CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was back to work Tuesday for Corey Mitchell, and he returned to Northwest School of the Arts with quite the story to tell.
He's spent the past 20 years sharing his passion for theater arts with countless students.
"There is this extra verve that you get from young artists that doesn't exist outside of the realm of a school," Mitchell said.
He found out two weeks ago that he was chosen over 7,700 of his peers across the country to win the first ever Tony Award for Excellence in Theater Education.
"They told me, and I was in utter shock," he said. "And I wanted to go and tell everyone. But they also told me I had to keep it a secret."
That was just the beginning of his once-in-a-lifetime experience.
He was flown to New York City where he accepted the award on behalf of all theater teachers, in front of the entire country.
"Thank you for legitimizing us," Mitchell said in his acceptance speech. "Theater education matters. And art matters. And we thank you."
Mitchell's win came as no surprise to his students.
It's not the first time he's been recognized. In 2007, he won North Carolina Outstanding Theatre Arts Educator Award from the North Carolina Theatre Conference.
"He just wants to get the best out of every single student. It doesn't matter if it's the lead or if it's the person in the ensemble with one line. He wants them all to shine," student Matt Mitchell said.
He doesn't want them to shine just in theater, but in all aspects of life, no matter what path they may take.
"The arts and culture is what helps to sustain a society," Mitchell said.
Mitchell was nominated for the award by local production company GreyHawk Films.
GreyHawk is currently in production on a documentary called "Purple Dreams," featuring Mitchell and his students' production of "The Color Purple."
He was chosen by judges from the America Theatre Wing, The Broadway League and Carnegie Mellon University.
Along with the title, Mitchell won $10,000 for his school.