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Staff photos by Matt Lunsford  

Kindergartner Dayton Vandermark bounces through the obstacle course during the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School’s Field Day at City Park on Tuesday.

Staff photo by Matt Lunsford 

First-grader Alex Burke stacks cups during the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School's Field Day at City Park on Tuesday.

Finding joy
English professor finds joy in children's literature, her students

When Anne Phillips was a child, she had a copy of the book “The Wizard of Oz” and a record with a voice reading the book.

“I followed along, and that’s how I learned to read,” Phillips said.

Phillips still loves “The Wizard of Oz” and has made a career of teaching children’s literature. Phillips, an English professor at K-State, believes children and adults alike can learn from reading books written for a young audience. Her job allows her to indulge two of her passions: children’s literature and working with her students.

“It’s a privilege to get to work with these young emerging wonderful people,” she said.

Phillips, 56, grew up in Reno, Nevada, and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nevada at Reno and then her doctorate from the University of Connecticut. She came to K-State in 1993.

Phillips said she enjoys working in children’s literature because it allows both her and her students to revisit books they loved when they were younger, but also because it can teach people of all ages to think critically about the topics at hand.

“We’re having conversations about ethics, morality,” Phillips said. “We’re talking about hopes, dreams and goals.”

The novel “Little Women” has become a mainstay in Phillips’ research.

She and fellow K-State English professor Greg Eiselein have co-edited several books on author Louisa May Alcott, including “The Louisa May Alcott Encyclopedia.” She’s currently the president of the Louisa May Alcott Society.

Phillips and Eiselein were hired at K-State the same year, and Eiselein said that after working together for so long, they know instinctively how to move forward with a project.

“When we write articles, I’ll start a section, she’ll see I’m stuck and she’ll finish it,” he said. “Both Anne and I get excited about things. She feels joy and happiness about things, and I do, too.”

Her relationship with the book began when she was home sick as a child. Her mother gave her a copy that had belonged to Phillips’ grandmother.

She said that in the past, most people who read the book identified most with the character Jo. (Phillips said she identifies with aspects of all four of the March girls, but if she had to pick only one, it would also be Jo.)

However, she said the character Beth has become increasingly popular.

“Beth suffers from severe social anxiety, and that’s really relevant right now,” Phillips said. “A character readers in 1980 wouldn’t look twice at is the most relevant now.”

Phillips said she often sees views on books or characters change over time like this. Phillips has co-edited a book on Laura Ingalls Wilder to be released this year and said people have begun to look more carefully at the “Little House” series, particularly its portrayal of Native Americans.

“For some people who loved it as children, it’s hard to resee it, but these are important conversations to have,” she said.

Because many of her students are future teachers, Phillips wants to train them to have deeper conversations with their own students. She can’t predict what the children will notice about a story, but she hopes her students understand how to encourage them.

“Kids will notice stuff we’re too busy to notice,” she said.

Eiselein said Phillips, who he called “an extraordinary teacher,” demonstrates this with the care and interest she shows in her students.

“She wants to know where they are and what they think,” Eiselein said. “When they say things, there’s a sincere interest.”

Through both teaching and advising, Phillips said she finds it most rewarding to watch her students grow over their careers at K-State. Especially with advisees, who she works with for their entire time at the university, she said she enjoys seeing them become more confident.

“They come in as freshmen and they’re kind of out of focus, but by the time they come in for their last appointment, you can hear it when they come down the hall,” she said. “There’s a purpose. They know who they are. The way they come into focus takes my breath away.”

However, one of most special lessons Phillips has been able to share was with her son, Wesley. When he was small, she read “The Wizard of Oz” to him and was happy he loved it as much as she did. They read a chapter a night but then he wanted to start over at the beginning.

They ended up reading it nine times in a row. Phillips said they still can have energetic conversations about the book.

“I’m proud that this book that matters to me matters to him too,” she said.

