American Federation of Teachers honors Steven Van Zandt with Making a Difference award

Credit: Heidi Gutman

E Street Band guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt was honored by the American Federation of Teachers over the weekend and, during the emotional ceremony, praised teachers for being “on the frontlines against ignorance.”

According to a statement from AFT, Van Zandt, 70, was awarded the organization’s Making a Difference award for his support of teachers, inclusive of his “years of work promoting and appreciating the work of educators” through his philanthropy.

The guitarist appeared virtually at the federation’s TEACH summer educational issues conference on Saturday.

“This is an amazing award, coming from my favorite people — you,” Van Zandt began in his pre-recorded speech. “You, my friends, are the ones who make a difference every day. Teachers are on the frontlines against ignorance. Honestly, we have never needed you more.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer also praised the arts-inclusive twist on the STEM acronym, now called STEAM to include arts education.

“There are no wrong answers in the arts,” said Van Zandt. “The arts provide a comfort zone, and that extends to other disciplines.”

He closed his speech by praising all educators, saying, “I can’t overstate my appreciation for all you do and for this award. I salute you. You are helping to create the next generation of engineers, scientists, doctors, nurses, artists, activists, writers and even musicians.”

In the statement, AFT president Randi Weingarten said they chose Van Zandt to receive the honor because he “passionately spreads the gospel of teachers’ tireless work and actively engages with teachers and students during regular classroom visits and through, his free online music and arts curriculum.”

The statement adds, “He lends his name and notoriety to supporting educators, which is particularly special given everything they’ve done to support students in the last year.”

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