Timed to coincide with Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim's 86th birthday, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced the names of 14 teachers in nine states and the District of Columbia who are the 2016 winners of the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards.
The teachers are Michael Bechtel of Waverly, IA; Cazzie Brown of Salt Lake City, UT; Christine Flanagan of Menifee, CA; Amy Insley of Poquoson, VA; Pamela Izvanariu of Miami, FL; Ramona Mahood of Memphis, TN; David Moellenkamp of Long Beach, CA; Nelson Monteith of Little Deer Isle, ME; Ferial Pearson of Ralston, NB; Cristina Pla-Guzman of Hialeah, FL; Marta Reid Stewart of Washington, D.C.; John Reid of Carlinville, IL; Teren Shaffer of Santa Ana, CA; and Davey Yarborough of Washington, D.C.
The annual $10,000 grants recognize American teachers by spotlighting their “extraordinary impact on the lives of students.” They will be showcased, along with the former students they inspired, on a website dedicated to inspirational teachers.
The winners were selected in 2016 from a pool of nominations received through the Kennedy Center’s website. The awards, created by the Center in honor of Sondheim’s 80th birthday in 2010, were initiated and funded through the support of Myrna and Freddie Gershon. To date, 61 awards totaling $610,000 have been presented.
In many people’s lives there is at least one teacher who inspired and helped them become who they are today. Quotes from nomination essays include: “For the first time in my life, someone told me I could go through any door I wanted if I worked hard enough to achieve it.”; “Ms. Flanagan had given me the greatest gift anyone could."
According to notes from the Kennedy Center, "Although the range of subjects and grade levels vary widely, these inspirational teachers have one thing in common: each has overwhelmingly impacted his or her students’ lives and encouraged them to reach their potential."
The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are presented each year around Sondheim’s birthday—March 22—to a select group of teachers, kindergarten through college, who are nominated via the Kennedy Center website. Nominators must be at least 18 years of age and have been a student of the nominee. Teacher nominees must teach or have taught in a K-12 school, college, or university in the United States. Teachers of all grade levels and subject areas are eligible. A panel of judges reviews a pool of nominations and selects the recipients based on the power and quality of the nomination from their former students. Nominations for the 2017 cycle will start being accepted in September 2016 at kennedy- center.org/sondheimteacherawards.