Visiting Author 2011

Tom Woodruff conducts art lessons Nov. 14-17

ST. JOHNS - Michigan history will come alive for St. Johns Public School students when Tom Woodruff brings his artistic and storytelling skills into elementary classrooms as part of the annual Author/ Illustrator Program. Tales of ships on Michigan's Great Lakes and the state's Native American populations are among the topics that Woodruff's paintings and drawings will recreate during his week-long visit, Nov. 14-17.

"Tom will share his love for Michigan and the Great Lakes Region, and engage students in fun and challenging hands-on projects during his visits to each of our elementary schools," says third-grade teacher, Krista Lehner, who is coordinating Woodruff's presentation along with Rachael Post, also a third- grade teacher.

This isn't Woodruff's first visit to the school district. His colorful murals and paintings depicting Michigan animals and natural wonders grace the walls at Riley Elementary School where he worked with students a number of years ago.

The Greenville resident began taking his art "on the road" via his Great Lakes Illustration Workshop series after he illustrated a series of books written by author, John Mitchell. The duo worked together on three books: "Michigan: an Illustrated History for Children," "Great Lakes and Great Ships," and "Prehistoric Great Lakes." The books will be available for purchase during his visit.

Woodruff's presentations at each school building includes draw-along programs for students in all grades K- 5.

"Tom provides an art lesson, a lesson in history, natural science and storytelling, all rolled into one," Lehner says.

Primary funding for Woodruff's visit is provided by St. Johns Schools Foundation for Excellence, a non- profit organization that works to support district-wide programming and projects which are unable to be funded from the district's operating budget. The Foundation approved a grant request submitted by Lehner and Post for $1,500, just under half of the total cost for this year's visiting author/illustrator program.

Additional funding for the remainder of the visit is being provided by Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) at each of the elementary school buildings: East Olive, Eureka, Gateway, Oakview and Riley.

"We appreciate the support of the Foundation for Excellence and the individual PTOs in the district," Lehner says. "We're hopeful that other service organizations in the community will be able to make a contribution as well."

St. Johns Schools Foundation for Excellence is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, formed in 1986. In addition to providing funding via mini- and maxi-grant awards, the Foundation serves as a holding agent or "pass through" for funds for special projects and scholarships that support the community. The organization is currently involved with the Wilson Center Renovation Project and the Terry Cornwell and Robert & Bonnie LaBrie Scholarships.

To view Woodruff's art work, including prints from his various books, visit