New Sondheim award for inspirational teachers

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Stephen Sondheim attends The Olivier Awards 2011 at Theatre Royal on March 13, 2011 in London, England.

Two Southland teachers are on the recipients list for a new award. The national prize carries the name of composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim – whose 81st birthday happens to be today.

In Sondheim’s honor last year, a couple of his fans endowed the annual award administered by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Former students nominate the teachers who inspired them most.

In her recommendation essay, graduate student Joann Cho described the way her fifth grade teacher Rafe Esquith took her on “the adventure of a lifetime” through exposure to Shakespeare, chess and math. Esquith, who teaches at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles, has generated a lot of attention for his ambitious, intensive approach to teaching.

Steven Miller, a veteran teacher at Levi Bemis Elementary in Rialto, earned a glowing recommendation from one of his former students who’s become a teacher too. Genein Letford wrote, “From the graceful art of calligraphy to getting filthy reenacting the gold rush of ’49, he was not afraid to give all of himself in his teaching, no matter what our backgrounds were.”

Along with the praise, each of the 10 Sondheim inspirational teachers receives $10,000.

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