The League's Audience Engagement Committee is excited to continue the League Educator Apple Award program. The purpose of this national endeavor is to recognize, reward, and acknowledge the efforts of local schools and community groups that support your organization/venue's education programs relating to Broadway or touring Broadway shows and promote further development of theatre education.
Educators and collaborators who have partnered with League members on education programs relating to League-member Broadway and touring Broadway productions are eligible for this award.
Jason Ford, 5th Grade Teacher at Francis Parker School in Rochester, NY
Nominated by: Rochester Theatre League
Since 2011, Jason Ford has collaborated with the Rochester Broadway Theatre League (RBTL) to incorporate seven touring productions into his classroom. Over the course of the 2016-2017 school year, his partnership continued once again with Wicked. Students explored all the themes in the RBTL Wicked curriculum including the effects of bullying and how they could be examples of Up-stander Citizens in their school. The students promoted inclusiveness, gained confidence, explored how perspective shapes our view, found their voices, and discovered the true essence of friendship.
Dawn Dunham, Civics Teacher at Maitland Middle School, Maitland, FL
Nominated by: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Dawn Dunham is being recognized for her efforts to integrate the arts into her 7th grade civics classroom, as well as the language arts department at Maitland Middle School. Ms. Dunham used Newsies to teach her students about the power of the press, child labor laws, and the significance of having a voice in politics. With The Sound of Music, Ms. Dunham’s students analyzed the different political structures of the United States and Germany and created political cartoons depicting the lives of the characters in the show. Her work has increased students’ engagement in both the classroom and the theatre. Outside of the classroom, she and her students sold over $500 worth of newspapers before performances of Newsies to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Denise Sasiain, Afterschool Program Director at Lantana Elementary, Lantana, FL
Nominated by: The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
Denise Sasiain is the Afterschool Program Director at Lantana Elementary School. In association with the Kravis Center, she oversees the school’s Broadway Reach program. She participated in a collaboration with Milton Hall Primary School in London to engage her students in a unique international theatre and writing learning experience. Her students have written stories inspired by Matilda the Musical that display how the show has changed their perception of the world and left them feeling more empowered. Ms. Sasiain makes providing theatre for elementary age students her mission and is continuously applying for grants to assure theatre is an integral part of her students’ lives year-round. Ms. Sasiain also brings teaching artists into her school to educate both the students and staff. As a result of her efforts, attendance and engagement has increased at both Lantana Elementary and the Kravis Center.
Elisa De Gregorio, Arts Education Liaison and Art Specialist at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School for International Careers, New York, NY
Nominated by: Roundabout Theatre Company
Elisa De Gregorio is passionate about creating a new generation of socially and environmentally conscious individuals through theatre. As her school’s Arts Education Liaison and Art Specialist, she has started Smash Arts Productions, where students devise theatrical pieces based on social and environmental issues and their performances are fundraisers that benefit those issues. Her students incorporate Roundabout Theatre Company’s productions as inspiration for their pieces. Their work includes a piece inspired by Roundabout's production of Cabaret, which examined the stigma of HIV/AIDS and looked at the early days of the epidemic and today. Ms. De Gregorio is changing the way students view the world through theatre education.
Ms. Cristina Gutierrez-Brewster, Program Manager at Academy Prep Center of Tampa, Tampa, FL
For over four years, Cristina Guiterrez-Brewster has worked to create and sustain a community partnership between Academy Prep Center of Tampa and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Every student at Academy Prep qualifies for need-based scholarships, receives subsidized meals, and attends school eleven hours a day, six days a week for eleven months each year. Under Ms. Gutierrez-Brewster’s leadership, students had the opportunity to explore the cultural heritage of Motown music and attend a performance of Motown the Musical at the Straz Center. She ensured that the participating students were prepared and had the resources they needed while providing a fun learning environment.
Mr. Bradley Wingate, Arts Academic Specialist for Greenville County Schools, Greenville, SC
Bradley Wingate has assisted the Peace Center in connecting with numerous arts teachers and school administrators in Greenville County as well as other arts organizations across the state. Through this community partnership, Mr. Wingate has championed a new professional development initiative for arts teachers to engage with Touring Broadway productions including Once, Wicked, and Pippin. Students in elementary through high school are impacted through the training provided to their teachers. Mr. Wingate is being honored for his efforts to keep arts a valued core academic subject for all students.
