Stephen Sondheim celebrates the energy of teachers


Mo Rocca meets a Broadway low-pitched fable who helps respect classroom legends:

“Oscar Hammerstein was a teacher of mine; we was 11, 12 years old. He arrange of stabilized me by teaching me what we wanted to learn about essay songs,” pronounced Stephen Sondheim.


Composer Stephen Sondheim. The Broadway low-pitched fable helps respect classroom legends: teachers whose motivation, toughness and support have changed the lives of their students.

Yes, the biggest vital author of Broadway musicals was taught by the mythological Oscar Hammerstein, of Rodgers Hammerstein.

Just before he died, Hammerstein stamped a sketch to Sondheim: “And he sealed it, ‘For Stevie, my crony and teacher.'”

Sondheim wrote the lyrics to “West Side Story” when he was just 25, and after on, to “Gypsy” — and the words and music to shows that have pushed the bounds of low-pitched museum for decades.

But on this visit, Rocca didn’t plead musicals; they talked teachers.

“Teachers are so underpaid; since else are they teaching? They have to adore it,” pronounced Sondheim.

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but
Children will listen
Children will demeanour to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be

The man who wrote “Children Will Listen” for “Into The Woods” says teaching is a dedicated profession.

“Everybody takes teachers for postulated since everybody goes to school,” he said. “And we consider not adequate suspicion is given to how much teachers do, and how tough they work. A teacher can make you feel some-more wanted than your parents, if your relatives are indifferent kinds of parents.”

For the past eight years, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has given a dozen or so educators the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award.  Entertainment profession Freddie Gershon and his wife, Myrna, saved the endowment in Sondheim’s honor. Each desirous teacher receives $10,000.

Far from the lights of Broadway, nestled in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, is Gatlinburg-Pittman High School.


Honors English teacher Tracey Rains in her classroom in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Tracey Rains, a 2015 Sondheim Inspirational Teacher, has been walking these halls for a prolonged time – it’s her old alma mater. This honors English teacher has a repute for being tough.

A quote on her blackboard reads: “The kites fly top against the wind, not with it.”

“That’s Winston Churchill,” pronounced Rains. “You must onslaught or you will never rise. You will stay at accurately the turn that you start at.”


Teacher Tracey Rains.

“And you’re fine emphasizing the struggle?” asked Rocca.

“Yes, we am. It is a struggle. And we try to get that by to them.”

Fourteen years ago, she got by to Chelsea Hayes.

She removed bringing her work to her teacher: “‘Ms. Rains, we wrote this sentence.  Is this good enough?’ And she said, ‘Well, it can be better.’ And we said, ‘Well, I’m not certain how to make it better.’ And she said, ‘Well. Let’s consider by this.'”

“I’m trying to get a clarity of accurately what kind of tough she is,” Rocca said. “Is she sorta Simon Cowell tough?”

“She has a bent to come off very brief if you’re complaining,” Hayes laughed, “or if you consider you can't do something.  Because her faith is if you consider you can’t do it, you’re not going to do it.”

Rains said, “I consider that proceed that says, ‘We need to make everybody feel good,’ at the responsibility of honest accomplishment, actually diminishes students’ self-esteem. I’ve told students, ‘When we tell you to do this again and again, you should see that as a compliment, since it means we know you can do this better.'”


Sondheim’s Latin teacher Lucille Pollack.

When Stephen Sondheim wanted to do better in ninth category Latin, he approached his own inspirational teacher: “Her name was Lucille Pollack, and after the first class, where she was articulate about nouns and adverbs and adjectives, we satisfied we had no thought what she was articulate about.

“So we went to her and said, ‘Would you tell me?’;’ And we spent one of those afternoons that opens up the skies. By the finish of that afternoon — I’m not exaggerating — we was already 3 weeks forward of the class. we mean, she taught me so much.”

Chelsea Hayes had worse challenges. She was lifted by her mother, who struggled to make ends meet. At one indicate her family was fed from a food bank. “All we knew was, we had to keep the house,” Hayes said. “We had to make the residence remuneration since we had nowhere else to go.”

Hayes pronounced she knew that preparation was her only way out. She visited Ms. Rains before school started, at lunch, and after school.  


Chelsea Hayes with her coach Tracey Rains.

Then, after Chelsea’s mom was left confined from a automobile accident, Tracey Rains and her husband, Carl, filled in.

“I fundamentally have two moms,” Chelsea laughed. “And that’s just how it’s been. And so my mother’s very thankful.”

Rocca asked, “Did it feel for you and your husband like you had a child now?”

“Oh, definitely,” Rains replied. “I don’t have a child of my own who isn’t Chelsea. But we know that we couldn’t adore a child some-more than we do Chelsea.”


Tracey and Carl Rains attending Chelsea’s graduation from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

All these years later, Tracey Rains has continued to coach Chelsea. Tracey was there when Chelsea graduated as high school valedictorian. She and Carl were also there at her graduation from Duke University — and from the University of Kentucky College of Law.  

Because of all of that support, Chelsea nominated her favorite teacher for the Sondheim Inspirational Award — and the $10,000 esteem that goes with it.

When Rocca asked what she would do with the money, Rains replied, in part, she would compensate for Chelsea’s bar exam.

When told this, Sondheim responded: “Oh my God. we mean, don’t make me cry on camera! Talk about selflessness. Gee whiz. That’s what a good teacher is.”

For some-more info:

  • The Kennedy Center-Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards | Nominate a teacher
  • Logophiles Unleashed: Tracey Rains (
  • Chelsea Hayes’ assignment of Tracey Rains for the Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award (pdf)
  • Chelsea Hayes, Baker Donelson

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