My mother thought she was frumpy, lazy and failed to appreciate the teaching techniques used on the fifth graders in her charge. Yes, Ms. Bonet was grossly overweight, didn’t wear a bra and her frizzy hair appeared not to have seen the inside of a salon in some time. Some of her teeth were a little crooked but it never stopped her wide smiles. Her dresses were far from stylish and in those days a woman never wore slacks to work, not even the little girls like me. So the thrown-together-look she modeled gave her flapping arms, loud voice and bouncing pounds the appearance of not caring; especially to a prissy woman like my mother. But I thought she was beautiful.
She was the only person I ever knew that owned a skunk for a pet and had a child without a trace of a husband, another strike against her with my mother. But that amazing woman taught me how to open the door to the world. She brought a radio to class so we could listen to the reports of John Glenn orbiting the Earth. I was the only little girl who chose to listen. She thought that was just fine. I later became a Solar System Ambassador for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. It was her mission to teach us the U.S. states and capitals. I now teach world geography to college students. One of the most magical moments in her class was making African masks. Later I found myself floating down the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Africa. Then there was the realization I could create worlds of adventure when she taught us how to make paper mache puppets. Soon she had us writing puppet plays and performing them for our parents. This week my first novel, An Unlikely Hero, was released.