Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight (of Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts in Salt Lake City, Utah) and Benjamin Pesenti (of Elmont Memorial High School in Elmont, New York) have been named 2021 winners of the Inspiring Teacher Award, an honor presented by Wells Fargo at The National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as The Jimmy Awards.
The honor recognizes theatre educators whose encouragement and inspiration leads their students to success at the Jimmy Awards, which itself awards the best in high school musical theatre performers nationwide. Knight and Pesenti taught the most recent Jimmy Award winners, Ekele Ukegbu of Long Island and Ethan Kelson of Utah. The Jimmy Awards are presented annually by The Broadway League Foundation.
"This year more than ever and under unprecedented circumstances we have come to appreciate and honor the importance of outstanding educators such as Katelin Ruzzamenti Knight and Benjamin Pesenti, and we are so pleased to present them with the Inspiring Teacher Award presented by Wells Fargo," says Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin. "Their attention and encouragement helped their students excel at the Jimmy Awards and their dedication continues to inspire and support arts education and future generations of arts professionals and audiences."
Named in honor of the late producer and theatre owner James M. Nederlander, the Jimmy Awards traditionally see nominees from regional awards nationwide partaking in a week of events, workshops, and master classes with industry professionals in New York City, culminating in a final ceremony on a Broadway stage where the nominees compete with performances to earn the top titles. Both the final performance and the week of coaching, rehearsals, and other activities will be held online in 2021, a move that follows the cancelation of last year's awards entirely. This year's final ceremony is set to stream July 15.
Past Jimmy Award winners include Andrew Barth Feldman and Renée Rapp, both of whom quickly moved on to Broadway careers. Feldman, most recently seen in Ratatouille: The TIkTok Musical, also starred on Broadway in the title role of Dear Evan Hansen, while Rapp was the final Regina George in Mean Girls on Broadway.