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A landscape transformed by loss

Len Foster

This weekend, as I processed the fact that the College of Education’s two top administrators died within a week of each other, I remembered standing in an old-growth forest.  In front of me was an empty spot where a giant pine had been cut, then lifted out by helicopter.  It was eerie. There was no road, little debris. Just a shaft of light falling on a flat spot where something used to be. That’s how I feel about the absence of Judy Mitchell and Len Foster from Cleveland Hall.  They were such good people, people of substance, part of my professional and personal landscape. How can it be that they are just plain gone?

The mind goes strange places at times of stress. That was one of the messages that two campus counselors, Scott Case and Cassie Nichols, shared with staff and faculty members who gathered this morning to talk about our double loss.  They reminded us that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to grieving, and certainly “no professional training that prepares you for this sort of thing.”

Our colleagues are finding personal ways to offer help and condolences this week. Among them is campus photographer Bob Hubner, who sent me the portrait posted above. He took it in the spring, when Len was attending a lecture by Anita Hill.  I also take comfort in my remembered delight at the prospect of working more closely with Len, whose tall, straight frame would fill my office doorway when he stopped by.  One recent day he wanted to share some surprising news. “Can you believe it!,” he said, grinning and shaking his head in wonderment. “Can you just believe it?!”

Well, no, Len. We can’t believe you and Judy are gone. But there are two shafts of light shining on the College of Education, and we look forward to seeing what new life takes hold there. — Julie Titone

Summing up Dean Mitchell: Professionalism, candor, mischief

As Dean Judy Mitchell’s family and the college prepare for Friday’s memorial service, condolences are flowing in from around the country.    George Murdock echoed the feelings of many in the following  eloquent remembrance:

Judy Mitchell was already past the point at which most professionals bid farewell to their careers and fade off into the sunset of retirement.

As the senior dean at Washington State University, Mitchell was instead more interested in continuing her crusade of forging a new identity and mission for the College of Education than she was in surrendering to the lure of a less hectic existence. And because of her tireless efforts, she was making dramatic headway. During a meeting of her Advocacy Board last Spring, she proudly led the group to the area of Cleveland Hall where a new generation of major donors are being acknowledged for their contributions.  Mitchell was a strong believer that discretionary contributions were a vital part of advancing the future of her college. Driven by that belief, she devoted a quarter of her time to traveling wherever necessary to advance the visibility, the credibility, and the potential of the College of Education.

As individuals make career choices, they contemplate such options as power, influence, and wealth. Most of those who choose education, also choose the opportunity for influence. Therefore, by its very nature, the College of Education is not a breeding ground for graduates who are likely to amass fortunes in the economic sense of the term. But Mitchell understood clearly that regardless of where WSU graduates might direct themselves, education was a universal asset and a fundamental part of the bigger picture.  While some would choose to use their education for success in the world of business, without teachers, the equation simply won’t work.

Academic types are often chided for being distant from the public school classrooms where American education finds its roots.  Mitchell understood that challenge and sought to create a college which was in tune with its fundamental constituents.  She constantly encouraged her staff to reach out to local school districts and she actively promoted research that would improve the delivery of instruction.

Land Grant colleges, by nature, are designed to play a vital role in advancing the welfare and quality of life of those they serve. Judy Mitchell was a perfect choice to carry out that mission on behalf of public education and on behalf of the university she served with distinction. The news of her sudden and unexpected death shocked both the education community and the university family.

For my own part, according to Judy, I was the second Washington school administrator she met after accepting the position as dean of the College of Education.  We’ve laughed about that first meeting over the years because she found me a bit irreverent regarding our profession. In return, while she was always considerably more professional and dignified in her deportment, she had a certain gleam in her eye and a guarded penchant for candor and even mischief that those who knew her best admired most about her leadership.

Change is never about preserving the status quo nor about a reverence toward the way things have always been done.  Judy knew that and that understanding permeated her approach to her job. Washington State University is richer because she was willing to spend eleven years reshaping the College of Education. Her friends are richer because our paths crossed and she touched our lives.

