Music Theatre International CEO Freddie Gershon and his wife Myrna, who fund the grants, initiated the honor in 2010. MTI represents the licensing rights to the entire Sondheim catalogue. Gershon is also the recipient of a 2012 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre for his work in developing the Broadway Junior catalogue, which includes Sondheim's Into the Woods JR among its titles.
The 2012 Inspirational Teacher Award recipients follow: Chris Bundy of Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, IN; Vincent Catano of Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury, MA; Christopher Collins of Rains High School in Emory, TX; Amy Gibson of Huntingtown High School in Huntingtown, MD; Richard Golenko of J. Frank Dobie High School in Houston, TX; Dr. Riffat Hassan of University of Louisville in Louisville, KY; Dr. John M. Long of Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, AL; Donna Porter of Picayune Memorial High School in Picayune, MS; Nicole Waicunas of Edwin O. Smith High School in Storrs, CT; and Roderick Zano of Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, VA.
Each of the educators receives a $10,000 grant and will be showcased along with the student he or she inspired on the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards website.
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 reviewed the nominations, which were narrowed down from hundreds of applicants.
The awards are presented as theatrical licensing companies Music Theatre International, Rodgers & Hammerstein/R&H Theatricals and Tams-Witmark Music Library aligned for the first-ever "Musicals in our Schools Week," a nationwide awareness campaign about the value of theatre arts education in schools. New York City's Department of Education, the NBC series "Smash," iTheatrics and Atlanta's Theater of the Stars' nonprofit Junior Theater Project are also part of the venture. "Musicals in our Schools Week" kicked off March 19 in Manhattan's Duffy Square, with performances from New York area school students. To read more about the campaign, visit MusicalsinourSchools.org.