Ms. Rosa Rocha, President, Board of Directors, Friends of Down Syndrome, Houston, TX
The collaboration between Ms. Rocha’s Friends of Down Syndrome and Theatre Under the Stars allows teens and adults with Down syndrome to experience Touring Broadway, forging a lifelong bond between these individuals and theatre. Through this partnership, Ms. Rocha introduced high school and college-aged students in the Down Syndrome Academy to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The participants engaged loco motor and spatial awareness skills through creative movement and dance centered on the music of Cinderella; performed a waltz for attendees at the Cinderella Ball, a fundraising event for Friends of Down Syndrome; and attended a performance of Cinderella at the Hobby Center.
Maureen Binienda, Principal at South High Community School, Worcester, MA
Principal Maureen Binienda is being recognized for her collaboration on "Adopt A School: The Memphis Project." This school-wide project integrated the arts into every subject across the curriculum and allowed 1300 students to see their first Broadway show. Principal Binienda was fully committed to the project and valued it in a way that other schools may not. Her involvement in the community is remarkable and her passion for education is unmatched. 80% of her students live below the poverty level and 12% are homeless. Principal Binienda engaged her school in the "Memphis Project" and her passion was a major contributor to its success.
Vincent Gassetto, Principal at MS 343 Academy of Applied Mathematics and Technology, Bronx, NY
Principal Vincent Gassetto brings an incredible combination of passion and discipline to everything he does, and this spirit is contagious among everyone at MS 343--teachers, students, and administrators. His genuine investment in his students' future drives everything he does, and in a world where standards are often set to the lowest common denominator, Principal Gassetto demands excellence from his students. He's made arts exposure and engagement a priority not only in the classroom, but also in the education of his teachers and administrators emphasizing the importance and impact of arts exposure among students in today's education. We salute his collaboration with Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, Mary Poppins, War Horse, Wicked, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, and others.
Brian Sammons, Third Grade Teacher at Aplington Elementary, Aplington, Iowa
For the past seven years, Brian Sammons has facilitated a classroom pen pal program with actress Hayley Podschun. Though his rural Iowa community is 100+ miles away from the nearest touring Broadway venue, his students have developed a meaningful connection to Broadway through their ongoing relationship with Ms. Podschun and participating in class projects inspired by the shows in which she has appeared. In November, the collaboration was elevated when the students traveled to Des Moines to meet their pen pal in person for the first time and to see her perform as Glinda in the national tour of Wicked .
Holly Valentine, Fourth Grade Teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School, Rochester, NY
Holly Valentine is the consummate educator. Her passion and commitment for her students far surpass any given expectations for a teacher. She is an amazing, beloved teacher that has touched the lives of hundreds of students. It is her passion for the performing arts and her "it's all about the kids" approach to education that propels her to the success level and recognition that she has achieved from her colleagues, administration, parents, but most of all from her former students. Yes, test scores and required curriculum demands are respected by Miss Valentine, but it is what the students can experience outside of the classroom through the performing arts and by experiencing live theatre that truly enhances the learning experience and will remain with the students forever; this is what is important to Miss Valentine. She is being honored for her collaboration withThe Phantom of the Opera,as well asWicked, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and others.
Dr. Scott Rudes, Principal of Orange Grove Middle Magnet School, Tampa, FL
This year, the ongoing collaboration of Dr. Scott Rudes of Orange Grove Middle Magnet School of the Arts, The Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory gave students, through the Broadway Education Project, a chance to see and study Peter Pan. Students were provided with an opportunity to explore new experiences and study the fantastical implications and metaphors of the beloved musical. Dr. Rudes is a passionate educator dedicated to giving all students a chance to explore their love of theatre. His unceasing devotion to his school and community, as demonstrated by the Fine Arts Professional Learning Community he established, makes his love and dedication an example for all educators. His remarkable leadership is even more impressive considering his recent personal health issues.