George has many perspectives
on the college. A WSU alumnus, he met Dean Mitchell when he was superintendent of schools in Pasco.  He later became a trustee of the WSU Foundation, a member of the Education Advocacy Board, and an ardent promoter of the the Dean’s Excellence Fund. This spring, he was hired as superintendent of the Douglas Educational Service District in Roseburg, Oregon.  He has also worked as a journalist, most recently as editor of the East Oregonian.

Remembering Judy

Judy Mitchell, front and center for the College of Education

As news of Judy Mitchell’s death sank in, I remembered that last week’s blog post featured her in a convergence of two of her happiest roles: ambassador for the College of Education, and sports fan. She was pictured at a fund-raising event for the Martinez Foundation,  standing beside WSU’s President Floyd at Safeco Field.  The photo above shows her with other faculty members, applauding a spring arts celebration starring Pullman students.

Judy was kind, smart, strong-willed. A tough cookie with a warm center. Just the kind of person I like as a boss — although, when I once used that word to introduce her, she chided me. She didn’t explain, but I’m sure the description wasn’t collegial enough for her.

You’re welcome to use the comment function on this blog to share your own memories, and/or e-mail them to Your thoughts will be shared with Judy’s family. Perhaps I should say: Judy’s other family. — Julie Titone

WSU’s president to teach higher ed seminar

WSU President Elson S. Floyd will be teaching a higher education seminar this fall.   In a budget year like this one, might he include some stress management techniques as part of his advice to College of Education grad students?

Dean Judy Mitchell and President Floyd in Seattle
Dean Judy Mitchell and President Floyd

Dr. Floyd, whose three degrees are in education, was on hand earlier this month for “Latinos in Beisbol Day” at Safeco Field, when the Martinez Foundation raised about $13,000 through ticket sales and a silent auction.  The Seattle Mariners have agreed to host the fund-raising event to promote minority teacher education again next spring, and the foundation has  scheduled an Oct. 3 fund-raising gala. Watch the foundation’s Web site for details.

Meanwhile, the first Martinez graduate fellowship winners in our Master in Teaching Program have plunged into their classes in Pullman.  They are Anna Ochoa Rivas, Shannon Gleason, Elida Guevara, Kevin Takasaki and Jenna Visoria. There are also five Martinez fellows each at the University of Washington and Seattle University.

Alumna wins First Citizen prize
Florence Wager
(B.Ed. ’54) was honored this month as Clark County’s First Citizen for 2009. The award, presented by the Community Foundation in Vancouver, recognized her advocacy for parks, recreational opportunities and healthy communities.  Reports the Vancouver Columbian: At one point during his presentation, foundation president Rick Melching cued 35 members of the audience to stand:  Each person was holding a sign bearing the name of a park that resulted from Wager’s activism. Later, Melching highlighted Wager’s role in chairing a task force that will eventually produce 250 miles of local hiking trails and bike paths.  Wager also has thrown her support behind the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, the Vancouver Symphony and the YWCA.  “In 30 years of public service, I’ve never met anyone like her,” said David Judd.  And Wager, 81, has done it all since retiring.   For more information and a profile link, see our alumni news.

Share and share (books) alike
The Vancouver campus recently added a teaching endorsement in education for the hearing impaired.  Much, as it turns out, to the benefit of students in Pullman.  The Brain Education Library at Cleveland Hall received copies of all the books purchased to support the new program, reports head librarian Sarah French.  The titles run from the pragmatic (Psychosocial Aspects of Deafness) to the intriguing (What’s That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness).

Reading matter
Draft Literacy Bill Would Boost Funds for Older Students The measure calls for a fivefold increase in funding for grades 4-12 and an emphasis on writing along with reading. (Education Week)

A science educator extraordinaire

John "Skip" Paznokas

He may look devilish in this photo, but Skip Paznokas is definitely an education angel.

The College of Sciences reports that he has retired.  Well, sort of.  Skip, whose WSU duties included teaching science methods to our secondary education majors, soldiers on at the side of his wife, Lynda Paznokas, working hard on behalf of science education.  In May, the dynamic duo organized a regional conference for college-level science teachers in Spokane.  Focused on sustainability education, it was supported by a $85,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant.  Now, the Paznokases (Paznoki?) are hurrying to get ready for the  second annual Math Science Partnership workshop, which will bring K-12 teachers to Pullman from June 22 through July 2.  (BTW, the photo was taken at last year’s workshop, when Skip was standing in front of a projected image.)

