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Believe it or not, I was sort of a nerd back in the day.
Not the very smartest nerd, of course. Just the almost-smartest nerd from a fairly shallow pool, and one whom the nuns felt would be the best all-around candidate for some award that some nice alumna had decided to gift the school with.
I’m not being coy about the name of the award; I truly do not remember it. While it seemed like the high point of my eight-grade year, my culminating season of a pretty winning eight (soon to be followed by a near-disastrous four, especially socially), I cannot for the life of me remember the name of that award, or what it purported to reward me for. I don’t even remember if there was money involved, and I almost always remember money.
Here’s what I do remember from my eighth-grade year at Sacred Heart Elementary School on Sheridan Road in Chicago, IL: Frances Kent.
Mrs. Kent was my eighth-grade English teacher, and the first teacher I remember who specifically, carefully, and generously urged me on to write. Perhaps she saw some promise there. Perhaps she felt herself to be something of a kindred spirit. In hindsight, it’s clear that she was a Second Wave Hot Ladynerd, what with her fabulous legs kicking out from under her knee-length pleated skirts, and her freckled nose, and her little round nerd spectacles.
Whatever it was that made her forgo what was surely a better-paying job in pretty much any other field where writing and smarts were required, I’m eternally grateful to her for her service, and her name is forever engraved upon my heart as surely as her hand is visible in my work. As my friend Daniel says, “…without women writers, I wouldn’t exist.”