The Parkland teacher who saved 65 students won a Tony Award. Watch her powerful speech.

Each year, at the Tonys, one K-12 theater teacher is honored for their work. This year's recipient was Melody Herzfeld of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

On Feb. 14 — that fateful day in Parkland, Florida — Herzfeld helped save the lives of 65 students by sheltering in place and guiding them to safety. That alone more than meets the Excellence in Theatre Education Award criteria of being a teacher "who has demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession."

In her acceptance speech, Herzfeld illustrated the importance of arts education, explaining how the lessons her students learned in her class prepared them, unknowingly, for the horrific events of that day.


The most important lesson her students learned was to be good to each other. The bonds of family and friends play powerful roles in how we cope.

"I remember on February 7th, in a circle with my students, encouraging them to be good to each other when times were trying, and to keep the family together, [to] accept everyone and make a difference," she 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."

GIFs from The Tony Awards/YouTube.

Herzfeld went on to list some of the other unexpected skills kids learn in acting class that go beyond just, well, acting.

"As theater teachers, we teach kids by giving them space to be critiqued yet not judged, giving them spot in the light yet not full stage, creating the circle of trust in which to fail," Herzfeld said, before adding that kids are taught, also, "to begin again" after tragedy befalls them.

Arts programs are in constant danger of being cut from school curriculums. Maybe we don't understand just how important they are.

Schools across the country have struggled under the weight of budget crunches for decades. So often, it's art, theater, and music programs that get axed for the sake of short-term financial health. When those programs are cut, however, students lose out on the important lessons teachers like Herzfeld bring into the world.

"Imagine if arts were classes that were considered core — a core class in education. Imagine," she said. "Ours is only one small part, yet it’s the most important part of a child’s education. ... We have all known that the future of the world was about collaborative creativity."

"And here we are," Herzfeld continued. "The future. Changed for good."

Watch Herzfeld's moving speech below, and think about a teacher who helped change your life for the better.

Americans woke up this morning to the news that the FDA and the CDC have recommended a pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine out of "an abundance of caution" while they review 6 incidences of rare blood clotting issues out of the 6.8 million J & J vaccines administered in the U.S.

Let's be super clear about the numbers here. Six out of 6.8 million. That means, of the people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since its February 27th emergency use authorization, 0.000088% of recipients have reported encountering this rare blood clotting issue. Literally less than one in a million.

On the flip side, some people are trying to compare these rare clots with the increased risk of blood clots in pregnancy and for those taking birth control pills, but this particular combination of clots and low platelets can't be treated the way clots normally are treated, which the CDC and FDA say is part of the reason for the pause—to alert doctors to treat any of these rare issues properly.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less