The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards
The annual Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards publicly recognize specific teachers by spotlighting their extraordinary impact on the lives of students. The Awards celebrate the teaching profession, the important role of teachers in society, and seek to inspire others to pursue this noble profession. Nominated by students they once taught, these former students' stories exemplify the power one teacher has to inspire others and transform lives.
Find out more about how to nominate your teacher for the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards.
Nominations for the 2019 cycle of the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are currently being accepted.
John Carr (Posthumous)
Dr. John C. Carr served on the faculties of the University of Maryland, College Park, and The Catholic University of America, among many other academic institutions. As an art advocate and educator, he developed programming and presentations with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Smithsonian Institute, The John F. Kennedy Center, and the Department of Defense.
"Over the years, my telephone would ring and there would be Jack on the other end with more offer... Each offer would catch me by surprise, but if I ever expressed concern about being prepared for the opportunity, he'd always repeat what he said back in 1977: 'Nonsense, of course you are.'"
"In becoming a primary educator, I wanted to provide younger students with a concrete foundation where they can aspire to become mathematicians, historians, scientists, musicians, writers, and readers. Through innovative teaching, I develop critical and creative thinkers that are life-long learners. I teach because I want to inspire lives."
"I remember her calling my name. The once shy, introverted student now stood proud and walked with confidence, proclaiming, 'I wanted to be a nurse!' I remember Dr. Collins telling me that 'I could be whatever I wanted if I worked hard and dared to dream...' That was the year I still can't forget."
"It was the fall of 1963.
Shari Clason was a first year English Literature teacher.
I was riveted with her passion and knowledge.
That resonated with me.
To touch student's hearts and souls was a challenge I eagerly sought.
And, I stood on the shoulders of Mrs. Clason."
"Mr. Ellis had me come to his office and opened a large glossy booklet describing a two-week music seminar at one of Michigan's top music schools. I'll never forget his words, 'I can see you doing this.' Mr. Ellis had an incredible vision for me, one I would have never had for myself."
"As a shy teenager with Tourette's Syndrome, I never expected a career in public speaking. Speech and debate helped me find my voice. That is why, as a high school sophomore, I vowed to make it my life's work to help the voiceless learn to speak."
"The moment that sticks out most to me was when I won the St. Mark's Heart of Texas tournament—the very same tournament where my journey began one year prior—and I looked out to see Mr. Fugler beaming and cheering me on. Because of him, I wasn't just becoming. I was being."
"Even after 65 years of teaching I feared, 'What if I can't reach every one of my students?' After the first assignment, we were on our way to creating and learning from each other. Someone once said, 'You need a purpose for living.' Teaching is my purpose."
Barbara Hustedt Crook
"By taking her cue from us, with her trademark joy and pizazz, she gave us the confidence to go with our own interests and strengths, wherever they might take us, all the way – in my case, from random words and sentences to a story of continuing growth that isn't done yet."
"Teaching empowers students and transforms their life; in turn, they create a transformation in my life as well. We have a saying, 'every day is training day.' We get to explore, learn, contribute, develop and we do all of this together."
"Mr. Hall told us 'You can be bitter or you can be better. The only difference in the two words is the 'I' and the 'I' is the one to make the right choice.' 'I' am the only to do better."
"I was fortunate, as an adolescent, to have several teachers recognize I was struggling to reach my potential. They were passionate though, and they taught me to love learning. Teaching allows me the chance to nurture that same feeling in others who have not yet recognized their infinite possibilities. "
"Many people in my life have asked me what he did that was better than any other teacher. That moment answers this question. Up until that point, no other teacher seemed to care about my opinion, or valued my work."
"My passion in life is to help students determine and achieve their goals in music. Each student
has a unique background, so a "one-size-fits-all" approach to teaching cannot succeed. My
purpose is to cultivate a love of music in students that will remain, regardless of what career path they choose."
"It was the first time that anyone tried to get inside my body & feel what I felt when I played piano. Arlene had only known me for twenty minutes but immediately she had the empathy to play like I did, so that she can best instruct me."
"To be a teacher is the most exciting, most demanding, and most rewarding profession. I enjoy challenging my students, making them believe in themselves, creating life-changing opportunities, and putting them on the path to a prosperous future. And every new day is as exciting as the first day on the job as an educator."
"Dry ice bubbled in silver dishes producing a thick, misty vapor, underscoring the mystery at the heart of my reluctance. I voiced my hesitation and began to decline the offer. Then, Professor Melikyan offered a phrase that marked the moment when I began to believe in myself. He simply said, 'if not you, then who?'"
"Dedicating my life to guide students, passing down knowledge, and helping them realize they actually have great potential is the true joy of teaching. It goes beyond just teaching the material - it's about making a personal connection with the students to help them develop their talents and achieve their goals."
"One day, I found myself at a crossroads as I became completely enthralled in a lesson Mrs. Parrott taught about Desi Arnaz...I couldn't believe it, someone producing the inspirational vibes that music offered also hated school as a young boy and was uprooted from his country to the U.S. as well – I was living this life!"
