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Buffett Middle's Lee Perez Honored with Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence

The NEA Foundation announced that ESL teacher Lee Perez of Buffett Middle is among one of five public school educators receiving one of public education’s highest honors, the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence.

"It has been an honor to teach English language learners in my classroom from all over the world," Perez said. "To help educate them to be the future democratic builders of this nation has been my privilege. Learning about different languages, cultures, values and traditions from my students has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I'm blessed to be their ESL teacher, and I'm very proud of every one of my students."

The award, sponsored by the Horace Mann Educators Foundation, recognizes educators for their exceptional skill in the classroom, attention to equity and diversity, engagement of families and communities, commitment to ongoing professional development and advocacy for the profession. Perez was nominated by the Nebraska State Education Association.

For more than 20 years, The NEA Foundation and Horace Mann have celebrated outstanding educators from around the country with this recognition. Each 2023 honoree will be featured in a mini-documentary video that will premiere at the NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala and will receive a $10,000 award.

“These talented educators have connected powerfully with students, supporting them in the moment and empowering them for the future,” said Sara A. Sneed, president and CEO of The NEA Foundation. “Their educational expertise, commitment to serving students’ diverse needs, and ability to uplift their colleagues are fundamental to creating robust and inclusive learning environments for all. We thank them for their commitment to their students and the teaching profession, which is fundamental to a democratic society.”

“Educators are the driving force to engage and inspire students,” said Marita Zuraitis, president of the Horace Mann Educators Foundation board of directors and president and CEO of Horace Mann Educators Corporation. “The Horace Mann Educators Foundation believes educators should be recognized for their commitment to helping every child reach their full potential, and the Foundation is proud to recognize the exceptional contributions and achievements of the recipients of the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence.”

Perez was also named the 2022 Nebraska Teacher of the Year.