Congratulations To Our 2020 National University Teacher Award Winners

Our 2020 award winners were honored for their inspirational teaching practices in engaging students, building student confidence, giving students a voice, motivating students to succeed, and creating an inclusive environment. Demonstrating outstanding teaching and inspiration by supporting the social and emotional learning of their students, our winners have a genuine, powerful effect on their communities, and we are proud to recognize their dedication and accomplishments.

As part of the National University System, Inspire Teaching & Learning, Harmony SEL, and National University are dedicated to meeting the needs of a diverse population of lifelong learners, including Pre-K-12 students and educators. The National University Teacher Award reflects the combined missions of Inspire, Harmony, and NU to provide lifelong learning and promote positive peer relationships.

We are honored to have Alejandro  Diasgranados,  a fourth and fifth grade teacher  at Aiton  Elementary School in  Washington, D.C., as our 2020 National University Teacher of the Year! We want to congratulate Mr. Diasgranados and all our state winners recognized in 2020 for their well-earned achievement.

The National University Teacher of the Year

Alejandro Diasgranados

Washington,D.C.

Aiton Elementary School

The National University Teacher of the Year

Alejandro  Diasgranados provides inspiration to his students every day.  Influenced by an inspirational teacher when he was growing up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Mr. Diasgranados seeks to provide the same kind of personal influence on his students. He has taught the same group of about 40 students for several years.

In his teaching and his actions, he seeks to remove all barriers to his students’ success. Recognizing that students were being bullied or were not coming to school because they did not have clean clothes, he wrote to the Washington Football Team to set up a laundry facility for the community in the school. Recognizing that the school in the Deanwood section of D.C. was in a food desert where students did not have healthy food options, he established a partnership with a local nonprofit that provides healthy cooking lessons each month to four grades throughout the school.

Mr. Diasgranados stays in constant communication with his students, which he has found even more important with the challenges experienced during COVID-19, the shift to distance learning, and the recent social unrest nationwide.

"My students are like family to me.  I have been able to stay connected to my students, even throughout this pandemic. It is so important to  listen to what students have to say. We want to amplify  students’  voices and provide a comfortable environment where they can  share whatever emotions they  have to  share… Their excitement and passion  is  my inspiration."

As he worked to earn a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins, Mr. Diasgranados included all of his students in the process, teaching them all about college, its culture, and how to apply. For his graduation day, he and his students raised money to rent a bus to Baltimore so that all 40 students were present as he walked across the stage.

Celebrate Your State's 2020 Winner

Click below to meet the winners from every state as they are announced.

Congratulations to all award winners!

Sarah Campbell

Sarah Campbell

Ketchikan, Alaska - Ketchikan High School

AK

"Ms. Campbell leads our department with dedication and she's focused on engaging students both in the class and throughout the community."

Arlinda Davis

Arlinda Davis

Birmingham, Alabama - Avondale Elementary School

AL

"My life would not be today if it were not for Ms. Davis. I and so many other students call her "Mama Davis" because of the relationships she has built with us. She builds trust and rapport with students by being genuinely involved and concerned in every part of a child's life."

Jana Harrison

Jana Harrison

Hot Springs, Arkansas - Cutter Morning Star Elementary School

AR

"Ms. Harrison is by far the BEST middle school science teacher and all around MENTOR to our 5th and 6th graders that I've had the pleasure of working with in my 44 year career!"

Vonyee Soulfire

Vonyee Soulfire

Phoenix, Arizona - South Pointe Elementary School

AZ

"Ms. Soulfire focuses on the whole child and empowers students to build their self motivation and growth mindset."

Melissa Barclay

Melissa Barclay

Los Angeles, California - 59th St. Elementary

CA

"Ms. Barclay develops a safe rapport with her students. She is one of those teachers students will remember their whole lives."

Angie Gorham

Angie Gorham

Pueblo, Colorado - Vineland Middle School

CO

"Ms. Gorham does everything I could ask for in a teacher and always helps those around her."

