2005 | The Teach On Project (TOP) began because of one family’s belief that teacher and school leader quality is the largest determinant of students’ opportunity to succeed. In 2005, Ed Michaels was reading the newspaper when he came across a full-page announcement for awards given to the nation’s top scientists. The awards came with a $25,000 check for the scientists’ contributions to their various fields. Mr. Michaels came home and showed the announcement to his family, which had many educators of its own. He told them:
"We can’t have world-class scientists without world-class teachers. And we can’t have world class teachers if we don’t show we value them. Why aren’t we as a city doing something to honor public school teachers?"
Together, the Michaels family realized that instead of waiting for someone else to do something about public education in Atlanta, they as a family needed to act. And so began the first iteration of the Teach On Project - an organization that identifies and celebrates excellent educators in five Metro Atlanta public school districts and aims to improve the quality of education, raise the bar for teacher and leader performance, and increase student achievement in Metro Atlanta.
TOP Board member Ned Michaels (left) with TOP co-founders Ed Michaels and Katie Michaels Post (second and third from left) surrounded by supportive family members.
2006 | The first awards - originally called the Michaels Awards - were presented at a celebratory event at the Atlanta Speech School in November 2006. Ten educators were declared winners, each receiving a $4,000 prize, half for a school or classroom project they had proposed during the application process and half for their personal use.
After that night, the Michaels family quickly realized that their small foundation and family couldn’t sustain the awards alone, so they asked other like-minded families to join their mission. They also renamed the organization the Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education. Many of those families who signed up to the task still partner with us today.
Through our yearly awards process, we have granted over 130 educators $7,500 each: one-third of the money to fund a classroom or school project, one-third to pursue a professional development opportunity, and one-third for the winner’s personal use.
2019 | We recognized that over the last fourteen years, AFAEE’s reach and scope had grown, and we were no longer an organization funded solely by family foundations. In an effort to increase our visibility and better advance our mission, we began a rebranding process.
In June 2019, we formally announced our new name: the Teach On Project! By changing our name, we're embracing who we've always been: an organization committed to Keeping Excellent Educators in Public Schools.