NEW YORK CITY: The Tony Awards organization has announced that Melody Herzfeld, a drama teacher from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., will be the recipient of the 2018 Excellence in Teacher Education Award. This award, which is presented by Carnegie Mellon University, honors a K-12 theatre educator in the U.S. who has shown a monumental impact on students and who represents the profession of teaching to the highest standard. Herzfeld will be recognized at the Tony Awards on June 10.
“Melody is a true inspiration to her students and to all of us in the theatre community and beyond,” said president of the Broadway League, Charlotte St. Martin, and president of the American Theatre Wing, Heather Hitchens, in a joint statement. “Theatre is transformative—it has the power to celebrate the best of times, and it has the power to help heal us and comfort us in the worst of times. We are honored and humbled to present the Excellence in Theatre Education Award to Melody this year.”
At Stoneman Douglas, Herzfeld serves as the director of the drama department and has produced over 50 productions since 2003. Stoneman Douglas’s theatre program has earned state and Critics’ Choice recognition at Thespian competitions, as well as awards from the South Florida Cappies and Cappies Critics’ Team. She has also produced the Children’s Theatre Project since 2003 and received the Thespis Award 2018 EdTA from the Education Theatre Association.
When the shooting occurred at Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14, Herzfeld hid 65 of her students and herself in her office for two hours until authorities could lead them to safety. Since then, many of her students have begun to speak out and become activists, and under her guidance, they wrote and performed an original song, “Shine,” at the CNN Town Hall on Feb. 21, which expressed how this event affected them.
Herzfeld was nominated by her students and selected by a panel of judges from the American Theatre Wing, the Broadway League, Carnegie Mellon University, and other theatre professionals for the award. She will receive $10,000 for her theatre program and tickets to attend the Tony Awards and Gala.
“During a normal given time, I would say that I am truly humbled and grateful for this recognition for the work I have done,” Herzfeld said. “However, the way that my students have taken to action through speech, performance and passionate honesty, it now means so much more. My work is being reflected through my students, as it is every day with every arts teacher around the world.”