When drama teacher Roshunda Jones-Koumba was summoned to the principal’s office at G.W. Carver Magnet High School, she had no idea what was in store.
“My principal told me that she had some important people on the phone. I was thinking we had to do some big performance or there was something that needed fixing. When they said they were with the American Theater and I was being honored with a Tony Award for excellence in theater education, I was completely surprised,” Jones-Koumba said.
Jones-Koumba, who received her award at the Tony Awards on June 12 at Radio City Music Hall, was selected from a nationwide call for entries by a panel of theatre experts from The American Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and Carnegie Mellon University.
“I have been in awe of her vision; her tireless work ethic; the countless hours; blood, sweat, tears, money, food that she’s given to her students in the community around her,” reads one submitted student endorsement. “And she taught us, usually Black and Brown kids from inner city communities, that we could do anything.”
That can-do mentality is what drives Jones-Koumba as she works for the Acres Home school.
“Theater teachers in general work so hard and they pour a lot into the students. But what I think made me stand out is bringing arts to community,” she said. “Before I got to Carver, the theater program wasn’t as big. And so it was my mission to have a pride in the arts, not only for the school, but the community, as well. I wanted to show no matter where we’re from, we can provide great experiences everywhere. We’re a Title One school and our funding is not as big as some, but we can still create that theater magic.”
Along with teaching drama classes, Jones-Koumba directs productions at Carver, whose Thespian troupe (#6753) has earned multiple regional and national awards for competition pieces and one-act plays. Jones-Koumba is a past recipient of the Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year Award and the International Thespian Society Inspirational Theatre Educator Award, and was inducted into the Texas Thespians Hall of Fame.
“Our students are doing amazing things,” shares Jones-Koumba. “Many are working actors on stage and on television; some are continuing their education; some are pursuing careers outside of performing. In theatre we accept all, so you’re not afraid to be yourself. And that gives you confidence to do anything you want, enables you to work with different people, and to be a better all-around person,” Jones-Koumba said. “Theatre is Life. I’m very grateful to The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University for this honor.”
The award comes with a $10,000 grant for Carver’s theatre program and tickets to the Tony Awards and Gala. Jones-Koumba’s students will also receive a master class taught by CMU Drama professors.