Michael Ginicola

Michael Ginicola

Stratford, Connecticut - Nichols Elementary School

CT

"Mr. Ginicola is a master of blended classrooms, integrating dance and movement, and providing professional development for all colleagues."

Alejandro Diasgranados

Alejandro Diasgranados

Washington, District of Columbia - Aiton Elementary School

DC

"Mr. Diasgranados is an exceptionally inspiring teacher because of his dedication and commitment to go above and beyond for his students, using his own story as inspiration to show students that they can succeed."

Melissa Tracy

Melissa Tracy

Wilmington, Delaware - Odyssey Charter School

DE

"Ms. Tracy is a consummate teaching professional and one who inspires those around her to be better educators and citizens of the world. She is a leader in social justice and affording a quality, rigorous, and meaningful education for all students."

Judy Bremner

Judy Bremner

Fort Lauderdale, Florida - Lauderdale Manors Early Learning Facility

FL

"Ms. Bremner embraces her role of advocating and supporting students' continuous academic growth with enthusiastic pride and passion on a daily basis."

Keith Furstenberg

Keith Furstenberg

Canton, Georgia - Free Home Elementary School

GA

"Innovative. Passionate. Creative. These are just a few words that come to mind when I think of Mr. Furstenberg. He knows each child’s name, has high expectations for his students and instills a confidence about learning within each child. He cares about the kids and they know it."

Kathryn Young

Kathryn Young

Makawao, Hawaii - Samuel Enoka Kalama Intermediate School

HI

"Ms. Young has the highest expectations for her students and always pushes them to do their best."

Allan Janss

Allan Janss

Des Moines, Iowa - Brubaker Elementary

IA

"Mr. Janss consistently uses tact and skill to develop a strong classroom community. He embraces challenges with an attitude and mindset that will overcome barriers often evident within a classroom with students with significant needs."

Christine Drick

Christine Drick

Boise, Idaho - South Junior High

ID

"Ms. Drick spends endless hours connecting with students so they know they are appreciated and safe and she treats every student as though they are special and the only one."

Heather McCarthy

Heather McCarthy

Oak Lawn, Illinois - Oak Lawn Hometown Middle School

IL

"Ms. McCarthy has consistently demonstrated a relentless effort to inspire our scholars through social justice topics and concepts to become practitioners of change. She is also a passionate advocate of global citizenship through literacy."

Kate Toebes

Kate Toebes

Indianapolis, Indiana - Lawrence Central High School

IN

"Mrs. Toebes provides opportunities for our school community as a health coach, and tirelessly supports our students and staff as an educator."

Kristen Cook

Kristen Cook

Humboldt, Kansas - Humboldt Elementary School

KS

"Ms. Cook is a leader in incorporating social-emotional learning into the classroom. She has high expectations of her students and helps them gain the confidence they need to meet those expectations."

Contessa Harris

Contessa Harris

RIchmond, Kentucky - Glenn Marshall Elementary School

KY

"Mrs. Harris is a phenomenal teacher and she works tirelessly to make sure each of her students grows, not only academically, but also socially and emotionally."

Ronit Robinson

Ronit Robinson

Baton Rouge, Lousiana - The Dufrocq School

LA

"Ms. Robinson has touched the lives of many students in her class, and spends many volunteer hours after school working with students to make sure all succeed under her tutelage."

Jennifer Perrault

Jennifer Perrault

South Yarmouth, Massachusetts - St Pius X School

MA

"Ms. Perrault is a constantly positive and creative educator. She inspires her students daily to think, to solve problems, to collaborate, and to take ownership of their learning."

Whitney Green

Whitney Green

Laurel, Maryland - CMIT North Elementary School

MD

"Ms. Green adovcates for every individual in our building -- each and every stakeholder alike -- students, staff, parents and community members. She greets each and every student as they enter the building and energizes their day."

