2015 Salute to Excellence in Education Award recipients

The eight 2015 Excellence in Education Award recipients were honored by the St. Louis American Foundation on Friday, September 25 at America’s Center.

Awardees at the 28th annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship and Awards Gala (held Friday, September 25 at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis) were greeted with the fervor of a pep rally. But these were educators and administrators being applauded and greeted with enthusiastic shouts, not athletes.

“The annual Education Salute enables us to pay homage to outstanding individual educators whose commitment and tireless efforts ensure a high-quality of instruction for our youth,” said Donald M. Suggs, president of the St. Louis American Foundation, which produces the annual black-tie event.

The foundation awarded more than a dozen educators, in addition to the top awards of Lifetime Achiever (Alice F. Roach) and Stellar Performer (Tiffany Anderson).

Albert Mitchell, assistant controller at Monsanto, introduced the 2015 Monsanto School of Excellence, Fairview Primary School in the Jennings School District.

“Just as the administrators and teachers at Fairview are committed to bridging the academic achievement gap, the Monsanto Fund is committed to bridging the gap between people’s needs and their resources,” Mitchell said.

The school’s recognition included eight laptops and a $2,500 education grant.

Michael Scully, PNC Bank regional president, presented the PNC Bank Early Childhood Education Award to Almaz Staggs, an educator at YWCA North County Head Start.

“We believe early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make to improve education, health and economic outcomes,” Scully said.

“Children who enter kindergarten prepared to learn exhibit better language, math, cognitive and social skills. They are 40 percent less likely to need special education or to be held back a grade. They also are more likely to graduate high school, go on to college and secure sound employment.

PNC Bank invested in a $2,500 donation to YWCA North County Head Start, while the St. Louis American Foundation issued a $500 educator grant to Almaz.

Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University, presented the 2015 SEMO Counselor of the Year Award to Sonya Smith, a college advisor at Hazelwood East High School.

Vargas praised her for finding “innovative solutions” to student needs, such as starting a free income tax preparation night with the St. Louis Metro Tax Coalition and Fifth Third Bank to help families complete the Federal Free Application for Student Aid.

Smith also received a $500 educator grant from the St. Louis American Foundation.

The foundation awarded 2015 Excellence in Education Awards to eight “unsung community heroes who meet the challenges of teaching and make a positive difference in the lives of our young people,” said emcee Carol Daniel, KMOX news anchor.

The 2015 Excellence in Education Award recipients were Russell Arms, physical education teacher at Lexington Elementary School; Erica L. Bumpers, associate professor of Education and director of Field Experience at Missouri Baptist University; Alicia G. Davis, 5th grade teacher at Northview Elementary School; Veronica Hildreth, 7th grade teacher at Hixson Middle School; Ingrid Clark-Jackson, interim superintendent at Hazelwood School District; Tiffany L. Taylor-Johnson, associate principal at Ladue Middle School; Ashley R. McGhaw, 4th grade teacher at North Glendale Elementary; and Bessie Bennett Peabody, lead educational advisor at Northern Illinois University.

Each received a $500 educator grant from the St. Louis American Foundation.

Two exceptional teachers from The American’s Newspaper In Education program also were recognized with Golden Apple Awards: Nicole Binion, 3rd grade teacher at Airport Elementary School in Ferguson-Florissant School District; and LaTonya Johnson, 5th grade teacher at Ford Elementary in St. Louis Public Schools.

Suggs quoted “our revered leader Malcolm X” in collectively praising all of the awardees: “Education is our passport to the future … for tomorrow belongs to people who prepare for it today.” 

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