Sunday, April 25, 2010

Woodruff Salutes Georgia Arts in Education Leaders Program Announces 2009-2010 Honorees

The Woodruff Arts Center is pleased to announce the 2009-2010 Woodruff Salutes Georgia Arts in Education Leaders honorees:
  • Yatesy Harvey – Drama Teacher, Forsyth Central High School
  • Brenda May Ito – Professor of Theatre, Columbus State University
  • Kirby Meng – Art Teacher, Hickory Flat Elementary School (Henry County)
  • Ricky Williams – Band Director, Bennett’s Mill Middle School (Fayette County)
  • Dr. Beverly Hall – Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools
Woodruff Salutes is a program designed to honor teachers, school and arts administrators, community leaders, and volunteers throughout Georgia who have championed and demonstrated the ability of the arts to impact positively the lives and learning of young people. The program is in its third year and since it’s founding has honored 14 educators chosen from more than 180 nominations. Honorees are selected by the Woodruff Arts Center Education Task Force.

This year’s honorees represent a variety of art disciplines including music, drama, and visual arts. Each honoree was chosen because of their exemplary leadership in the use of arts in education and for their impact on the community, state, and discipline they serve.

As part of this recognition, honorees will receive $2,500 to contribute to the arts program of their choice. They will also be honored with a reception at their school as well as a culminating reception at the Woodruff Arts Center on May 22, 2010. For more information, visit

The Woodruff Arts Center recognizes the power and potential of opening young minds through the arts. The Woodruff’s divisions – Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum of Art, and Young Audiences – share a mission to provide arts learning experiences of the highest quality. This campus-wide commitment makes arts education uniquely based on performances, exhibitions and school curriculums accessible via one arts center. Through the Woodruff, the arts bring learning to life for more than a million students across Georgia and neighboring states each year.

Since 1968, the Woodruff Arts Center has served more than 30 million patrons and annually offers more than 3,300 performances and exhibitions. In addition to its role as a cultural beacon and hub of the Southeast, the Center serves as a critical economic, educational, and social catalyst for Atlanta and the region. For more, visit

2009-2010 Honoree Biographies

Yatesy Harvey
Forsyth Central High School

The Woodruff Arts Center is pleased to honor Yatesy Harvey for 21 years of service to the students of Forsyth Central High School. During her career as Drama Teacher, the school has won fifteen Region One Act Play championships and nine State One Act Play championships. Many of her students have continued acting at the professional level and others have become drama educators themselves. Through her tireless efforts in supporting the Arts, performing arts centers have been built at all high schools in Forsyth County and she has been a consultant for building numerous theatres across the state. Mrs. Harvey has announced her retirement at the end of the current school year. Forsyth Central High School Principal, Rudy Hampton, said of Mrs. Harvey, “She has been the key figure in producing one of the best drama programs in the state and country. Mrs. Harvey has devoted her professional life to building a first class drama department at Forsyth Central and to promoting the arts not only in the state of Georgia but throughout the country.”

Brenda May Ito
Columbus State University

The Woodruff Arts Center is pleased to honor Brenda May Ito for her commitment to drama and education. She is a Professor of Theatre and is the Artistic Director and Program Manager for Columbus State University’s Theatre for Youth program. In that role, Ms. May Ito produces shows that tour to several schools and cities throughout Georgia. Last year alone her shows visited sixty-nine schools and performed to over 48,000 students. Under her direction, theatre students participate in countless community outreach activities including story readings to children, fire prevention puppet shows, and charity benefit performances. She is also the sole advisor for students in the Drama Education degree track, typically 50-60 students a semester. Timothy McGraw, Chair of the Theatre Department at Columbus State University said of Ms. May Ito, “Brenda’s service to students of all ages has been prolific, innovative, and creative, reaching far into the local and statewide communities.”

Kirby Meng
Hickory Flat Elementary School

The Woodruff Arts Center is pleased to honor Kirby Meng for her dedication to arts education. Her career has taken her from secondary education to elementary school education to education leadership and now back to the elementary school classroom. Mrs. Meng’s influence on education reaches outside her classroom. She has served as President for the Georgia Arts Education Association and is a regular presenter at the annual National Arts Education Association Convention. Debi West, a GAEA associate and previous Woodruff Salutes honoree said of Mrs. Meng, “Being a leader in this field has changed her life and her teaching as well as teaching styles of others. Kirby knows that great teachers share ideas and learn from one another. We have all learned so much from her and we know that we will continue to learn from her.” Mrs. Meng has been recognized for her commitment to art education numerous times, including the awards of State Elementary School Art Educator of the Year, State Art Educator of the Year, and two awards from her school for Teacher of the Year.

Ricky Williams
Bennett’s Mill Middle School

The Woodruff Arts Center is pleased to honor Ricky Williams for more than 20 years of service to music education in Georgia. Mr. Williams has been the Band Director for Bennett’s Mill Middle School since the school opened in 2007. He demands hard work, discipline, and teamwork, and holds students to a high standard. He strongly encourages all students to take private lessons and has established a Private Lesson Academy at the school to make lessons more accessible to students. Mr. Williams is dedicated to student growth, volunteering his time before and after school to work with any students who need extra coaching. Mr. Williams finds opportunities for his band to perform in the community and competitively, having won many awards and honors in a very short time. Carolyn Callison, a parent of one of Mr. Williams’ students said of his efforts, “As a parent, I am very happy that my children have had the opportunity to be a part of such a first-rate band program. Mr. Williams is dedicated to providing top quality music education and has inspired a love of music in many students that they will enjoy for a lifetime.”

Dr. Beverly Hall
Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools

The Woodruff Arts Center is pleased to honor Dr. Beverly Hall for her commitment to arts education in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS). Now in her eleventh year as Superintendent, Dr. Hall has overseen APS’s transformation into one of Georgia’s premiere school systems.

APS boasts some of the best arts programs in the state, and this is due in part to Dr. Hall’s recognition and support of arts education. In 2002, Dr. Hall helped transform the underachieving Carver High School into four, theme-based schools, including the Carver School of the Arts. Today, Carver School of the Arts boasts a 100% graduation rate. In 2008, Dr. Hall helped establish the Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School, a “small learning community” that features a Fine Arts professional pathway program. Garden Hills Elementary, another of the schools that Dr. Hall presides over, has taken advantage of the numerous programs offered by the four divisions of the Woodruff Arts Center: Young Audiences, the Alliance Theatre, High Museum of Art, and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Under the leadership of Dr. Hall, The arts at Henry W. Grady High School are more vibrant and productive than ever, encouraging students to participate in the incredible arts culture that Midtown Atlanta has to offer.

Being a Woodruff Salutes honoree will be the most recent accolade for Dr. Hall, who has also received the prestigious Keystone Award for Leadership in Education, and in 2009, was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

Dr. Hall continues to work hand in hand with the arts community to find ways to ensure that every student in the APS school system get exposure to the arts. We applaud Dr. Hall for her incredible leadership and commitment to Prek-12 arts education.
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