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The Kennedy Center

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.

2013 Awardees

Nancy Barile Nancy Barile "I became a teacher because I want to challenge, inspire, and motivate my students to achieve their wildest dreams. I want to let learning transcend the walls of the classroom to include lessons and experiences from the real world. I believe that all students can achieve, and helping to make that happen is my life's goal."

Merzudin Ibric Nominated byMerzudin Ibric "After the war, we were fortunate enough to come to the U.S. for medical help for my sister. I spoke only two words of English - 'okay' and 'bye' - and I wasn't sure what they meant. I wasn't interested in school; I planned to drop out and get a job. Then I met Ms. B." Read More

Denney Daetz Denney Daetz "I became a teacher to continue my own academic growth while helping students reach their potential - as others had helped me. My Peace Corps experience changed my 'choice' to a 'determination': I needed to teach so my students might gain a global perspective and make a difference in the world."

Jonathan Matas Nominated byJonathan Matas "I wasn't a great student. Teachers imposing their will on me was . . . inconvenient. But then there was this social studies class. Who knew it would change the trajectory of my life? Yes, Social Studies. Frankly I didn't care, but a few weeks into it the teacher extended an invitation that, at age 14, I couldn't ignore." Read More

Amy Dunaway-Haney Amy Dunaway-Haney "Teaching Spanish for 20+ years has been an incredible honor. There are magical moments of learning that make all of the challenges worth the effort. I get to experience the pride that students feel when they achieve and I know with certainty that they will make the world a better place."

Kathleen Acosta Nominated byKathleen Acosta "Senora Haney's class flew by in a whirlwind. By the end, I had sung, played a bullfight game with the matadors versus the bulls, taken notes, learned some crazy grammar rhyme, and received homework that was expected to be completed well because, to quote my teacher, '99.9% just will not do. '" Read More

Langston Fitzgerald Langston Fitzgerald "I have been blessed with good, challenging teachers in my life. From them I draw inspiration to endlessly challenge my own students to be the best they can possibly be. I experience great gratification in teaching for the love of the trumpet, of music, of the joy of teaching"

Andrew Wilson Nominated byAndrew Wilson "Prior to that time I had studied privately with several notable teachers and performed in a variety of high-quality ensembles. But, that final amount of perspective, focus, and accuracy that distinguishes the finest performing artists had, up to that time, eluded me." Read More

Cheryl Foster Cheryl Foster "Teaching reflects my desire to awaken students to their own philosophical dispositions, be they logical, empirical, ethical or existential in character. In the classroom, as in everyday conversations beyond it, human beings seek clarity amidst confusion. Philosophy calls to us all, one way or another. I broker that call."

Rachel Walshe Nominated byRachel Walshe "Against all odds, I won a Rhodes Scholarship. I looked at my competitors from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Amherst and it was crystal clear: this day had been made possible by the unrelenting commitment of a single, transformative teacher." Read More

Mike Sinclair Mike Sinclair "I choose to be a teacher because I am passionate about science and mathematics, love the daily intellectual interplay with students, revel in the brilliance of young people, and embrace the challenge of educating for the future. Most of all, because I can’t imagine any other life for myself."

Adrienne Erickcek Nominated byAdrienne Erickcek "In that moment, Mr. Sinclair treated me like a fellow explorer of the cosmos. He listened to my ideas with excitement and respect. My newfound confidence in my ability to be an astrophysicist was cemented." Read More

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: