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The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Kennedy Center?


Who is Stephen Sondheim?


What is the purpose of the Awards?

The Awards publicly recognize the contributions of specific teachers and reward them for their dedication and service. By spotlighting the extraordinary impact teachers have on the lives of their students, the Awards celebrate the teaching profession, the important role of teachers in society and seeks to inspire others to pursue this noble profession.


How are nominations solicited?

A nationwide call for nominations is being distributed via the internet, the media, social networks, national and local organizations, and direct requests to public figures in a variety of fields including business, science, education, public service, and the arts.


Are the Awards only for teachers in the arts?

No. The Awards are open to teachers of all subjects in all fields.


Do I have to be working in a field related to what I was taught by my nominated teacher?

No. A single teacher can inspire students to pursue careers in a variety of fields.


Can I nominate more than one teacher?

Yes. However, you will have to submit a separate and complete nomination packet for each teacher you nominate.


Should I use a professional videographer, audio engineer, or writer to help me with my nomination essay?

No. We will focus on the content of your story. The video, audio, or writing needs to be clear enough to convey your story and be understood by the panel of judges but professional-grade submissions are not necessary.


Why can’t I nominate my child’s teacher? Why can’t I nominate a colleague?

Through this process we are spotlighting the ability of teachers to inspire their students. Since inspiration is a very personal and subjective thing, the person who can best speak to the inspirational impact of the teacher is the student.


I don’t have any contact information for my teacher or their family. Will the administrators of the Awards help locate her/him?

No. It is the Nominator’s responsibility to provide adequate contact information for us to be able to reach her/his teacher (or their family/next of kin) if she/he is being considered for an Award. Consider contacting your alma mater or using social networking sites, like Facebook, to aid you in your search. Do your best to provide accurate contact information for your teacher. If you submit a great story but we are unable to locate your teacher, she/he will not receive the Award.


How will the personal information I’ve submitted with my application be used?

All submitted information will be used by the Kennedy Center and other sponsors to make a determination about whether to offer an Award to the nominated teacher. If the teacher is not selected or declines the Award, no further use will be made of any information contained in the nomination application and essay.

If the nominated teacher does receive an Award, the essay submitted to the Kennedy Center will be published on the program website and the name, occupation, hometown and relevant school(s) of both the Nominee and Nominator will be made public.

By submitting a nomination or accepting an Award, participants authorize the Kennedy Center to use this information on the Kennedy Center website and in other promotional and program information. The Kennedy Center will use reasonable efforts to keep details such as addresses, phone numbers, email and other identifiable contact information which is contained solely in the application materials confidential, except as between the Sponsors, and shall use this information solely for the purpose of contacting Nominees and Nominators.


How does the selection process work?

Nominations will be reviewed by a national panel of judges. The panel will narrow the pool of nominations down to several finalists who will be notified that they are being considered for the Awards. The finalists will have to agree to participate in the Award process and complete additional paperwork including, but not limited to, an information and release form indicating acceptance of the Official Rules and permitting the Kennedy Center to conduct a background check and use the Nominee’s name, likeness, and other identifying information in connection with the Award. Upon review of the information provided by the finalists, the panel will select the recipients of the Awards. 


What criteria are considered in the selection process?

The story must be a detailed account of a single, specific interaction between the Nominator and Nominee that had a significant impact on the Nominator - a moment of transformation or inspiration. The power and quality of the story and the Nominee's overall impact on the life of the Nominator are the primary considerations in the selection process. Submissions that are general accolades or a list of the Nominee's awards and accomplishments are less likely to be selected for the award. The Nominee's length of service and current teaching status will also be considered.


How many Awards will be given?

The number of Awards given each year will be determined by the number of eligible, quality applications received.


How frequently will the Award be given?

The Kennedy Center/ Stephen Sondheim Teacher Awards will be presented annually.


Are there any rules governing how the $10,000 award must be spent?

No,except in the case of posthumous awards, which must be designated to an eligible organization or fund. The award is given to the recipient in appreciation of his/her impact on the life of the student. The recipient may use the award however he/she chooses.


When will the Award recipients be notified? How?

Finalists who are being considered for the award will be contacted in mid-February. The finalists who are selected to receive the award will be notified by mail or email (if provided) or telephone (if provided) in mid-March. Due to the high volume of submissions, only those who are being considered for the award will be contacted.


When will the Award recipients be announced publicly?

The recipients of the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will be announced on March 22nd, Stephen Sondheim’s birthday.


How will the Award recipients be acknowledged?

The Award recipients will receive a certificate of appreciation along with a check for $10,000. They will also be featured on the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards website.

If my teacher is not selected for this year’s Awards, can I nominate him/her again next year?

Yes. When it becomes available, you will need to complete next year’s Nomination Form and Release in order to resubmit your nomination.


Does the nominated teacher have to be living?

No. During the 2013 award cycle, the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards began accepting nominations for deceased teachers. In order to nominate a teacher for a posthumous award, you will need to designate an organization or fund within a K-12 school, school system, college, or university in the United States. It is preferred, but not required, that the organization or fund reflect the values and legacy of the nominated teacher. In addition, you will need to provide contact information for the teacher's next of kin, so that the Kennedy Center can obtain consent to use the teacher's name and information, as well as their approval of the designated organization.


I don't have an organization or fund to designate for the posthumous award. Will the administrators of the Awards help me find one?

No. It is the Nominator's responsibility to designate an organization or fund. We encourage you to conduct research within your community to find an organization or fund in need of support.