National award shines spotlight on Salt Lake City educator


Mohsen Ghaffari to be honored at awards gala live-streamed nationwide

“I was born and raised in Iran to parents with five years of schooling combined,” says Mohsen Ghaffari, a fifth grade educator at North Star Elementary School in Salt Lake City. “I have become an educator because I believe in my soul that we all benefit if everyone has an opportunity to become better educated.”

As a tribute to his diligence and dedication to his students, colleagues, community, and his profession, Ghaffari will receive one of public education’s highest honors, the NEA Foundation’s prestigious Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, $10,000, and recognition as one of the nation’s top educators.

He will be celebrated at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Awards Gala on February 12, 2016 by an audience of more than 800 leaders in public education, philanthropic, and business sectors, in Washington, DC, and by many more viewers online. Students, colleagues, peers, and family members of awardees host viewing parties to watch live streaming video of the program at home as awardees from across the nation are recognized.

“Mohsen has been selected for this award by his peers for attaining the highest teaching standards, as shown by his exemplary instruction, professional advocacy and leadership, attention to diversity, and community outreach,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “Honoring these educators is our way of thanking them, and all the public school educators they represent, for their excellent work with our nation’s most precious resource, our children.”

Ghaffari was nominated for the award by the Utah Education Association, a National Education Association affiliate.

The four other finalists are:

  • Dirk Andrews, a kindergarten educator at Evansville Elementary School in Evansville, Wyoming, nominated by the Wyoming Education Association;
  • Heather LaBarbara, an English educator at West Jessamine Middle School in Nicholasville, Kentucky, nominated by the Kentucky Education Association;
  • Debra McDonald, an early childhood educator at Wayne County Schools Career Center in Smithville, Ohio, nominated by the Ohio Education Association; and
  • Pam Wells, a math and science educator at Mobridge-Pollock High School in Mobridge, South Dakota, nominated by the South Dakota Education Association.

“So many teachers go above and beyond to serve the needs of their students, and these five educators are great examples of what it takes to excel in the classroom,” said Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of Horace Mann. “As a company serving educators’ financial needs for 70 years, Horace Mann is pleased to honor these educators for playing an instrumental role in educating the children of our future.”

Unique to these awards, each educator will be invited to participate in the Global Learning Fellowship, an extensive, year-long professional development opportunity to cultivate their own global competence skills and deepen their practice to prepare their students to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Fellows contribute to the advancement of the profession by creating global lesson plans that are shared with educators on open source platforms.

Ghaffari’s students will receive digital arts training to produce their own video honoring their teacher, which will premiere at the gala.

The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards with support from NEA Member Benefits, the Horace Mann Companies, Promethean, and California Casualty.

About The NEA Foundation

The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators' dues, corporate sponsors, and others who support public education initiatives. We support student success by helping public school educators work with key partners to build strong systems of shared responsibility. Visit for more information.

Photo: (Left to right: Utah Education President and The NEA Foundation Board Member Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Mohsen Ghaffari, North Star Elementary Principal Lew Gardiner, The Horace Mann Company’s Dallas Hamblin.)

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