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Roses and memories and book awards

For Jessica Dixon, “stopping to smell the roses” is more than just a metaphor. It inspired her winning entry in the 2011 Inga Kromann book contest.

Jessica, an elementary education major, was taking an art class in a rose garden last summer when she saw a blind man inhaling the fragrance of the blooms. That moment came to mind when, in the Survey of Children’s Literature course, she was invited to write a book and enter it in the annual competition.

book cover of 'The Rose Garden'“My book is about a young girl who is curious how a blind woman can enjoy a rose garden if she cannot see the colors,” says Jessica, a senior from Bellevue who grew up on Mercer Island. “After befriending the woman, she learns how you can sense beauty through all five senses.”

The Kromann competition is open to WSU Pullman students in the Department of Teaching and Learning who wish to create books for children and young adults. Most manuscripts submitted are picture books such as “The Rose Garden,” which Jessica illustrated with flowery collages. This year’s other top Kromann winner, Bradley Tonahill, wrote a chapter book, “The Illegal Writings: Grandma Sophie’s Journal.” Its protagonist is Grandma Sophie, who shares the wisdom she gained while living from the 1990s through the 2070s.

Brad describes his writing style as “Mark Twain meets Shel Silverstein.” His target audience? “All the youngsters determined to grow up, all the old-timers wishing they were young again, and all the people floating in between.”

Brad did his growing up near Redmond. He graduated this month and plans to teach middle or high school English.

Associate Professor Jane Kelley with Inga Kromann
Jane Kelley, left, with Inga Kromann

Jessica’s and Brad’s Inga Kromann Medal Awards come with $50 gift certificates and a bound copies of their book. One copy of each also goes to Inga and to the Brain Education Library. This year’s Honor Awards went to Kayla Meinecke for “Rachael’s Ride,” (Penny) Congcong Wang for “Two Duck Tales,” and Yu-Wen Tu for “Man-Mei: Hakka Cinderella Story.”

Associate Professor Jane Kelley started the contest in 2003, a year after she began teaching the children’s literature class. It is named after  a literacy education expert who retired from the College of Education in 2000 and, for the last several years, has donated money to support it. Inga, who lives in Seattle, visits Pullman every year.

‘Tis the season for inspiration

Graduates Ismael Vivanco and Mike Villarreal with faculty and Butch T. Cougar
With Butch, from left: Gene Sharratt, Ismael Vivanco, Mike Villarreal, Paul Pitre

If you’re an educator, you’d better watch out for Mike Villarreal. He’s likely to corner you and ask: “When was the last time you told someone they’d make a good teacher?” In the WSU Today article Friends earn education doctorates together, Mike explains how someone did that for him, changing the course of his life.

He and his buddy Ish Vivanco posed with Butch T. Cougar and two of their favorite professors at Friday’s WSU Spokane commencement.

It’s the best time of the year for stories of mentoring, inspiration and hard work. For other good graduation vibes, see the sound slide show put together by the WSU news staff of Pullman’s ceremonies. The energy was still going strong by the third commencement of the day, when education graduates were honored. There are some College of Education photos here.

And remember, we’re only halfway through the Cougar commencement season. Tri-Cities ceremonies will be Friday; Vancouver’s, on Saturday.

Washington State University