Pictured holding certificates are Miriam Wahl, Arts Advocacy Award; Brenda Jones, principal at Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School and recipient of the Exemplary Arts Service Award; and Amy Ramsey, representing Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School winner of the Elementary School of Excellence Award. Surrounding them are teachers of Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School.
Pictured holding certificates are Miriam Wahl, Arts Advocacy Award; Brenda Jones, principal at Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School and recipient of the Exemplary Arts Service Award; and Amy Ramsey, representing Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School winner of the Elementary School of Excellence Award. Surrounding them are teachers of Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School.
Madison educators were among those honored at the 2014 Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education Award Ceremony held at the Mississippi Arts Commission's Whole Schools Institute last week.

Madison resident Dr. Miriam Wahl and Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School Principal Dr. Brenda Jones were recognized at the banquet. Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School was also recognized for its integration of arts in curriculum.

"Every year, the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education honors outstanding individuals and organizations from throughout the state who have made a difference in the lives of students through and in the arts," said Executive Director Dr. Penny Wallin. "For 2014, eleven inspiring, creative, innovative recipients are being celebrated."

Wahl, a Madison resident and recent retiree, was honored by the MAAE with the Arts Advocacy Award for 30 years of service as a voice for arts education.

"She is an advocate for arts education and the power that it can give to any person," Wallin said.

Wahl's reach has extended from elementary school teacher to school administrator, to visual arts teacher and university professor. She was also a gifted education teacher and teaching artist.

"To know, at the end of my career, that what I have done has been noticed and appreciated is quite special," Wahl remarked. "It's one of those awards where your colleagues nominate you, and when the people that you hold in such high regard would honor you this way, those are the best kind."

Designated as a Model Whole School by the Mississippi Arts Commission, Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School received the Elementary School of Excellence Award for successful integration of the arts into school programing.

Jones believes that the awards highlight the efforts made to move students into 20th century learning. "It's not just art for art's sake," she said. "It's using the arts to integrate curriculum to use the different strategies to learn."

The state budget allows the school to hire both a music teacher and librarian; however, there is no allotment for the salary of an art teacher. Through a grant supported by the school's PTO, Madison Avenue Lower Elementary has managed to keep the art program alive.

"We're very hopeful that at some point our legislature will recognize the importance of hiring art teachers," she added.

Jones is a member of the National Association of Elementary School Administrators, Leadership Madison County and many other teaching organizations. At the awards ceremony, she was awarded the Exemplary Arts Service Award.

"For me, the award says that what we're doing is working," she said. "I also recognize that it's not a single effort."