New Posthumous Award Initiated as The Kennedy Center Seeks Nominations for Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards

New Posthumous Award Initiated as The Kennedy Center Seeks Nominations for Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards

Series of Annual $10,000 Awards Named for Broadway Legend Honors Teachers In All Fields of Education

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is seeking nominations for the 2014 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards – a series of annual grants that recognize inspiring teachers in any field of education across the United States and has announced that for the first time they are also accepting nominations for a new posthumous award to honor teachers no longer alive. Now in their fourth year, the awards were created in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday. The program was initiated and funded through the generous support of arts philanthropists and friends of Mr. Sondheim, Freddie and Myrna Gershon.

Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim frequently attributes his success to the teachers in his life. The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are presented each year on Sondheim’s birthday---March 22----to outstanding teachers, kindergarten through college in all areas of education, living or deceased, who are nominated via the Kennedy Center website (

Last year, six teachers were recognized from around the nation for their outstanding influence on students in a wide variety of disciplines, not just the arts. The recipients each received a $10,000 prize and their stories, as told by the nominating student, were featured on a website dedicated to inspirational teachers.

In many people’s lives there is at least one teacher who inspired them, and helped them become who they are today.  These inspirational people are not often recognized for the life changing role they have played.  The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards seek to spotlight those teachers and to recognize them publicly for their significant role in society.  The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher homepage features leaders and celebrities, including Warren Buffett, Dr. Jill Biden, J. J. Abrams, Bill Bradley and many others describing their favorite teachers and the impact good teachers make on communities and schools.

“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.”

Winner of the Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, Stephen Sondheim has received more Tonys® than any other composer.  Mr. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for Saturday Night, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, The Frogs, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George (for which he received a Pulitzer Prize), Into the Woods, Assassins, Passion and Road Show, as well as lyrics for West Side Story, Gypsy, and Do I Hear a Waltz? and additional lyrics for Candide. Revues of his work include Sondheim on Sondheim, Side by Side by Sondheim, Marry Me a Little, You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, and Putting It Together. For films and television, he composed the scores of Stavisky and Reds and wrote songs for Dick Tracy, for which he received an Academy Award, and Evening Primrose. He was also the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1993. Mr. Sondheim is on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981.

Nominate a Teacher

To nominate a teacher for the award, people should visit  The nomination deadline is December 15, 2013.

Nominators 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.

Education at the Kennedy Center

As the national center for the performing arts, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is committed to increasing opportunities for all people to participate in and understand the arts. To fulfill that mission, the Kennedy Center strives to commission, create, design, produce, and/or present performances and programs of the highest standard of excellence and of a diversity that reflects the world in which we live—and to make those performances and programs accessible and inclusive.

Education at the Kennedy Center includes resources from its presentations and productions and those of its affiliates: the National Symphony Orchestra, VSA (the international arts and disability organization), and Washington National Opera. The focus, locally and nationally, is on producing and presenting age appropriate performances and educational events for young people and their families; school- and community-based programs that directly impact teachers, students, artists, and school and arts administrators through professional development; systemic and school improvement through arts integrated curricula, inclusive classrooms, and universal design in facilities and learning; creating partnerships around the issues of arts education and arts integrated education; creating and providing educational materials via print and the Internet; developing careers in the arts for young people and aspiring professionals; and strengthening the management of arts organizations.


The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award is made possible by Freddie and Myrna Gershon.

For more information about the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards, please visit:

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Amanda Hunter

(202) 416-8441