Mary Hatwood Futrell to Receive Prestigious James A. Kelly Award

ARLINGTON, Va. — November 6, 2020 — Dr. Mary Hatwood Futrell, former NEA President and former dean of the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, will receive the National Board’s James A. Kelly Award for Advancing Accomplished Teaching on November 6, 2020. The Kelly Award, named after James A. Kelly, Founding President and CEO of the National Board, recognizes and honors individuals who have contributed to the advancement of accomplished teaching.

Dr. Futrell, who began her teaching career in the segregated schools of Alexandria, Virginia boasts a 60-year career working tirelessly on behalf of educators and students. During her tenure as NEA President, she helped lead in the formation of the National Board. 

Futrell’s varied career includes teaching in the segregated schools of Alexandria, Virginia and working to integrate those schools. She then helped to found Education International and went on to serve as the first elected president of the organization She served three terms as NEA president from 1983-1989.

“I can think of no educator more deserving of the James A. Kelly award than Mary Hatwood Futrell. Her commitment to teachers and her original support for the National Board has enhanced the teaching profession. With 125,000 National Board Certified Teachers and more than 20,000 teachers currently working towards certification, Futrell’s leadership will continue impacting students and communities for generations,” said Peggy Brookins, NBCT, President and CEO of the National Board.

“Dr. Futrell’s leadership is an important part of her legacy that also shines a light on civil and human rights and on equal opportunity for women and girls,” added Brookins. 

Since its inception in 1999, the James A. Kelly Award has honored individuals who embody the following traits, reflecting the legacy of James A. Kelly:

  • A deep-seated belief in the inherent right of all children to quality education;
  • A professional life dedicated to improving education for teachers and their students;
  • A passionate commitment to improving teaching and learning in America;
  • Unwavering dedication to the professional integrity and competence of teachers;
  • Visionary and boundless energy, eternal optimism, and expert leadership;
  • An innate capacity to inspire collaboration and mobilize support that enabled unparalleled achievements in the history of American education reform; and
  • A clear vision coupled with steadfast commitment and fierce determination which has led to historic milestones in American education and a meaningful impact on teaching and learning.

Past recipients of this award include President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, the Honorable Richard Riley, the Honorable Arlen Specter; the Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr. the Honorable Roy Barnes, the Honorable Ted Strickland, Barbara Kelley, Edward Rust, Jr., Linda Darling-Hammond, Michael Kirst, and Ron Thorpe.

The Kelly Award will be presented to Dr. Futrell at a virtual ceremony on November 6.


About the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (

The founding mission of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is to advance the quality of teaching and learning by: (1) maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do; (2) providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards; and (3) advocating related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification in American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers. Recognized as the “gold standard” in teacher certification, the National Board believes higher standards for teachers means better learning for students.