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Show Teachers the Love!

Early in May, during National Teacher Month, we put on a star-studded variety show that celebrates teachers. It’s also our only fundraiser, but it’s a special kind of fundraiser because half the audience are teachers who come for free to feel the love. The other half are donors who come to show it. There’s joy in the air.

A moving highlight of the evening is the presentation of the Woodridge Award for Great Teachers, given by successful people to the teachers who changed their lives.

Show Teachers the Love!

May 8, 2023

New-York Historical Society

Photos by Sean Lassiter and Patrick McMullan.

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2023 Performers

Members of Cocomama standing on the shore of a river.
Cocomama

Cocomama “brings it,” creating a sound that is fierce and beautiful! A virtual United Nations of women, Cocomama’s musicians hail from five countries on four continents and the group’s musical influences include Afro-Cuban, classical, jazz, Latin American, soul, R&B, and beyond. Playing their own kind of world Latin music, Cocomama has enchanted audiences at the United Nations, Central Park, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York City Marathon, Joe’s Pub, Studio 54, the Exit Zero Jazz Festival, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Spoleto Festival USA, and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and has served as musical ambassador for the US State Department in Latin America.

Darius de Haas headshot by SneakPeek
Darius de Haas

Darius de Haas is an award-winning singer and actor whose career has spanned from Broadway, to television, to concert stages around the world. His recordings include his debut Day Dream: Variations on Strayhorn, Quiet Please with Steven Blier, and many original cast and soundtrack recordings. In addition, de Haas is a founding member of Black Theatre United, which serves to educate, empower, and inspire through excellence and activism in the pursuit of justice and equality for all black artists.

Liza Donnelly headshot on beige background by Eric Korenman
Liza Donnelly

Liza Donnelly is an award-winning cartoonist and writer for The New Yorker, and contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, and others. The author of eighteen books, her most recent is Very Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Women Cartoonists, with a foreword by David Remnick and Emma Allen. Liza’s TED talk was translated into forty languages and viewed online 1.5 million times. The innovator of digital visual journalism, she live-draws the Oscars and political/cultural events for major news outlets. Liza lives in New York.

Amari Frazier headshot on beige background
Amari Frazier

Amari Frazier (he/him) is from Chicago, Illinois and graduated from the Chicago Academy for the Arts in 2019. He went on to study at The Juilliard School to obtain a BFA in dance. He has attended summer programs at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Springboard Danse Montreal, and Nederlands Dance Theatre. He also worked with Ballet Collective during the summer of 2021 and has done many projects with the company since. Amari is now a fourth-year and looking forward to a career as a performing artist and choreographer.

Bonnie McFarlane

Bonnie McFarlane made her national breakthrough on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and has made multiple appearances on both The Late Show and The Tonight Show. Her comedy specials have aired on HBO and Comedy Central. McFarlane directed the 2014 documentary feature Women Aren’t Funny and published the memoir You’re Better than Me in 2016. McFarlane is cohost (with her husband, comedian Rich Vos) of the popular podcast My Wife Hates Me.

Keith Nelson

Keith Nelson learned to juggle and eat fire at Hampshire College in 1989. He moved to New York City and almost instantly devoted his life to the circus. He is co-founder and executive director of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, one of the longest-running circus and variety arts companies in New York. Keith has been featured on Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and HBO's OZ. For the past two years, he has produced Bindlestiff's Flatbed Follies, a rolling free circus show playing to neighborhoods across New York.

Rosie's Theater Kids

Rosie’s Theater Kids (RTKids) was founded in 2003 to address the dearth of arts education for underrepresented New York City public school students. RTKids enriches the lives of children who otherwise would lack the opportunity to experience musical theater, positively changing the trajectory of their lives by providing comprehensive classes in music, dance, and drama; thoughtful mentoring; and structured academic guidance.

