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Teaching, inspired by Sondheim

The Kennedy Center announced Tuesday it is creating an award for teachers in honor of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday. This marks the millionth way people have paid tribute to the Broadway legend during his celebratory year, but this one will filter down to the people Sondheim himself says put him on the road to success.

The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will be given annually to teachers who are nominated through the center's website. Instructors from kindergarten through college are eligible. The awards, funded by Freddie and Myrna Gershon, will be presented each year on March 22, Sondheim's birthday, and will carry a $10,000 stipend.

The new award is not limited to those who teach music. Individuals who teach business, the arts, education, science and politics can be nominated.

Stephen Sondheim speaks in Times Square, New York City. (Henny Ray Abrams / AP)

"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."

Sondheim's own achievements include the timeless musical scores for "Company," "Follies," "A Little Night Music," "Sweeney Todd" and "Into the Woods." Remember he won a Pulitzer Prize for "Sunday in the Park with George," and an Oscar for the songs for "Dick Tracy" and has more Tony Awards than any other composer. In 1993 Sondheim was a Kennedy Center Honoree.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | September 28, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott  | Tags:  kennedy center, stephen sondheim, teacher awards, teaching contest  
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