After recently retiring from a 33-year teaching career in Westonka Public Schools, Leigh Ann Kaminski has added a new title to her resume – children’s book author. During her tenure at Westonka, Kaminski taught special education at Mound Westonka High School, first grade at Hilltop Primary School and fifth grade language arts at Grandview Middle School.
“I taught first grade for 21 years, and that experience - more than any other - inspired me to write my own book,” said Kaminski. She loved the discussions and lessons that came out of sharing a good book. “Reading books to my first grade classes was always a favorite time of my day,” she added.
A year after her retirement, during the pandemic and with the encouragement of her husband, Mark, and daughters, Kalyn, Anne and Lauren, Kaminski wrote “Pete the Peacock.”
But what’s a children’s book without illustrations? Anna Saholt, a former student in one of Kaminski’s fifth grade classes at Grandview, had shared a book that she had illustrated for her cousin. Kaminski was impressed with the girl’s artistic talent and asked if she would illustrate a book for her one day. Saholt agreed, but never thought her teacher was serious. Years later, Kaminski says one of the best things that came out of writing this book was reconnecting with her former student and now illustrator of her book. Saholt is now a student at Liberty University, where she is studying design and illustration.
In the story, Pete was not born with beautiful peacock feathers like all his friends. Instead of focusing on what he lacks, however, Pete focuses on others. Pete is a great friend, and he helps his friends overcome their difficulties. In the end, his friends help him realize that by helping others, he was given something in return.
Kaminski and Saholt have participated in multiple book signings and readings, most recently visiting both Hilltop and Grandview on May 20. One of the schools they visited asked for an illustration demonstration, so Saholt drew Pete, the main character, while explaining her step-by-step process.
Kaminski is pleased that she found a new way to connect with people, young and old. “I discovered that I could continue to learn and grow, and maybe make a difference along the way,” she said.
“Pete the Peacock” is a hardcover book available online on Amazon, as well as Barnes and Noble.