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Jefferson Award Winner Keeps Art Alive For San Pablo Kids

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Wilma Grant - Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

Wilma Grant – Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

SAN PABLO (KPIX 5) — For 23 years, Wilma Grant has been a beloved teacher in San Pablo. She has a master’s degree in education and has been honored with numerous state and school district awards. But it’s what she continues to do in retirement that has earned her this week’s Jefferson Award.

Retiring from teaching has not slowed Grant. When she isn’t writing scripts, fitting costumes, or organizing parents, she is working with her Drama Club students at Tara Hills Elementary School on their next big production.

“These children are so stressed out!” Grant lamented “When they come after school, they can just take their hats off and have a good time.”

And the kids will tell you, drama club is their favorite time of the day.

“I think it’s really fun and it’s a place where I can be myself!” said Jadeyn.

“It taught me how to be confident in myself and it’s really really fun,” chimed Isabelle.

During her 23 years of teaching kindergarten through 6th grades in San Pablo, Grant watched art programs disappear with each round of budget cuts. She started the club in 1990, committed to her belief that visual and performing arts are crucial to a well-rounded education.

“Math, reading, creative writing — all of these things that we teach in the classroom can be found right in the performing arts,” Grant explained.

So she didn’t let the drama club end with her retirement.

Heather Wilson was once a student in Grant’s plays. Now her daughter participates.

“I’m so blessed that she is still doing it, it’s amazing,” she said.

The club’s big collection of costumes is a small part of what it takes to put on two decades worth of plays, but all of it is a testament to Grant’s vision and dedication.

In the school auditorium now dedicated in her name, Wilma Grant has put on The Nutcracker, Oliver, and original plays, all adapted to meet the growing numbers of students who want to participate. It’s free, and no one is turned away.

“Everybody as a talent, everybody has a gift,” Grant said confidently. “I feel good when I can bring that gift to light so everybody can see it. I think the most beautiful thing is, on production night, to see these children on stage giving their best, seeing these children supporting each other like a team.”

“I love Mrs. Grant, all the parents and teachers love Mrs. Grant,” mother Mary Miranda added. “She really, really has a big heart for the children.”

So, for her commitment to children in keeping the arts alive in her community, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to WIlma Grant.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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