Skip co-founded Washington’s Teachers of Teachers of Science, and is the driving force behind an equipment loan program that gives teachers access to expensive and hard-to-maintain lab equipment.  The College of Sciences put the perfect headline on an article about the endowed equipment fund named in his honor:  Skip Paznokas is passionate about helping teachers in any way possible!

Teacher redux
Did you read in WSU Today about another fine science educator, Jim Williamson?  Jim is featured because one of his long-ago third grade students showed up again, this time in Jim’s master of teaching program courses.  The M.I.T. grad-to-be, Andrew Larive, is a swell guy who looks good in a hat.

Ferrucci legacy continues
Dr. Vitt Ferrucci, a WSU alum with a passion for education, died June 1 at age 90.  A former WSU trustee, he’ll be remembered especially at the College of Education for his generosity in establishing the Ferrucci Award that provides a fellowship each summer to a math or science teacher.  (Watch for news about this year’s scholar, Rena Minks of Pullman.)  From Dr. Ferrucci’s obituary:   “Ferrucci, a veterinarian by trade, spent an extraordinary 38 years on the (Puyallup) School Board. He was appointed in 1957, the year the Russians launched Sputnik, and was re-elected nine times before stepping down in 1995, the year the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed.”

Change across the state line
Paul Rowland, dean of the University of Idaho College of Education, will become the new executive director of the Kentucky-based Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.   WSU College of Education Pullman employees will remember Paul’s wife, Ann Rowland, as a former colleague in the School & Community Collaboration Center.

Reading matter
One room, many stories
Making the Grade: Plucky Schoolmarms of Kittitas Country was published this spring by Washington State University Press.
Subject-Matter Groups Want Voice in Standards The thousands of teachers who belong to math and reading associations  worry they are being ignored in the setting of national standards.

Of elders and youngsters: Native education in the spotlight

On Tuesday, inside Cleveland Hall’s Clearinghouse on Native Teaching & Learning, distinguished visitors were urging faculty researchers to involve elders in curriculum planning.  “I’m really interested in those tribal values,” said Wendell Jim “Walsax” (’84), a member of WSU’s Native American Advisory Board, said. He worries that vital cultural knowledge will be lost to the ages. “Those elders, they’re going.”

Leadership campers Vanessa Hillman, left, and Jaycee Goudy show off headbands they made from T-shirt sleeves

Meanwhile, 56 teenagers were on campus for the fifth annual Leadership Development Camp, a collaborative effort of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the College of Education.  The teens are here for a week, learning to blend their heritage with an expanded view of the world, learning to take charge, learning to cooperate.  Creating Web pages.  Working hard. Laughing a lot. Tribal elders would no doubt approve.

Tuesday’s campus visit by advisory board members included special recognition for the researchers who produced “From Where the Sun Rises: Addressing the Educational Achievement Gap of Native American Students in Washington State.”  Still to come: Thursday’s (June 11) Hip Hop Show and Awards ceremony.  The leadership campers will show off their singing and writing talents, as well as their oh-so-hip-hop clothes created from recycled materials.

In memoriam
Rudy Johnson was a teacher, principal, Everett School District superintendent and Skagit County’s United Way director. Not bad for a two-time high school dropout,” reads the Everett Herald obituary.  He is also a graduate of the WSU College of Education. Johnson spent 40 years as an educator in Washington and Oregon, climbing the ranks from teacher to principal to superintendent.

A paper water bottle, and other bright ideas
Having a bright idea is one thing; taking it to market is another.  That’s the kind of lesson that comes with the territory for young entrepreneurs who enter WSU’s Imagine Tomorrow competition.  Everett teenager Jordan Steeves has been learning that as he tries to market his prize-winning paper water bottle.  One of its selling points is that it can be recycled.  Only not in his own community.   The list of winning ideas for the 2009 Imagine Tomorrow event is impressive.  (“Alternative Hydrogen Production”? Whatever happened to science fair ideas such as “The Effect of Light on Plant Growth”?)  Also impressive are the are folks who volunteered to help with the Pullman event, including education majors Brinn McKinney, Colleen Heckman and Tiffany Walker.