Another book they read for younger kids called “So Many Bunnies” showed how children’s literature can be more than a story and can spark something in children and in families. The book was a sort of alphabet book, with each letter represented by a different bunny. The final page shows all of the rabbits, and Phillips and her son would pick out a bunny from the crowd and try to find it earlier in the book.

“It wasn’t just a book, it was a game,” Phillips said. “It’s what you can do with it.”

Staff photo by Matt Lunsford 

Kindergartner Ariana Barber participates in the obstacle course event during the Woodrow Wilson Elementary Field Day at City Park on Tuesday.

KSU announces 3 Fulbright scholars

Three K-State students have received Fulbright awards to fund their teaching and studying abroad, including a Rock Creek High grad who will teach English in Germany.

Sarah Marek, senior in secondary education, German and Spanish, of Holton; Jakob Hanschu, senior in anthropology and geography, of Hillsboro; and Hannah Harker, master’s student in second language acquisition-Spanish, of Marshallville, Ohio, are 2019-2020 Fulbright U.S. student grantees.

K-State announced the recipients on Monday.

The Fulbright programs finance international educational exchange opportunities. Fulbright grant recipients receive round-trip transportation, tuition when applicable and a monthly living stipend for one academic year abroad.

Marek will teach English at a high school in Germany. Marek is president of the German Club; a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education, Delta Phi Alpha National German Honorary Society and Sigma Delta Pi Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society; and house manager for the Manhattan Arts Center.

She presented her undergraduate research on peer interactions in second language at the American Association of Applied Linguistics Conference. She graduated from Rock Creek High School and is daughter of Norbert and Jennifer Marek.

Hanschu will attend the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom to study critical theory and politics. He currently serves as president of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry Student Ambassadors, vice president of the Anthropology Club and organizer of the Anthropology Book Club.

During his undergraduate studies, he has authored five peer-reviewed articles, co-authored a peer-reviewed book chapter and given 20 academic presentations. He graduated from Hillsboro High School and is the son of Jayson and Jan Hanschu.

Harker will teach English and attend classes in Montevideo, Uruguay. She is president of the Modern Languages Graduate Student Association and served as vice president of the Sigma Delta Pi Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.

As part of her master’s thesis, she is researching language change in Spanish literary texts during the 17th and 19th centuries. She presented an early version of this project at a Hispanic linguistic and cultural exchanges conference this year. Harker is a Smithville High School and Malone University graduate, and daughter of Brad and Lorna Harker.

ATA Bus updating routes in summer

The Flint Hills Area Transportation Agency will employ modified routes later this year to provide faster and more direct routes to major destinations.

At a Riley County meeting Monday afternoon, Anne Smith, executive director for ATA, provided updates on the public transportation provider during its request for funding. ATA asked the county for $120,000 to support its operations, the same amount it requested for its 2019 budget. Commissioners did not take action regarding funding during the meeting.

Smith said the agency plans to make changes around the end of July, based on feedback it received from surveys and public feedback since rolling out the new routes in summer 2018.

“We’ve learned that going east to west, we needed to improve direct service so that people aren’t on the bus as long as they are right now,” Smith said. “We’re looking to have faster routes for major locations and also continue the process of creating more user-friendly signage.”

Direct service will be updated to include these locations:

• South of Poyntz to and from Walmart, Downtown, Dillons East

• Candlewood to and from K-State, Downtown and Walmart

• Redbud/Stagg Hill to and from Dillons Westloop and K-State

• Scenic Drive to and from Dillons Westloop and K-State

• Jardine to and from Walmart, Dillons Westloop and Downtown

A draft of the new routes show that although the agency is essentially getting rid of its “orange” route, which covers stops on the west side of Manhattan, the “red” and “blue” routes will take over coverage in those areas.

Smith said the updates will provide the same coverage for passengers but with more efficiency and greater connectivity across the area.

Smith said in the long term, the agency wants to provide more direct access to public transportation on the western side of its coverage area to include more of Geary County and Junction City. Smith said this is dependent on community response and partnerships with local entities.