Eric Heins, Mikki Cichocki-Semo, Kimberley Gilles, Dean Vogel
You may remember Kimberley Gilles. She was featured in the cover story “5 reasons to bring back the arts” in our inaugural redesign issue last September. We weren’t the only ones impressed with her skills. Gilles, an English teacher at Monte Vista High School in Danville in the Bay Area, received one of public education’s top honors in February: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence, which comes with $25,000.
She was recognized at what’s become known as the Academy Awards of public education, the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala. This is an annual celebration of the men and women who do exceptional work in America’s public schools. This year, the NEA Foundation presented nearly 40 awards to educators and dedicated supporters of public education across the country.
Gilles, a veteran teacher and member of the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA), was one of five national finalists for the top award. Each of the five finalists received special recognition at the gala, the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, and $10,000.
CTA President Dean E. Vogel was in Washington, D.C., to be with Gilles at the awards ceremony, along with CTA Vice President Eric Heins, Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki-Semo, and SRVEA President Ann Katzburg.
Vogel praised her emphasis on social justice issues and diversity. “Part of Kimberley’s great ability in teaching is her attention to diversity. Diversity is integrated into the textbooks she chooses, the music she selects, the model essays she presents, and even the decor of her classroom.” Gilles received a 2012 CTA Human Rights Award for her classroom curriculum focusing on bigotry and social justice issues.
“It is my honor to accept this award in the name of the American public school teacher,” Gilles said in her acceptance speech. “It is my honor to say to you: Well done! You labor in the vineyards, and you bring home a good harvest.”
Katzburg, who nominated Gilles for the honor, said, “Walking into Kimberley’s classroom is an entryway into the world of a masterful educator. Her strategies include front-loading the curriculum with a carousel of new ideas for the students to ponder, and waiting for answers, allowing students to go deeper into their thinking.”
The gala featured performances by nearly 80 students from Maryland public schools, who took the audience on a journey around the globe with cultural performances including salsa dancing, madrigal singing and African drumming. In their finale performance, the students were joined by Phylicia Rashad, a Tony Award-winning actress, singer, stage director and educator, who also hosted the gala.
For more on this honor, including links to a video of Gilles receiving the award and a tribute video produced by her students, go to www.cta.org/gilles.
Gilles was featured in the cover story “Five reasons to bring back the arts” in the September 2013 Educator. Click here to read the story.
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