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The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards

Phot of Sondheim Teachers

In many people's lives there is at least one teacher who inspired them, and helped them become who they are today. In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into who we ultimately become. These inspirational people are not often recognized for the life changing role they have played. These are the teachers who define us, teachers who widen our horizons and encourage us to explore. These teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone. To celebrate the significant role of teachers in society, The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will spotlight some of the country’s most inspirational teachers and recognize them for their contributions.


The Award

Each year, The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will solicit nominations from the general public and notable public figures, providing the opportunity to submit stories about teachers and professors who made a significant difference in their lives.

On March 22, Stephen Sondheim's birthday, a select number of these teachers will each receive The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award - $10,000 in appreciation for their contributions to the field of teaching. Awardees will also be showcased, along with the people they inspired, on The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards web site.

The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards were created in 2010 in honor of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday and were initiated and funded through the generous support of Freddie and Myrna Gershon.

Eligibility

For The Students (Nominators):

  • Nominators must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Nominators must have been the Nominee’s student; no nominations by peers, parents of students, etc. will be accepted.
  • Nominators must no longer be enrolled in the school where the Nominee was their teacher.

For The Teachers (Nominees):

  • Nominees must be legal residents of the United States. Nominees for posthumous awards must have been legal residents of the United States.
  • Nominees must teach or have taught in a K-12 school, or college, or university in the United States.
  • Teachers of all grade levels and subject areas are eligible.

Additional Requirements For Posthumous Awards:

  • Nominators 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.

How to Nominate Your Teacher:

Nominations for the 2015 cycle of the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will be accepted starting September 2, 2014.

Did you have a teacher who inspired you? One who changed your life? Is there a teacher you credit with helping you become the person you are today? Do you remember a specific interaction with your teacher that proved to be a moment of inspiration and transformation? Share your story.

  • Create your written, audio, or video story. The content and quality of the story is more important than the format you choose. The story should be a detailed account of a single, specific interaction with your teacher that had a significant impact on you - a moment of transformation or inspiration . For example, read Kathleen Parker's, "A sprig of verbena and the gifts of a great teacher" and the award-winning stories submitted by Melanie Chancy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and David Pogue. Submissions that are general accolades or a list of a teacher's awards and accomplishments are less likely to be selected for the award. Here are some things to emphasize when telling your story: How was your teacher a mentor or role model? Did you learn lessons that extended beyond the classroom and became lessons for life? Did your teacher offer you any memorable words of wisdom, ideas, or advice that you still use? Did your teacher see potential in you that you didn’t see in yourself? How did your teacher change your self-perception?
  • Written submissions must not exceed 500 words and must be in plain text (.txt) or Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) formats. Audio or video submissions must not exceed 3 minutes. Video must be in AVI or WMV format, minimum resolution 320x240. Audio must be in MP3 or WAV format.
  • Complete the online nomination form or download the form. In order to complete the nomination, you will need to provide contact information for the teacher you are nominating. If the teacher you are nominating is deceased, you will need to provide contact information for the teacher's family or next of kin. Do your best to provide accurate contact information. If you submit a great story but we are unable to locate your teacher, we will not be able to consider her/him for the Award.

    For posthumous awards, you will additionally need to 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 your teacher's name. It is preferred, but not required, that the organization or fund you select reflect the values and legacy of the nominated teacher.
  • All required materials must be submitted online or postmarked by the deadline, Wednesday, December 31, 2014.

The application deadline is Wednesday, December 31, 2014.

Questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page or contact us dl@kennedy-center.org