Joseph Hennessey

Joseph Hennessey

Guilford, Maine - Piscataquis Community High School

ME

"Our graduates frequently share that their senior English teacher Mr. Hennessey prepared them best for their next step in life."

Lauren Ortega

Lauren Ortega

Detroit, Michigan - Detroit Prep

MI

"Even in the most challenging situations and balancing multiple responsibilities, Ms. Ortega maintained her focus on creating a community of learning in her classroom, not only for the current year, but also for her students’ lives in the future."

Jordan McNiven

Jordan McNiven

Minneapolis, Minnesota - Hiawatha Leadership Academy

MN

"Mr. McNiven creates a classroom community where all students and teammates thrive; he honors the individuality of his students and works to build a strong collective team on the path through college."

Cynthia Prinster

Cynthia Prinster

Berkeley, Missouri - Holman Elementary School

MO

"Ms. Prinster has changed the culture in her school through her efforts in student wellness, and she consistently creates opportunities that inspire students to learn and grow as responsible citizens."

Woodrow Price

Woodrow Price

Vicksburg, Mississippi - Warren Central Intermediate

MS

"Mr. Price is an inspiration to all students. He actively engages his students in the classroom with his projects and encourage students to be leaders among their peers and communities."

Kimberlee Hellwinkel

Kimberlee Hellwinkel

Twin Bridges, Montana - Twin Bridges Public Schools

MT

"Mrs. Hellwinkel is a dynamic and impactful instructor. Students know that she cares about them because she makes them feel safe and gives them the the confidence to pursue their education."

Maggie Murphy

Maggie Murphy

Piney Creek, North Carolina - Piney Creek School

NC

"Ms. Murphy teaches her students to be better people through global citizenship. All students in her class are taught that they have a voice that they can use to impact the world."

Trevor Todd

Trevor Todd

Wilmington, North Carolina - Castle Hayne Elementary

NC

"Mr. Todd is a dedicated and a caring educator who fully embodies the Harmony program. He works hard to bring in culturally diverse and relevant instructional materials into his lessons."

Shawn Krinke

Shawn Krinke

Hunter, North Dakota - Northern Cass Public School

ND

"Mr. Krinke has worked hard to develop trust amongst his learners, and once he has established trust his ability to reach learners through books and readings is outstanding."

Sara Voinovich

Sara Voinovich

Lincoln, Nebraska - Kahoa Elementary School

NE

"No matter the need, Ms. Voinovich believes in her students and believes it is her responsibility to make sure they experience success and gain the skills necessary to be successful in life, including personalizing each student's learning plan."

Jim Hansen

Jim Hansen

Nashua, New Hampshire - New Searles Elementary School

NH

"Mr. Hansen is committed to teaching kids to think in innovative ways, while empowering their creativity with out-of-the-box activities."

Kelly Wilbert

Kelly Wilbert

Toms River, New Jersey - East Dover Elementary

NJ

"Ms. Wilbert consistently finds ways to help her disabled students excel in language acquisition and their behavioral goals. Over the last two years, she has been a huge supporter of the school becoming fully inclusive. Her present and past students all know that she is willing to support them through any challenge is and that is why she is successful in the classroom."

Carrie Massey

Carrie Massey

Animas, New Mexico - Animas High School

NM

"It is unbelievable to watch Ms. Massey engage with students and witness how motivated students are by her innovation and energy in our small rural community."

Darci Miller

Darci Miller

Las Vegas, Nevada - C.P. Squires

NV

"Ms. Miller is empowering our students to become well-rounded individuals who are conscientious and always thinking of others."

Melissa Morris

Melissa Morris

Brooklyn, New York - James Madison High School

NY

"Ms. Morris has transformed our Title 1 community of 4,000 students to truly take a step back and look at each child and their needs. She is without a doubt a true educator who never stops thinking out of the box to help children become the next best them."