2023 Woodridge Award

The Woodridge Award is presented by an accomplished person to a teacher who helped them on their way. The Award is named in honor of Mattie Woodridge, who taught high school English in Helena, Arkansas during segregation. After winning her school’s outstanding teacher award four times, Woodridge organized a day to celebrate local teachers. Its success led her to campaign for a national day of recognition for teachers and with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, National Teacher Day was established.

Ayodele Casel headshot
Presenter: Ayodele Casel

Ayodele Casel has been lauded by The New York Times as one of the “Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019,” and by The New Yorker as “a tap dancer of fine-grained musicianship.” Her collaboration with Latin jazz composer Arturo O'Farrill premiered at New York’s Joyce Theater to sold-out audiences in September 2019. Her work is deeply expressive of identity, culture, language, and cathartic communication. Hailed by the late, great Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world,” Casel has become an internationally sought-after artist and powerful voice for the art form. Photo by Michael Higgins.

Grace Pelosi headshot
Honoree: Grace Pelosi

Grace Pelosi taught ninth through twelfth grade over a long career as an English teacher. After her early teaching positions, she taught at Christopher Columbus High School for sixteen years, followed by fourteen years at Talent Unlimited High School. All of these teaching experiences were jubilantly challenging and enriching. Ms. Pelosi earned a BA in literature and secondary school education, and an MA in theater theory and criticism, from Hunter College. Throughout her teaching career, she also performed in community theater.

b&w photo of a woman sitting behind a desk with a pen and paper.

The Woodridge Award for Great Teachers

The Woodridge Award is presented annually by an accomplished person to the K-12 teacher who most helped them on their way.

Photo by Rogerline Johnson, Johnson Studio, Helena, Arkansas

Angel Co-Chairs

  • Catherine Aresty
  • Steven Aresty
  • Nick Lembo & Pat Swain
  • Giovanna Marazzi & David Sassoon
  • Ilse Melamid
  • Diana & Charles Revson
  • Mary & Alok Singh

Co-Chairs

  • Paula Butler
  • Elizabeth B. Dater
  • Megan Flanigan & Rick Swift
  • Agnes Gund
  • Caroline S. McBride
  • Barbara G. Raho

Benefit Committee

  • Julia Alvarez*
  • Sonja Bartlett
  • Cece & Louis Black
  • David W. Blight*
  • Douglas P. Catalano & Judi Tytel
  • Roz Chast*
  • Susan Choi*
  • Carol Crapple
  • Michael Cunningham*
  • Jennifer Egan
  • Oskar* & Laurie Eustis
  • Phil Galdston* & Nancy Tarshis*
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.*
  • Lucile & Richard Glasebrook
  • Michael Glazebrook
  • Tonne Goodman
  • Wendy Goodman
  • Aisha Haynes
  • Patricia Hayot
  • Amy Hungerford* & Peter Chemery
  • Joy & Emily Hurd
  • Amber Joseph
  • Peter Marrs
  • Meredith Monk*
  • Rebecca Montville** & Krzysztof Kozlowski
  • Julianne Moore
  • Mary & Garrett Moran
  • Mallory Neidich** & Teddy Kalborg
  • Kate Niehaus
  • Dan Quiat
  • Regina Pitaro
  • Jane Pollock & Phil Berney
  • Tripp Revson & Melise Senaydin
  • Joanie & Maurice Reznik
  • Leslee & David Rogath
  • Karen Russell* & Tony Perez
  • Holly & Michael Schechter
  • Monica & Rick Segal
  • Nadine Shaoul & Mark Schonberger
  • Gloria Steinem*
  • Ruben Toldeo*
  • Sam Swope & Jim Tryforos
  • Will & CeCe Thompson
  • Wayne & Susan Tobias
  • Abbie Wyman
  • Jerry Zaks*

*led an Academy for Teachers master class
**Academy for Teachers Fellow

Lists as of April 6, 2023.

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Teachers, our most valuable resource, are struggling. Overwhelmed and under-supported, too many teachers leave the profession too soon. The Academy’s enriching experiences and supportive community have been proven to improve those odds.

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