The inaugural Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will be announced March 22, 2011, which is Sondheim's birthday. Music Theatre International CEO Freddie Gershon (who heads the organization that represents the entire Sondheim catalogue) and his wife Myrna, are funding the grant that was created to commemorate Sondheim's 80th birthday.
"Teachers define us," Sondheim said in a statement. "In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more even than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into what we ultimately become. Good teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone."
The honors are open to all teachers, not only those within the realm of arts education. Educators from kindergarten through college can be nominated by one of their students. A national panel of judges will be assembled to review the nominations. The deadline for submission is Dec. 15.
The winning educators will receive a $10,000 grant and will be showcased along with the student they inspired on the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards web us aboutsite.
The Sondheim Awards are the second initiative launched by Gershon to recognize the work of teachers who impact the lives of their students. He launched the first-annual "Freddie G Weekend" in July, which brought teachers from across the U.S. to immerse themselves in the professional Broadway community. He previously told Playbill.com "[These teachers] are really the defining force in people's lives. And a lot of us remember a single teacher, who changed our life for the better. Someone who sees something in us that we don't see in ourselves. Someone who doesn't look at us as an SAT test taker, or who's the best athlete in class, but who sees something."
Stephen Sondheim, who began his Broadway career as a lyricist for West Side Storyand Gypsy, made his debut as a composer/lyricist in 1962 with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Along with collaborators including Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, James Goldman, George Furth, James Lapine, John Weidman and Harold Prince, Sondheim revolutionized the face of musical theatre with Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Anyone Can Whistle, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, Assassins, Into the Woods and Passion. His latest musical, Road Show, debuted at the Public Theater in 2009.
To apply, visit Kennedy-Center.org/SondheimTeacherAwards.