NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thirty teachers from across the country were invited to Nashville, Tennessee, to be recognized as this year's CMA Foundation's Music Teachers of Excellence.
"Teachers within that room said, 'We're not feeling valued,' and here we are, in the music industry, we have the CMA Awards, and we're like, 'Wait. We know how to do awards shows pretty well. How can we establish some kind of event that allows teachers to walk taller the minute they leave the room?'" explained Tiffany Kerns, the executive director of the CMA Foundation.
Along with a night to celebrate the teachers, the CMA Foundation vowed to donate $150,000 total to all of this year's recipients.
Half of each teacher's investment will go toward their classroom needs and music programs, and the other half will support professional development and personal expenses, according to the foundation.
Darlene Machacon, a teacher at La Quinta High School in Westminster, was one of this year's recipients.
"I think of little Darlene who was doubting to ever be a music teacher. If she had known that, fast forward, I was going to get this? Oh my gosh!" she said.
The educators are selected based on their dedication to bringing a high-quality music education to their students and the impact they've had on their school community.
"This is not like anything I've ever experienced as a music teacher. Probably unlike anything I will experience," said Justin Antos, a teacher and honoree from Illinois.
On hand to celebrate the teachers was some of the biggest names in country music.
"It's not just about the cash prize. It's really about how do we lift up these teachers? Not just tonight, but really for the rest of their lives," said CEO of the Country Music Association Sarah Trahem.
Even U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona flew in to show his support.
"These teachers want the kids to be successful. You can see the passion that they have," he said.
To date, the CMA Foundation has invested over $27 million nationally.
For a full list of this year's recipients, visit the CMA Foundation website.