Ms. Gene Arthur Hopkins, K-12 Teacher/ Music & Drama Director at Lee Academy, Clarksdale, MS
Through the collaboration of The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee, and The Lee Academy, students from rural Mississippi were given an opportunity to see Broadway shows, many for the first time, including Les Miserables. This partnership has further provided students with an interactive theatre experience by being able to participate in Master Classes and post-show discussions. Ms. Gene Arthur Hopkins is a dedicated arts educator who founded the Lee Academy’s theatre department and consistently incorporates her students’ Broadway experience into her general teaching and her show choir. Moreover, Ms. Hopkins exhibits immense dedication to her students exemplified by personally driving them to see the Broadway shows, which makes her commitment to making theatre accessible for everyone all the more inspiring.
Mr. Mark Fetterly, Drama/Choral Music Director at Santaluces High School, Lantana, FL
Through the partnership of the Kravis Center and the Santaluces High School Drama and Music departments, underprivileged Musical Theatre students saw and studied Les Miserables. In conjunction, they envisioned and created their own musical showcase Lift Up Your Voice, inspired by their experience. Mr. Fetterly’s passion for arts education is represented in his exemplary Performing Arts program and in his drive to direct and create Lift Up Your Voice. Moreover, the support his program receives from the local community is indicative of the unifying power of theatre.
Trenton Price, Manager of Operations at Harlem Village Academy Leadership, New York, NY
This past year, Mr. Price collaborated with the producers of Memphis the Musical to create the “Inspire Change” program. Inspire Change provides an opportunity for arts-poor schools to experience Memphis, and participate in pre/post-show discussions with performers and teaching artists. Also, this partnership has provided students an opportunity to explore the historical and literary context of segregation in America through the eyes of Memphis via in-school curriculum-based workshops. Mr. Price’s passion and determination piloted the Inspire Change program from 160 students and parents in Harlem to thousands of students across New York City. His efforts expanded students’ analysis and understanding of history and social justice beyond literature and introduced them to the world of Broadway in a way that is relevant to students growing up in Harlem.
Charles “Chuck” D’Imperio, Principal of Livonia Middle School, Livonia, NY
The ongoing collaboration of Mr. D’Imperio, Principal of Livonia Middle School, and the Rochester Broadway Theatre League has built a strong foundation for incorporating The Lion King into a year-long, academic program rooted in the arts. Mr. D’Imperio continues to go beyond the expectations of a traditional administrator with his “all about the kids” approach. Mr. D’Imperio’s students learned much about themselves and their fellow classmates by participating in the education program focused on the question that is so prominent in the show, “Who lives in you?”. The program engaged the students in exploring the interconnectedness of family, culture, art, language and tradition and the influence they have on shaping their own lives.
Eric Staib, Art Teacher at Kinawa Middle School, Okemos, MI
Through the collaboration of Mr. Staib, Art Teacher of Grades K-6 at Kinawa Middle School, and Wharton Center for Performing Arts, Mr. Staib has brought Broadway into visual arts classrooms through the program, “Eye for Broadway”. The program strengthened a mission of arts integration and provided a venue for student work to be viewed and appreciated. All of the work on the Broadway-focused arts installments were created and installed by students, which helped introduce/reinforce all of the curriculum benchmarks at the school in addition to collaboration with core academic subjects with each individual project. Mr Staib’s students learn the importance of collaboration and find out that their small contribution, when added to the whole, creates a beautiful, interactive, and powerful visual work of art.
Katrina Stevens, Supervisor of Secondary English Language Arts with Baltimore County Public Schools, Baltimore, MD
This past year, Ms. Stevens, Supervisor of Secondary English Language Arts with Baltimore County Public Schools, and Hippodrome Foundation, Inc. partnered to reinforce the importance of literature in local high school students through the arts. “West Side Story on Baltimore’s West Side” used the arts as a tool for teachers to motivate students, maximize learning, and introduce students to a world they might otherwise not have a chance to experience. The students were taught about central themes, similarities, and differences with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, attended a live performance, read and acted out scenes and submitted a creative writing assignment about their favorite character.
For previous years' winners, please click on the links below.