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Detroit teacher wins Tony's Excellence in Theatre Education Award

Marilyn McCormick teaches at Detroit's top high school
Tonys honors Detroit teacher who inspires young performers 05:51

For a second year, the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University have chosen a teacher for the Excellence in Theatre Education Award. Of more than 1,100 submissions from across the country, the winner hails from Detroit's top high school, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

Marilyn McCormick has made a difference in the drama department of Cass Technical High School for nearly 40 years. Last week, her drama class received a rare and surprise visit.

Renée Elise Goldsberry, a Tony nominee for her role in Broadway's "Hamilton," came to announce this year's winner for the Excellence in Theatre Education Award.

"Hamilton" star Renee Elise Goldsberry visits Detroit high school 11:06

"What is it that you do that's so special?" Miller asked McCormick.

"I don't know if it's so special. I think I encourage them to be comfortable with who they are," McCormick said. "I hope that what I teach kids, is that you are enough. And if you are enough, no matter who enters the room or where you are, it's all right because you're enough."

Herself a graduate of Cass Tech, she was a student during Detroit's tumultuous 1960s and 70s.

"I think that there's some benefit to having been here," McCormick said. "I was a teenager. Life was different. It was turbulent, but it was free. I think it just has made me a more open and judgment-free kind of person because I've seen, I think, a lot of things."

After graduating college and marrying her husband Michael, the couple hoped to launch careers in New York City.

"We didn't have a plan or anything. And then it occurred to us maybe we should get a job. Real jobs, make some money," said McCormick, who decided not to pursue her own career. "So I got the job here teaching and it was good. It's just good."

Though she never made it to Broadway or Hollywood, several of her students did.

"Did you ever think back and say, 'I could have been a star?'" Miller asked.

"No, I never think that. Because I've felt as if I was serving my purpose," McCormick said.

Four decades of students agree.

2016 Tony Award nominations are announced 07:09

"She's a mother, she's a mother to everyone she encounters," Coda Boyce said.

"She's changed our lives," Chelsie Sutherland added.

"It's like the bar is up here. And it's like, 'okay, let me rise up to that bar.' And she helps us do that," Michael Bishop said.

"She expects you to be better than you can be. She expects you to enunciate, to spend time, to be as dedicated to your craft as she is to you," said Crystal Williams, a Cass Tech graduate and poet.

Earlier this year, a group of alumni and students submitted a video in hopes that Ms. McCormick would be recognized at the Tony Awards in her final year at Cass Tech. In the submission video, students described her as "compassionate" and "more than just a teacher."

"It was a beautiful thing, to hear them just say her name," Goldsberry said.

"That's kind of overwhelming. When you think that they took the time -- like to even consider me... for something like that is kind of special," McCormick said, tearing. "You know what I mean?"

Along with the award for McCormick comes $10,000 for Cass Tech, where the theater department budget has long relied on student fundraising.

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