Press Release

AFT Educators Honor Rock Musician Steven Van Zandt with the National Union’s ‘Making a Difference’ Award

For Release:


Janet Bass

WASHINGTONThe American Federation of Teachers today presented rock musician Steven Van Zandt with its Making a Difference award, an award that honors extraordinary work by and for teachers, for his years of work promoting and appreciating the work of educators.

The award was presented virtually during the AFT’s TEACH summer educational issues conference.

Van Zandt is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, leads his own group called the Disciples of Soul, and is an actor and activist.

“Steven 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,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “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. Steven inspires us all.” 

She noted that Van Zandt doesn’t miss a chance to publicly promote the work of teachers, including at his concerts and on his SiriusXM radio show. He has even walked picket lines with striking teachers, including those in Los Angeles.

In his taped acceptance speech to the audience of educators, Van Zandt said, “This is an amazing award, coming from my favorite people—you! 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,” Van Zandt said. 

He also noted that the “A” for arts in STEAM education is essential to helping engage students. “There are no wrong answers in the arts,” he said. “The arts provide a comfort zone, and that extends to other disciplines.”

Van Zandt said: “I can’t overstate my appreciation for all you do and for this award,” he said. “I salute you. You are helping to create the next generation of engineers, scientists, doctors, nurses, artists, activists, writers and even musicians.”

Weingarten said that the silver lining of the pandemic was that the public saw just how hard teachers worked to support their students during such challenging times. “Steven knew this long before the pandemic and speaks truth to power whenever and wherever he can.”

The AFT offers’s curriculum on its own lessons platform,

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.