Melody Herzfeld, director of the drama department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, helped keep 65 students safe during the Parkland, Florida, school shooting earlier this year. On Sunday she was given the prestigious Excellence in Theatre Education Award at the 72nd annual Tony Awards, which includes a $10,000 prize for her school.
The award recognizes a K-12 theater educator in the U.S. who has made a monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession.
Herzfeld shared some of the lessons she gave her students just a week before the tragic event during her acceptance speech. "I remember, on February 7th, sharing a circle with my beloved students and encouraging them to be good to each other when times were trying, and to keep the family together, accept everyone and make a difference," Herzfeld said. "And I remember only a week later, on February 14th, a perfect day, where all these lessons in my life and in their short lives would be called upon to set into action."
Herzfeld hid her students in her office for two hours until authorities led them to safety. At CNN's town hall on gun violence a week later, her student performed the original song, "Shine." Herzfeld's students once again took the stage at the Tony Awards, and this time they performed "Seasons of Love" from the award-winning show "Rent."