2017 Salute to Excellence in Education award winners

Eight area educators will receive general awards for excellence at the St. Louis American Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education at America’s Center on Saturday, September 23.

Alan Byrd has worked his way up in the world of higher education, from an admissions tour guide at his alma mater to his current position, the dean of Enrollment Services at the University of Missouri St. Louis. In that role, he works to ensure that lower-income students can attend colleges. Byrd has led the college to its highest-ever enrollment numbers, 17,000 students in 2014, and helped restructure need-based financial aid. “I love helping empower people through education,” Byrd said. 

As an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Hazelwood Central Middle School and a professor at Harris-Stowe State University, Anya Gray Franklin has a busy schedule, but her commitment to her students never wavers. Franklin, who started out as a special education teacher, now enjoys helping her eighth graders learn the life skills they will need for high school and beyond. Some of her proudest moments in her teaching career have been seeing her former middle school students come back to take computer skills classes with her at Harris-Stowe.

Crystal Gale’s career in education is built on giving every student a chance to succeed. That’s what she did as the principal of Roosevelt High School, working to give the school’s struggling students the tools they needed to succeed. At Roosevelt, she was St. Louis Public Schools’ 2016-17 Principal of the Year. In her new role as SLPS’ director of Performance Management, she is bringing that energy and commitment to the whole district, working towards improving SLPS academics and helping all schools meet state, national and district goals.

As the executive director of the St. Louis Internship Program (SLIP), Shanice Johnson matches high school students with internship programs that can teach them valuable skills for their future careers. But Johnson's organization has a deeper goal than that – the interns she works with are students in financial need, and SLIP finds them paid summer internships as well as providing them with career training and college planning. Johnson, who has been with the organization since 1997, has helped students from public, private and charter schools graduate, acquire new skills and pursue their dreams.

Angela Keys teaches seventh and eighth grade language arts at Jennings Junior High school. She wasn’t always on the path to education. Keys originally worked for television and radio stations. It wasn’t until she came back to Florissant that she realized teaching is a career that fulfills her. She now teaches passionately. For Keys, the role of the teacher is not just as an educator, but also as a guardian and counselor. Keys treats her students like they were her own kids.

Kevin M. Martin began his teaching career at Teach for America, teaching math to struggling students in the St. Louis Public Schools and aiming to help raise test scores. Today, he is still passionate about addressing all students’ needs. He advocates for greater mental health awareness and positive behavior intervention in his position of assistant principal of Curriculum and Instruction at Hazelwood Northwest Middle School. Martin is also a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Louis Community College.

Raghib Muhammad, a business and marketing instructor at McCluer South-Berkeley High School, teaches his students a skill that isn’t often a topic in high school – entrepreneurship. In his class, students build a plan for a small business, helping them develop innovation and organization skills. Some of Muhammad’s students have gone on to develop the products they invented in his class, but the problem-solving and critical thinking skills he teaches are useful no matter where they end up.

Latisha Smith is the director of curriculum and professional development for St. Louis Public Schools. As education changes, Smith guides occupations in education and keeps them up-to-date. She ensures educators are well-prepared and schools are not left behind. Her inspiration comes from the SLPS teachers who taught her as an elementary school student. Smith’s personal experiences and family also drive her. Family challenges have shaped the course of her life.

The 2017 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 23, 2017 at the America's Center Ballroom, following a reception at 5 p.m. Tickets are on sale now. Individual tickets are $85 each/$850 table, and VIP/Corporate tickets are $1,500 table. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.stlamerican.com and click on Salute to Excellence, or call 314-533-8000.

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