Jennifer Flaherty

Jennifer Flaherty

Kent, Ohio - Theodore Roosevelt High School

OH

"Ms. Flaherty is an incredible educator and consistently builds upon our professional development themes of empathy and connection, always looking at different areas where students can feel better about themselves."

Janessa Bointy

Janessa Bointy

Edmond, Oklahoma - Sunset Elementary

OK

"Ms. Bointy has supported the implementation of Harmony resources for each of our classroom teachers and continues to be a champion for families and children in our community."

Crystal Salmi

Crystal Salmi

Warrenton, Oregon - Warrenton Grade School

OR

"Ms. Salmi goes above and beyond for her students, cares about their social emotional needs, and she connects with her students and their families."

Sarah Beverly

Sarah Beverly

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Henry C. Lea Elementary School

PA

"Ms. Beverly's students evolve in her class, becoming aware of the world around them, developing a deeper understanding of persuasive arguments, and growing as generous, thoughtful human beings."

Lynne Smith

Lynne Smith

Providence, Rhode Island - Nathanael Greene Middle School

RI

"Ms. Smith is a team player and always has the student at the center, leading physical and mental health and wellness iniatives to ensure that our students are socially and emotionally safe."

Jo Warr

Jo Warr

Florence, South Carolina - Southside Middle School

SC

"Ms. Warr is a daily inspiration to her students by modeling for them that through perseverance and positivity, success is inevitable. She encourages and nurtures middle school students during a time in life when peer pressure and daily challenges are common."

Darla Kannas

Darla Kannas

Watertown, South Dakota - Roosevelt Elementary School

SD

"Mrs. Kannas is a relentless learner and advocate for all students in her classroom. She partners with families to support children going through hardships and she has a burning desire to move students forward with academic achievement and social-emotional growth."

Melissa Collins

Melissa Collins

Memphis, Tennessee - John P. Freeman Optional School

TN

"Dr. Collins is always student centered and leverages anything she can to expose her students to new opportunities and to be more aware of their backgrounds and hertigage."

Shaughn Thomas

Shaughn Thomas

Missouri City, Texas - Missouri City Middle School

TX

"Mr. Thomas goes above and beyond to reach our students and make learning engaging and meaningful."

Deborah Sheffield

Deborah Sheffield

South Weber, Utah - South Weber Elementary

UT

"Ms. Sheffield has made it her personal mission to ensure that ALL of our students are taught the necessary social and emotional skills to make our world a better place."

Jill Harrell

Jill Harrell

Henrico, Virginia - Gayton Elementary

VA

"Ms. Harrell is a tremendously student-centered teacher who differentiates the needs of her students academically as well as socially and emotionally. She carefully develops a classroom culture that is inclusive and supportive to all students."

Lyn Porter

Lyn Porter

Williston, Vermont - Allen Brook School

VT

"Ms. Porter works beyond her classroom walls to promote a healthy working environment for her colleagues."

Dana Henry

Dana Henry

Federal Way, Washington - Lake Grove Elementary

WA

"Ms. Henry teaches students the art of being courageous at accomplishing their goals."

Mary Wentland

Mary Wentland

Minocqua, Wisconsin - Lakeland Union High School

WI

"In the classroom, Ms. Wentland has mastered the difficult skill of blending a safe, caring environment with rigorous academic activities for her students. Beyond the classroom, she shares her knowledge and abundant experience with other professional educators around the country. Mary Wentland is a true gem in the educational field."

Karla Hilliard

Karla Hilliard

Martinsburg, West Virginia - Spring Mills High School

WV

"Ms. Hillard inspires students to learn, to be successful, and to feel accepted and be challenged. She goes above and beyond for her students. There are not many teachers like her."

Kinley Taylor

Kinley Taylor

Thermopolis, Wyoming - Ralph Witters Elementary

WY

"When you have a conversation with Ms. Taylor about education, you can tell from her care and cutting-edge ideas that she is meant to be a teacher and above all else a Kindergarten teacher."