"My earliest school-related memories are of 'teaching' my grandmother lessons I had learned the day before; she was my first pupil. As I grew older, I knew that I wanted to make teaching my career. I believe that the key to improvement for both individuals and communities is education."
"Mrs. Rains is the reason a poor girl who once ate her meals from the local food bank now has a degree from Duke University. She is the reason I am working in the legal field today. She helped me break the cycle of poverty and achieve more than anyone else expected."
"Be the change you want to see in the world!" I entered the teaching profession to inspire my students accordingly. What I didn't anticipate was how being in the presence of adolescents would thoroughly change me. For 27 years they have been teaching me to listen and inside that listening I have learned to teach."
"My guess is that he didn't do this intentionally to give me the confidence to speak up about my religion and culture throughout my life... I also do not think he did this so that I would become a teacher and hope to inspire my students the way he did. But this is exactly what happened."
"My father was a farmer. He survived a WWII prisoner-of-war camp by planting seeds. After the war, he planted a forest of 10,000 trees. I am a farmer. I plant seeds of curiosity, strength, courage, hope and compassion in young people, who can grow up to change the world."
"Great teachers don't tell you what to do; they create spaces that allow you to learn how. In that moment, Ms. Seubert trusted me with a responsibility no one had dared to give me before, the responsibility to create a learning space for myself."
See what leaders and celebrities have to say about the impact their favorite teachers had on them and the impact good teachers make on students, schools, and communities. With the following links:
Gatlinburg teacher honored with Kennedy award for motivating student
Local 8 now, April 8, 2015
Local teacher honored with national award
C&G News, April 6, 2015
RCC instructor receives $10,000 surprise
Robesonian, April 3, 2015
'Trademark joy and pizzazz': Retired WSU theater prof Fusillo wins national award
Winona Daily News, March 28, 2015
Fulger honored with inspirational teacher award
Van Zandt Newspaper, March 26, 2015
Gatlinburg teacher receives Kennedy Center honor
Mountain Press, March 25, 2015
3 Michigan teachers among 13 to win national award
Detroit News, March 20, 2015
Ann Arbor teacher wins Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award
MLive, March 20, 2015
Kennedy Center Names 2015 Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award Winners
Broadway World, March 20, 2015
Kennedy Center-Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards Announced
Playbill, March 20, 2015
Lake Orion High School teacher among winners of national award
Macomb Daily, March 20, 2015
Glencoe, Illinois Teacher Wins Kennedy-Sondheim Award
Chicago Sun-Times, May 5, 2014
Alum Grant earns Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award
University of Wisconsin, April 29, 2014
Giving him something
Barnstable Patriot, March 28, 2014
Art teacher wins Kennedy Center award for work at Bishop Fenwick
Salem News, March 24, 2014
Teacher lauded for stellar inspiration
Cape Cod Times, March 22, 2014
Teachers Honored With Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards
Playbill, March 21, 2014
Kennedy Center Announces Winners of 2014 Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards
Broadway World, March 20, 2014
Six Teachers from Across the United States Receive The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards
Music Theatre International, March 20, 2014
Kalamazoo teacher wins national Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim award
Michigan Education Association, May 13, 2013
Ex-Los Gatos High School Teacher Denney Daets Earns $10K Award
Los Gatos Patch, May 10, 2013
Retired teacher honored for inspiring students
Colfax Record, April 11, 2013
Teacher receives honor after nomination from former student
Boston Globe, April 4, 2013
Langston Fitzgerald receives 2013 Kennedy Center-Sondheim Teacher Award
April 2, 2013
Langston Fitzgerald Wins The Kennedy Center/ Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award
Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, March 29, 2013
URI professor receives national award
Providence Journal, March 27, 2013
KAMSC teacher Mike Sinclair wins national Inspirational Teacher award from Kennedy Center
MLive, March 25, 2013
Inspiring Strawberry Crest teacher wins Sondheim grant
Tampa Tribune, March 22, 2013
Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards Presented March 22; Recipients Announced
Playbill, March 22, 2013
Team, teacher recognized at school board
Picayune Item, April 18, 2012
Bryantown resident wins prestigious teaching award
Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, April 6, 2012
Huntingtown teacher receives Kennedy Center award
Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, April 6, 2012
Award-Winning Teacher Uses Medical Crisis To Instill Life's Lessons
Hartford Courant, March 28, 2012
From headed for jail to head of the class
CBS News, March 22, 2012
Golenko named recipient of Sondheim Award
Pasadena Citizen, March 23, 2012
Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards Announced
Back Stage, March 22, 2012
Second Annual Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards Announced
Playbill, March 22, 2012
Storrs Teacher Honored With $10K Sondheim Award
Hartford Courant, March 22, 2012
Cumberland teacher wins Kennedy Center honor for sharing joy of music
Fayetteville Observer, April 14, 2011
Award celebrates professor’s "extraordinary impact" on student’s life
Yale Daily Bulletin, March 28, 2011
Jacque Wheeler wins Kennedy Center Inspirational Teacher Award
Valdosta Daily Times, March 24, 2011
Cleveland schools English teacher named among nation's 10 most inspirational teachers
Cleveland.com, March 22, 2011
New Sondheim award for inspirational teachers
Southern California Public Radio, March 22, 2011