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2016 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards Winners Announced

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced the 2016 winners of the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards-a series of annual grants which recognize American teachers by spotlighting their extraordinary impact on the lives of students. Fourteen teachers were selected in 2016 from a pool of nominations received through the Kennedy Center's website. Award recipients each receive $10,000 and are showcased, along with the former students they inspired, on a website dedicated to inspirational teachers. The awards, created by the Center in honor of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday in 2010, were initiated and funded through the generous support of Myrna and Freddie Gershon. To date, 61 awards totaling $610,000 have been presented.

The teachers are: Michael Bechtel of Waverly, Iowa; Cazzie Brown of Salt Lake City, Utah; Christine Flanagan of Menifee, California; Amy Insley of Poquoson, Virginia; Pamela Izvanariu of Miami, Florida; Ramona Mahood of Memphis, Tennessee; David Moellenkamp of Long Beach, California; Nelson Monteith of Little Deer Isle, Maine; Ferial Pearson of Ralston, Nebraska; Cristina Pla-Guzman of Hialeah, Florida; Marta Reid Stewart of Washington, D.C.; John Reid of Carlinville, Illinois; Teren Shaffer of Santa Ana, California; and Davey Yarborough of Washington, D.C.

In many people's lives there is at least one teacher who inspired and helped them become who they are today. 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. 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 give-a true love of reading. That gift has since helped me to achieve my true dream to go to college to study medicine."; "He taught me that living with passion catalyzed an even further zest for life within you, allowing you to reach higher levels of your own potential."

"Teachers define us," stated Stephen Sondheim. "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."

"We see the profound impact and difference teachers can make through our work in schools across the country," said Mario Rossero, Senior Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center. "The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the passionate work teachers are doing to impart the joy of learning on their students and communities, and we are grateful for all they accomplish."

Noted composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim frequently attributes his success to the teachers in his life. 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 be start being accepted in September 2016.

Winner of the Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, Stephen Sondheim has received more Tonys® than any other composer. Mr. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for Saturday Night, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, The Frogs, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George (for which he received a Pulitzer Prize), Into the Woods, Assassins, Passion, and Road Show, as well as lyrics for West Side Story, Gypsy and Do I Hear a Waltz?, and additional lyrics for Candide. Revues of his work include Sondheim on Sondheim, Side by Side by Sondheim, Marry Me a Little, You're Gonna Love Tomorrow, and Putting It Together and A Bed and a Chair. For films and television, he composed the scores of

Stavisky and Reds and wrote songs for Dick Tracy, for which he received an Academy Award®. He also received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1993. Mr. Sondheim is on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981.

Nominators for posthumous recognition of a teacher must designate a 501(c)3 organization or fund within a K-12 school, school system, college, or university in the United States to receive the $10,000 award in the deceased teacher's name. To learn more about the Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards, please visit kennedy-

A full list of recipients and their nominating students is below.


Michael Bechtel

Waverly, IA

Caitlin Miller

Cazzie Brown

Salt Lake City, UT

Elisabeth Hindert

Christine Flanagan

Menifee, CA

Nora Sandoval

Amy Insley

Poquoson, VA

Meaghan Whitten

Pamela Izvanariu

Miami, FL

Erick Samayoa

Ramona Mahood

Memphis, TN

Alice Faye Duncan

David Moellenkamp

Long Beach, CA

Ryan Rusin

Nelson Monteith

Little Deer Isle, ME

Judith Pancoast

Ferial Pearson

Ralston, NE

Ischel Gonzalez Kelso

Cristina Pla-Guzman

Hialeah, FL

Elexa Suarez

Marta Reid Stewart

Washington, D.C.

Dan Driscoll

John Reid

Carlinville, IL

Brenda J. Clark

Teren Shaffer

Santa Ana, CA

Julia Choi

Davey Yarborough

Washington, D.C.

Ede Ashton-Scott

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