Sometimes all you need is a bulldog in your corner. My sixth grade teacher, Miss Kneece, championed her students with a tenacious, sometimes, well actually oftentimes, blunt manner. At a time when all I wanted to do was hide my vulnerbility and pre-teen angst, Miss K would look right through my guise and remind me that I was stronger than I was playing. “I see you and I believe in you,” her bright blue eyes seemed to say.
She gave me courage to be a writer by drawing out my ideas and feelings and guiding me to artfully, persuasively translate them into words on paper. She instilled in me a love of books. Every day, after lunch recess, when we were all sweating from the heat of midday, she read us classic books like The Cay and Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Who would have thought that exactly forty years after being in her classroom that I would be sharing a bottle of wine with Miss Kneece and her friend Margaret at the Women’s Literary Festival of Authors? With the hope of inspiring my writing, Miss Kneece invited me to this one-of-a-kind event. She is the kind of teacher that everyone needs and artists often credit when receiving an award. Through Facebook she watches over “her kids” (students from 31 years of teaching) and applauds our achievements like a Guardian Angel.
Miss Kneece epitomizes the Shakespearean phrase “Though, she be little, she is fierce.” She might be five foot and still refused to accept the Teacher of the Year award from Walmart because they wouldn’t sell morning after pills. She told the representative from Nestle that she was hesitant to accept their Teacher of the Year award because at the time, they were trying to convince women in Third World countries to stop breast feeding and buy their baby formula. And they listened.
In the forty years that have passed since Olive Elementary days, we former student and teacher have cultivated a friendship. The ruby is the gemstone for 40-year anniversary and is said to bring out greatness, passion, power, and a zest for life – all qualities I learned from my teacher. Today, I’m damn proud to have this bulldog in my corner and if I ever do receive a literary award, believe me, Dolores Kneece will be in that acceptance speech!