Reading matter
U.S. Effort to Reshape Schools Faces Challenges
. Arne  Duncan, President Obama’s education secretary, wants to take school turnaround efforts nationwide on a scale never tried before.
K-12 Chief Tapped as Education Dept. Takes Shape As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan fills top spots, his focus is on “real passion” and entrepreneurial spirit.
Students prefer real classroom to virtual world. College students were given the chance to ditch a traditional classroom for an online virtual world. Fourteen out of fifteen declined.

Getting hooded in the Cougar ‘hood

When at long last you’re about to get that doctoral degree and your adviser moves to another university, whatcha gonna do?  For Danny Breidenbach, the answer was easy:  Follow him.

Brian French, left, with Danny Breidenbach
Brian French, left, with Danny Breidenbach

Danny actually left Purdue University in 2008, having completed all but his dissertation, just as Brian French was leaving to accept an associate professorship at our college.  Finishing up at Purdue would have meant having only a nominal adviser at the Indiana school, so Danny decided to graduate at WSU, where Brian could be his advocate.  He’s happy he traveled to Pullman in May to receive his doctoral hood. “Brian has gone over and above the call of duty for me at times, and his efforts inspire me to do my best work. He has a real knack for not merely pushing me in the right direction, but lighting up the path to help me get started,” Danny explained. “Attending that ceremony was also my ‘thank you’ to him — because I know it gave him a sense of accomplishment to ‘hood’ me. ”

Danny works for Applied Measurement Professionals Inc., in Lenexa, Kansas.  (He and Brian are psychometricians, a job description with a hint of sorcery about it, don’t you think?)

A cure for bored kids
WSU Vancouver’s At Home At School program is among sponsors of a Web site that helps children and their parents find summer activities. Read about it in this Vancouver Columbian article.   …. By the way, At Home At School and its recent donation from the Legacy Health Fund are featured in the spring newsletter of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

Moving north
Clinical Assistant Professor Leslie Hall is excited about the new challenges that will come with her transfer to the Spokane campus.  She will be taking on many of the responsibilities of Lenore Schmidt, who retired in May.  Leslie will teach, coordinate the masters in teaching program, and work with Ed.M. and Ed.D. students.

Reading matter
For Teenagers, Hello Means ‘How About a Hug?’
The greeting is so common, the New York Times reports, that some students complain of peer pressure to hug, and some schools have banned hugging.
Education Secretary Duncan Should Come to Washington State.  A Seattle Times editorial.

Power plays, science ed, and more

Jane Kelley

Maybe you were one of those flashlight-under-the-blanket kids who understood all the dark goings-on in the twisting plot of Rumpelstiltskin. If not, your inner child may be relieved to have that confusion validated by children’s literature expert Jane Kelley. The assistant professor is author of Critical Multicultural Analysis of Folktales: Power Representation in Reconstructed Rumpelstiltskin Stories.   As she explained for a WSU Today article, the story is full of power plays, and she examined how a dozen modern authors twisted and turned to plot to make their own points about good and evil.   In an interview, Jane mentioned the Fractured Fairy Tales version of the story. And she explained that, in the French version, Rumpelstiltskin wasn’t after the miller’s daughter’s baby.  He was after her soul.  Now THAT would be a good reason to hide under the covers.

Science education showcased in Vancouver

Results of a graduate-K-12 teacher partnership will be showcased on May 29.
The Partners in Discovery GK-12 Project provides for year-long, one-on-one partnerships between WSU Vancouver Environment Science graduate students and local science teachers to bring scientific research and inquiry into the classroom. The partnership focuses on the implications of growth and change in the Columbia River watershed. Assistant Professor Tamara Nelson is among those involved in the cross-discipline project, which is led by the WSU science faculty and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Seek and ye shall find

Don’t forget that our Web pages have a search box that is specific to It’s located below the right side of the top banner. Using that can be much more efficient than using the WSU search box.   And if you’re ever looking for something on our A-Z site index and can’t find it, drop a note to Geoff Jensen and he’ll add the errant topic.  Also, FYI:  After learning of some security concerns about the software, we’ve removed the “share this” function that was briefly installed on the site.  We’ll keep an eye out for alternative ways of sharing our site’s content.

Reading matter
Sotomayor’s record on education scrutinized.
President Obama’s choice for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on a variety of issues with implications for education during her 17 years on the federal bench, including cases relating to racial matters, students with disabilities, and the strip-search of adolescents.

