Hey, Teach!

If you’ve ever been in school, you’ve had a teacher who changed your life.

If you’re like most people, you think about that teacher from time to time. You mention her fondly, to your kids and with old friends. If the teacher is lucky — and still alive — you might track him down, and thank him in a phone call, letter or email.

Between now and December 15, you can do much more. You can win a horizon-expanding, life-changing teacher $10,000.

The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are a tangible way to thank educators — from grades K-12, and college — for the impactful work they have done. In addition to the nice monetary prize, honorees are showcased on the Kennedy Center website.

Nominators must be at least 18 years old, and must have been the nominee’s student. Nominators should create a written, audio or video story that highlights a single, specific interaction with the teacher — a moment of transformation or inspiration.

Walt Melillo inspired thousands of Westport elementary school students. This is his Burr Farms Class of 1973.

Walt Melillo inspired thousands of Westport elementary school students. This is his Burr Farms Class of 1973.

Judges are not looking for lists of accomplishments. They want to know how the teacher served as a mentor or role model. What life lessons were taught. How the teacher saw, and unlocked, untapped potential. That sort of thing.

Every Westporter must have a teacher to nominate, and a story to tell. Click here for details. And — even if you don’t complete the form — you can share inspiring “teacher moments” with other Westporters, by clicking “Comments.”

PS: Because “06880” is a place where “Westport meets the world,” there are 2 local connections to the Kennedy Center Inspirational Teacher Awards.

One is on its website. Among the links to past winning stories is one by David Pogue — the illustrious, creative tech guru who lives in town.

The other connection is Stephen Sondheim himself. In the summer of 1950, he was an apprentice at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Where, presumably, he learned a thing or two about himself and the world, from an inspirational, life-changing — if non-classroom — teacher.


7 responses to “Hey, Teach!

  1. Britt Anderson

    Three best teachers I ever had – Pat Bonardi, Diane Carriera and Frank Weiner. The common thread was all allowed and encouraged my independent thinking.

  2. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Arthur Marciano, Kings Highway Elementary. He saw all his students as individuals and he kindly but firmly held them to the highest standards of humanity that could be appropriate for 6th graders. He is universally respected and loved by all he touched with his kindness and wisdom. When his 1st child was born, we all shared his joy because he shared it with us. The “Gold Standard” for excellence in educators. A truly wonderful, unforgettable teacher.

  3. Megan Acquino Slingo

    I feel so lucky to have had some of the best teachers while going through the Westport School system…here’s my fav’s
    Walt Melillo (hands down the BEST both my brother and I had him)
    Carl Decker.. best classroom discussions! I fell in love with Shakespeare and was actually able to under stand it because of him! It took reading to a whole new level for me, that I have been able to now pass along to my kids.

  4. Catherine Burnett, Staples '84

    Marty Taffle (Long Lots ’81) will always have a place in my heart. His joy of teaching and sense of humor lives on. I do not know when, but I know that he passed sometime time ago. Otherwise, I would register him for the award.

  5. Nancy Powers Conklin

    Two teachers at Long Lots come to mind. Mr. Kohler was the asst. principal and at the same time taught my 9th grade science class. He treated us like adults, talked to us as equals and made us think! I respected him tremendously. And, Valerie Broderick is my second “best teacher.” She was new to the school system and was our P.E. instructor. I loved her from the first meeting. She was young, friendly and loved teaching P.E. We all could tell that immediately. She was only at Long Lots for two years when she left to go to the “new’ Coleytown Junior High when it opened. We were all so disappointed but, we gave her a nice and heartfelt going away party.

  6. Richard Lawrence Stein

    I was friendly in college with Stephen Sondheim’s nephew… Great soccer goalie… But the teachers who’s influence were most profound were John Chacho, Frank Weiner, Sydney Birnnaum… All very very different but all very important at molding the minds of west ports youths