The awards, which were were created in honor of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday in 2010, recognize American teachers annually by spotlighting their impact on the lives of students. They were initiated and funded through the support of Myrna and Freddie Gershon.
The 2014 winners are Ellen Beck, M.D. of La Jolla, CA; Linda De Vries of Northridge, CA; Kristin Grant of Glencoe, IL; Erin Grocki of Peabody, MA; Michael Gyra of Hyannis, MA; and Dr. Leonard Norman Primiano of Radnor, PA. They were selected in 2014 from a pool of hundreds of nominations received through the Kennedy Center's website.
Award recipients each receive $10,000 and are showcased, along with the people they inspired, on a website dedicated to inspirational teachers.
Award-winning composer Sondheim (A Little Night Music, West Side Story) frequently attributes his success to the teachers in his life, saying in a statement, "Teachers define us. 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 Kennedy Center is delighted to administer such a meaningful award in the name of one of the greatest artists of our time," Darrell M. Ayers, vice president of education and jazz at the Kennedy Center, added. "Through our work, we interact with thousands of teachers and millions of students across the United States each year, so we see the difference talented teachers make."