John Legend has written about his own high school education in a powerful op-ed about empowering teachers for HuffPost. He said that in that moment, it struck him that the number of students graduating was half what it had been at freshman orientation. "Nearly fifty percent of my peers had given up on their education and dropped out," he noted. He said that in Springfield, Ohio--where he grew up--success was not "a widespread expectation for young people". "Looking back, I realize, had it not been for a few teachers who saw my potential and sparked my passion, I might not have found a love of learning and the confidence to pursue my dreams," wrote Legend.
The annual award recognizes creative music programs that attract students who may not typically enroll in music classes. Lewis has dedicated two decades to teaching music but also to shaping what it looks like in the classroom. Over the years, she's taught at Brown School, Shawnee High School and Western Middle School, but most recently, she oversaw every music program in Jefferson County Public Schools as the music curriculum specialist for the district.