accomplishments and the impact they have on their community, region, and even the nation as a whole. There are four categories: Community, Military Essay, Schools, and Youth. The Schools category recognizes outstanding school and classroom projects that display the spirit of America, community service."

The Leavey Awards program has recognized more than 350 educators since its inception in 1977, and the National Awards program has rewarded thousands of educators and Americans since its establishment in 1949. Educators who are interested in applying for one or both of the awards programs should contact the Freedoms Foundation Awards Department via e-mail at Awards or by telephone at (610) 933-8825. Forms are sent on request by regular mail. Applications for the Leavey Awards are due by October 1, 2001, and for the National Awards by June 1, 2001. Applicants must submit a portfolio with a summary page explaining why the entry should be considered for a specific award with information including recommendations, pictures, and a description of the project.


Freedoms Foundation is not the only organization that recognizes the importance of excellent teaching. Many other national awards programs for teachers exist, and much of the information needed to nominate a deserving educator is available online. Check out these prizes that are as unique as the faculty gems at your school!

National and State Teacher of the Year
The National Teacher of the Year Program is probably the most prestigious award given to teachers in the United States. It is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic, Inc., and has been in existence since 1952. Annually, the national winner is selected from the state teachers of the year. The National Teacher of the Year is released from the classroom for one year as he or she travels nationally and internationally to represent the teaching profession. Candidates should intend to remain actively teaching, inspire all students, possess the respect of all members of their school, be involved in the community, and be prepared for public speaking. Applications and information may be obtained from the State Teacher of the Year Program Coordinators.

Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year Awards
With the assistance of Weekly Reader, Scholastic, and Time magazine, the National Council for the Social Studies honors teachers with the Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year Awards. These prizes, separated into three groups by grade level, include $2,500 awards and are designed to honor exceptional classroom social studies teaching. Membership in the organization for two years prior to nomination is required for consideration. The award winners demonstrate creative use of instructional materials, effective instructional strategies, use of new scholarship from history or other appropriate fields, use of the ten interrelated themes of the NCSS curriculum standards, the ability to foster a spirit of inquiry, and evidence of involvement in professional activities. For more information and a sample nomination format, see the NCSS Web site. Submissions for the year 2001 must be postmarked by April 1, 2001.

Internet Innovators Award
National Semiconductor in partnership with the 21st Century Teachers Network has established the Internet Innovators Award to recognize K-12 educators who exhibit the highest level of innovation in integrating Internet technology into their curriculum. Eligible teachers include K-12 classroom teachers or resource teachers of any subject. Recipients receive $10,000, and the educators' schools receive $15,000 to further the integration of technology. A separate program that carries a $20,000 school award exists for areas surrounding National Semiconductor's three major U.S. communities -- Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda Counties in California; the state of Maine; and Tarrant County, Texas. Visit the Internet Innovators Award home page for online applications and information. The deadline for the 2000-2001 awards is June 22, 2001.

Milken Educator Awards
The Milken Educator Awards is a program that is active in 42 states and provides public recognition and financial rewards to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and other education professionals. The states alternate annually between elementary and secondary educators. To date, the program has recognized 1,650 educators with unrestricted individual Milken Educator Awards of $25,000. It seeks to identify educators who show exceptional education talent and an engaging and inspiring classroom presence. Individual state departments of education appoint committees that select candidates for evaluation and recommend them to the Milken Family Foundation. The awards are announced at surprise ceremonies in the fall.

Disney's American Teacher Awards
The Walt Disney Company has been recognizing teachers since 1989. The focus of the DisneyHand Teacher Awards is to recognize the teaching profession, showcase creativity in the classroom, and honor those who can assist in developing creative teaching strategies in their school districts. Last year, each of the 39 honorees was awarded $10,000, with their respective schools each receiving $5,000 from The Walt Disney Company. See the Disney Hand Web page for more information

Freida J. Riley Teacher Award
The Freida J. Riley Teacher Award is administered by the Partnership for America's Future Inc. The award commemorates the achievements of a teacher from Coalwood, West Virginia, who, despite Hodgkin's disease, made a great impact on her students. With this award, the organization recognizes an educator who is working with a physical disability, is dealing with a changing educational environment, or has performed a heroic act for his or her students. Applications are due in March and the award is given on International Space Day in May at the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The award includes transportation and accommodations for the ceremony and a $5,000 check to be used as the recipient chooses.

National Science Teachers Association Awards
Established in 1944, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) offers many awards for science teachers at all levels through corporate sponsorship. Partners currently include Ciba Specialty Chemical Corporation, Estes Rocketry, the U.S. Space Foundation, Shell Oil Company, and others. The NSTA Award and Competitions range from gifts of money to free trips to NSTA's national convention and sometimes both. Applications may be downloaded from the organization's Web site. Applications for 2001 were collected on November 15, 2000.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
Created by the White House and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching recognize superior K-12 science and mathematics teachers in the United States and its four jurisdictions. More than 3,000 teachers have received awards since the program was established in 1983. Categories for the awards are elementary mathematics, elementary science, secondary mathematics, and secondary science. The secondary groups include middle, junior, and senior high school teachers. K-12 science or math educators with five year's experience who anticipate a classroom teaching assignment for the following year are eligible. The centerpiece of a Presidential Award for Excellence is a $7,500 grant to the awardee's school, to be spent under his or her direction over five years. The selection criteria for the awards include subject-matter competence, professional growth, understanding of how students learn, ability to engage students and foster curiosity, belief that all students can learn science and math, innovative attitude, and professional leadership.

Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year
The Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year is a national award presented annually by Dole Food Company to three outstanding elementary educators whose curricular activities motivate their students to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Dole has sponsored this award since 1997 on behalf of the national 5 A Day for Better Health Program.


The Shaklee Teacher Award Annually, the Shaklee Institute recognizes up to ten teachers of students with disabilities. Winners are determined by specific student outcomes and related contributions as teachers of exceptional students. National Teacher Awards

Article by Cara Bafile
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