Heroic Parkland Drama Teacher to Receive Special Tony Award

The drama teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will reportedly receive a special Tony Award at this year's ceremony.

Melody Herzfeld single-handedly runs the drama department at Stoneman Douglas High. She vehemently supported her students' protests and activism following the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February. According to a report by the Associated Press, she will be honored at the Tony Awards on Sunday night.

On the day of the massacre, Herzfeld reportedly barricaded herself and 65 students into a small classroom, protecting them all from the gunfire raging outside. In the weeks after, she was outspoken in support of the March For Our Lives organizers and other efforts to affect change.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she told the Associated Press. “But I hope that this award will remind everyone of how vital and important arts education is to our kids. Drama, music, art, creative writing — that’s how you make good citizens.”

The award she will receive on Sunday is a yearly honor that goes to educators who “demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession.” It is bestowed by the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University, specifically focusing on people who work with children from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

This is the fourth year the special award is being given. The winner is chosen by a panel of judges from the American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League, Carnegie Mellon and other prominent figures in the industry. Candidates are nominated by the public.

Along with the prestigious award, Herzfeld will receive tickets to the Tony ceremony and gala and a $10,000 prize. In spite of the recognition, Herzfeld said that she took little credit for the work her students have done. She said that all she does is try to convey to them that honesty is central to all good work.

These kids are so close to adulthood they can taste it," she said, "but they don’t have all the responsibilities of adulthood yet. So it’s important to give them a safe place where they can fail or experiment and it doesn’t matter.”

Herzfeld also said that one important aspect of her teaching style is making sure she isn't immune to criticism in the classroom. She joked that they will often give a brutally honest appraisal of her hair or her outfit in the midst of class.

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“I want them to feel confident enough to call out any adult, any bureaucrat, any politician, anyone, even their teacher,” she said. “They need to speak truth to power.”

The Tony Awards will broadcast live on CBS starting at 8 p.m.