Award winners brighten end of semester

Did you notice? When the Office of Undergraduate Education announced its honorees this week, the list included two elementary education majors who received Harold and Jeanne Rounds Olsen Awards for Undergraduate Excellence in Writing:  Holly Barker at WSU Vancouver and Ingrid Kraig, who is in the Honors College at WSU Pullman.

From left: Dean Judy Mitchell, Kromann Medal winner Andrea O'Brine, Assistant Professor Jane Kelley
From left: Dean Judy Mitchell, Kromann Medal winner Andrea O'Brine, Assistant Professor Jane Kelley

Ingrid also put her writing skills to work as a competitor for this year’s Inga Kromann Medal Award. The two medal winners for the annual children’s book prize were Katie Shanks and Andrea O’Brine, both of whom delved into their own childhoods for inspiration.  The  winners were announced at the annual celebration presented by the arts integration class on the Pullman patio, which explains  Andrea’s colorful dancing outfit in the accompanying  photo.  Read about the Kromann awards.

The full, impressive list of College of Education faculty, staff and student award winners for 2008-09 is online.

Striding toward a conference

Professor David Slavit reports that on May 26-27 the  WSU Vancouver STRIDE research team will host a national conference on “Research on Supported Collaborative Inquiry.” Five teacher-researchers will rub elbows with leading researchers from across the country.  Stanford University researcher Hilda Borko will give a plenary address.  The conference is funded by two National Science Foundation research grants.

Reading matter
A Cautionary Video About America’s ‘Stuff’
A short video about the effects of materialism has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.
Partnership’s First Product Aimed at Middle School Vocabulary Word Generation, which is free to schools, consists of short, engaging vocabulary-boosting lessons that are taught each day by different teachers across the middle school curriculum.
Reading Programs Found Ineffective A federal study intended to provide insight into the effectiveness of programs for reading comprehension has found that three such programs had no positive impact, while a fourth had a negative effect on student achievement.
Coaches struggle to find balance between work and family

Vacation time
Here’s a timely and not-overly-commercial idea:  an educators’ B&B network founded by two Oregon educators to help frugal travelers meet like-minded people.  

Talented teachers, future and present

Jenna Michels multi-tasks as she chats with T&L Department Chair Cori Mantle-Bromley

It’s that time of year when elementary education majors show their semester’s work of designing lesson plans, which is a prerequisite for next fall’s student teaching assignments.  Those in Pullman talked about their lesson plans, and career plans, at a poster session on Monday.  Jenna Michels of Spokane was showing off not only  her lesson plan for kindergartners, but also her daughter, who was born in March.  Suffice it to say, Jenna had an intensive spring semester.  See more photos here.

Awards for two special teachers

Delores “Dee” Baumgartner (’73 M.Ed.) is the first recipient of the Miller-Manchester Teacher Mentor Award. The longtime Pullman kindergarten teacher will be presented the honor at the College of Education’s Homecoming Scholarship and Excellence Event on Oct. 10.  Dee will receive $800, a plaque, a leaf on the Legacy Tree, tickets to the homecoming game … and a whole lot of gratitude for providing outstanding mentoring, coaching, and nurturing for many WSU practicum students and student teachers.

Megan Itani (’02 B.A.) a Pullman special education teacher, is one of two recipients of the 2009 Educating the Whole Child Award.  Megan is working on her master of education degree at WSU.  She’ll represent the dry side of the state when she picks up her award in Seattle at the Oct. 9 conference of the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Budget woes

State budget cuts have made these times that try educators’ souls.  At the College of Education, passions are running especially high over the proposed closure of our Sport Management program.  The EduCoug would be remiss not to acknowledge the grief and controversy.  But given plenty of media attention on the subject, and college/university venues for staying informed (see Dean Mitchell’s column and the provost’s budget page), this blog will continue its focus on the ongoing good work at the COE.  Don’t forget that the provost’s page has a form for submitting input.  And there’s an old-fashioned forum known as letters to the editor…

swine-flu-21On a less serious note:
A nose for tomfoolery

Faculty member Jim Williamson went up to a pharmacy window and asked if any swine flu medication was available.  Looking like this.  (His science methods classes must be lots of fun.)