Past Winners

2019

By State | By Last Name

Lee Morgan - Wasilla, Alaska

Snowshoe Elementary School-Behavior Support Program

Patricia Skelton - Opelika, Alabama

Opelika Middle School

Claudine James - Malvern, Arkansas

Malvern Middle School

Katrina Lacey - Desert Vista, Arizona

Desert Vista High School

Martha Garibay - Los Angeles, California

Fifty-Second Street Elementary School

Randi Dotter - Cotopaxi, Colorado

Cotopaxi Consolidated Schools

Jeanne Malgioglio - Trumbull, Connecticut

Madison Middle School

Sarah Frayer - Washington D.C.

Friendship Woodridge International School

Laura Thompson - Hockessin, Delaware

William F. Cooke, Jr. Elementary School

Jennifer Apgar - Tampa, Florida

Ferrell Girls Preparatory Academy

Jennelle Williams - Atlanta, Georgia

Dean Rusk Head Start Academy

LeeAnn Pule-Viernes - Hauuka, Hawaii

Kahuku Complex Intensive Learning Classroom

Beth Deacon - Keokuk, Iowa

Keokuk High School

Kelsey Bender - Blackfoot, Idaho

Blackfoot High School

Loretta Edwards - Chicago, Illinois

Clara Barton School

Terri Childers - Hammond, Indiana

Joseph Hess Elementary

Reina Cruz - Junction City, Kansas

Junction City High School

Kerri Stanfield - Maysville, Kentucky

Mason County Middle School

Kristen Bruce - Leesville, Louisiana

Pickering High School

Renee Estrella - Swansea, Massachusetts

Joseph G Luther Elementary School

Susan Ellerbee - Randallstown, Maryland

Randallstown High School

Sarah Page - Vasselboro, Maine

SKCDC Head Start

Jessyca Mathews - Carman-Ainsworth, Michigan

Carman-Ainsworth High School

Taylor Thomas - South St. Paul, Minnesota

Intermediate School District 917

Leslie Aguilar - Columbia, Missouri

Battle High School AVID College Readiness System

Jennifer Pratt - Houston, Mississippi

Houston Alternative High School

Connie Michael - Crow Agency, Montana

Crow Agency Public School

Lindsey Cahoon - Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Elizabeth City Middle School

Leah Juelke - Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo South High

Tom Whisinnand - Omaha, Nebraska

Reagan Elementary

Maryanne Cullinan - Antrim, New Hampshire

Great Brook School

Michael Niedizejko - New Providence, New Jersey

New Providence High School

Denise Agan - Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Mountain View Middle School

Stephanie Graville - Las Vegas, Nevada

CC Ronnow Marathon Kidspe Elementary School

Zenzile Dabreo - Brooklyn, New York

PS IS 109

Linda Amici - Westerville, Ohio

Alcott Elementary

Dallas Fields - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Dove Science Academy

Felisha Ferber - Portland, Oregon

Glenfair Elementary School

Jerriel Hall - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

KIPP West Philadelphia Prep

Megan Thomas - Providence, Rhode Island

Paul Cuffee Upper School

Patti Nunnally - Florence, South Carolina

Henry Timrod Elementary

Spencer Cody - Roscoe, South Dakota

Edmunds Central School District

Kayla Flatt - Cookeville, Tennessee

Sycamore Elementary

Norma Burke - Houston, Texas

Early College High School Galena Park ISD

Stephanie Hunt - North Salt Lake, Utah

Clayton Middle School

Lani Ashberry - Middlesex, Virginia

St. Clare Walker Middle School

Miranda Johnson - Hinesburg, Vermont

Hinesburg Community School

Holly Coty - Tumwater, Washington

Peter G. Schmidt

Heidi Hamilton - Hartland, Wisconsin

Arrowhead High School

Amy Parent - Huntington, West Virginia

St. Joseph Catholic School

Kelly Vallier - Rock River, Wyoming

Rock River School

2018