Kennedy Center Announces Recipients of 2018 Inspirational Teacher Awards

Kennedy Center Announces Recipients of 2018 Inspirational Teacher Awards

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced the 2018 winners of the Kennedy Center/ Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards-a series of annual grants which recognize American teachers by spotlighting their extraordinary impact on the lives of students. Four teachers were selected in 2018 from a pool of nominations received through the Kennedy Center's website.

These outstanding teachers are: Catherine Albers of Oregon, Wisconsin; Askia Egashira of Brooklyn, New York; Dennis McDavid of Oak Park, Michigan; and Caryn Obert of Staten Island, New York.

Award recipients each receive $10,000 and are showcased, along with the former students they inspired, on the Kennedy Center's website. Created by the Center in honor of Stephen Sondheim 's 80th birthday in 2010, the awards were initiated and funded through the generous support of Myrna and Freddie Gershon. To date, 75 awards totaling $750,000 have been presented.

In many people's lives there is at least one teacher who inspired and helped them become who they are today. Although the range of subjects and grade levels vary widely, these inspirational teachers have one thing in common: each has overwhelmingly impacted their students' lives and encouraged them to reach their potential.

Here are some glowing words about these outstanding educators from the very people that they inspired:

From Ashley Maloff, who nominated Dennis McDavid: "He would stay after school to help me complete assignments that I missed due to absences from doctor appointments and seizures...He never once gave up on me and helped me to tackle each academic and personal obstacle I faced head on."

From Ebony Johnson, who nominated Askia Egashira: "Mr. Egashira's care and artistry in the classroom motivated me to become a leader. His impact is precisely why I have dedicated my career to public service."

From Priyan Wickremesinghe, who nominated Caryn Obert: "The level of commitment that she brings to her students is unmatched...she took me aside and explained to me that I should never settle for mediocrity in life. Her words have never left my mind, and the lessons she instilled within me have been the fuel for my academic success thus far in life."

"Teachers define us," stated Stephen Sondheim. "In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more even than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into what we ultimately become. Good teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone."

"This award is an incredible opportunity to recognize the passionate and hard work teachers are doing to awaken the joy of learning for their students and communities." said Mario Rossero, Senior Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center. "Through our national outreach programs within schools across the country, we see first-hand the lasting and immeasurable impact that teachers can have on their students. We are in constant awe of all they achieve."

Stephen Sondheim frequently attributes his success to the teachers in his life. The Kennedy Center/ Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are presented each year around Sondheim's birthday-March 22-to a select group of teachers, kindergarten through college, who are nominated via the Kennedy Center website. Nominators must be at least 18 years of age and have been a student of the nominee. Teacher nominees must teach or have taught in a K-12 school, college, or university in the United States. Teachers of all grade levels and subject areas are eligible. A panel of judges reviews a pool of nominations and selects the recipients based on the power and quality of the nomination from their former students. Nominations for the 2019 cycle are now open through the Kennedy Center website.

Nominations for posthumous recognition of a teacher must designate a 501(c)3 organization or fund within a K-12 school, school system, college, or university in the United States to receive the $10,000 award in the deceased teacher's name. To learn more about the Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards, please visit .

The Kennedy Center/ Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are made possible in their entirety by Myrna and Freddie Gershon.