The Empower Award: Vegas Valley Theatre Awards to celebrate STEAM Arts educators

Congratulations to inaugural honoree, CCSD teacher Athena Garrison!



Athena Garrison, educator and Theatre artists at Fay Herron Elementary

Art is a refusal to forget the lessons our teachers taught us about the power of our curiosity, the thrill of innovation, the worthiness of our voice, and the strength of our spirit. Where others see obstacles, teachers see potential. They introduce us to life's adventure and give us the tools to build self-confidence and a passion for learning that enables us to thrive in spite of challenges.


Teachers challenge kids to make theatre in order to empower them with tools for aspiring to a vision and building a community; camaraderie, dedication, creativity, and courage. The theatre provides purpose to the whole person, where one's presence is not only appreciated but essential to getting the job done.



"Eat More Art Vegas is grateful for the professionals who make sacrifices to give the power of the arts to all students, regardless of background. We are honored to celebrate Athena Garrison of Fay Herron Elementary School at the 6th Annual Las Valley Theatre Awards with our inaugural Empower Award for excellence in Theatre Arts STEAM education.


We would like to thank 2018 Sankuer Hero Award recipient Kathy Mancuso Ortiz of Parts for the Arts Charitable Association for her assistance in establishing this new award."


- Sarah O'Connell, Executive Director, Eat More Art Vegas and the Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards


"So often, when we speak about Theater Educators, our minds go immediately to the High School level where Theater is built into the curriculum. For this first award, we would like to shine a light on the other educators in the Clark County School District who seldom get noticed. They are the women and men who have been EMPOWERED to fight for the arts in their at-risk elementary schools for the past 6 years. These educators already have the difficult job of teaching in schools who’s budgets are constantly being cut and in communities where children often don’t eat unless they go to school, yet they continue to give of themselves and their time for no extra pay because they understand just how important a theater program can be for these young students. In most of these schools, English is a second language. Producing a piece of theater not only helps these children practice their English skills, but it also allows them to learn how to solve problems in a group setting and how to work cooperatively. Most of all, theater provides children the chance to feel EMPOWERED to become something different and amazing!




Athena Garrison has been EMPOWERING her students at Fay Herron Elementary School since 2014! Each year has proved more and more difficult to produce a show due to budget cuts, administrative speed bumps, and little to no help. Ms. Gibbons has a connection with her students like no other. They trust her to keep their dreams alive and she shows up every year refreshed and ready to continue creating magic with them. It is because of her selfless dedication that we are honored to present her with the very first EMPOWERMENT AWARD for leaders in Theater STEAM Education."


- Kathy Mancuso Ortiz, President, Parts for the Arts Charitable Association



Athena Garrison has been teaching fourth and fifth grade in the Clark County School District for the past 10 years. Five years ago, she was nominated by her fellow staff members to become the director of “Disney Aladdin Kids” which she undertook with the dedication and tenaciousness that she uses to approach any endeavor. The children had such a wonderful time and grew in such a way that it was followed by Disney “The Lion King Jr.”, “Cinderella Kids”, “The Little Mermaid Jr.”, and most recently, “Beauty and the Beast Jr.”. The reason she has undertaken these very time-consuming presentations is best said in her own words:


“Strength is exactly what I hope to grow on our stage. I want my students to believe in themselves. I want them to feel failure, search for help, and work to overcome it. I have seen them smile too big for their face. I have seen them dance like no one is watching, and blush when they feel proud of themselves.”


Mrs. Garrison makes this happen for dozens of students each year! Of course, her most proud accomplishment would be raising three great boys with her wonderful husband, Caleb.




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