Local Oregon teacher, cancer survivor, and mother of two, Rachel Harry recently received the Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education, which is given in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University. The award recognizes a K-12 educator who has made a noticeable impact on his or her student’s lives.
Harry, who has taught at Hood River Valley High School for thirty-one years and is also an instructor at the Columbia Gorge Community College, received $10,000 to spend on Hood River’s theater program. She was also awarded a free trip to New York to receive her award at the Tony Awards.
Remarkably, Harry had absolutely no idea she had been nominated for the award. Several of her students, both current and former, collaborated in secret with Hood River teacher, Amirra Malak, to prepare and submit her nomination. They surprised her with her achievement at the high school’s annual Evening of Excellence.
In an interview with CBS, Harry explained her passion for teaching: “I love teenagers. I love everything they’re going through, the drama. They come in as these, basically kids, and they leave as adults.” One student, in her testimony, described Harry as “definitely a mother figure. . . She’s created a second home.” Another student stated that Harry “teaches in a way that we don’t feel like we are being patronized or being talked down to.”

Helen Cook is a current honors student at Benedictine College, where she is studying History with a minor in Theology. She is heavily active in student life, participating in three music ensembles as a violinist and leading Ravens Respect Life as president. When she is not busy with school and student life activities, she is found reading the many classical works of literature.