Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Woman to Admire: My High School English Teacher, Mrs. Dolores Keane

A few days ago a great lady who had a very big impact on me passed away. Her name was Dolores Keane and she was my high school English teacher. Mrs. Keane taught for twenty years at an all girls' Catholic private school making next to nothing. She mainly taught the senior class the works of Shakespeare. Mrs. Keane was my all time favorite teacher. She loved her job, and you could tell because whenever I would see her, she always had a smile on her face. During my four years of high school, her classes were my absolute favorite. She introduced me to the works of Shakespeare, specifically Hamlet. She made our class read Hamlet’s soliloquy, and then we had to discuss about what we read. Our entire class was confused by the monologue and really had no idea what Hamlet was saying. Mrs. Keane ended up dissecting that entire passage line for line with us so we could understand the true meaning behind it. We were awed by her insight. She then let us watch the 1948 Laurence Oliver version, and then the 1990 Mel Gibson version, mainly because Mrs. Keane had a crush on Mel, which we all could understand at the time. I ended up having a crush on Oliver because of his portrayal of Hamlet.

Because of Mrs. Keane, I ended up reading on my own, Othello (which is my all time favorite Shakespearean play) and Taming of the Shrew.

Mrs. Keane introduced me to Jane Eyre. By her doing so, she opened my mind to a type of literature and books I would thought to have read. We then watched one of the best adaptations of Jane Eyre with Timothy Dalton as Rochester, again because she found Dalton to be a great actor, as well as a fine man to look at. Because I read Jane Eyre, I ended up on my own reading Wuthering Heights and the works of Louise May Alcott, mainly her gothics and romances. I went on a Gothic and Victorian reading binge all because of Mrs. Keane.

Mrs. Keane also introduced me to one of my all time favorite books- T.H. White’s Once and Future King. I’m not a big fan of fantasy in general, but I ate up Once and Future King and wanted more. Mrs. Keane is also the reason I started reading Stephen King. She told me about The Stand one day, and because of her recommendation, I gave The Stand a go. The Stand is my all time favorite book out of any book I have ever read.

Mrs. Keane was a harsh critic, and to receive a “B” grade from her was next to impossible. I don't think I knew anyone who she ever gave an "A" to on a paper. Once she made me re-write a paper three times. This was during a time I had to use a typewriter to write all my papers, and White Out to correct my mistakes because in the late 90’s I didn’t have a computer and didn’t know how to use one, unless you count playing the old school Oregon Trail game on the Commodore 64. I cursed and ranted Mrs. Keane in my head for making me write 5 pages at 1.5 spacing instead of the normal 3 pages, double spaced. She was brutal in her criticism to the point you would be in tears. And yet I wanted to impress her. My entire class did because Mrs. Keane didn’t make us work hard as a punishment, but to prove to ourselves that we were educated and intelligent young women. She called us, “her girls”. We wanted to work hard not because we wanted good grades, because we wanted Mrs. Keane to be proud of us. She pushed us all to the brink to be the best writers we could be.

Because of Mrs. Keane, I wanted to read any book I could get my hand on and had dreams of being a professional writer. Mrs. Keane was a big influence on my writing, so much so, that every time I write, I wonder, what would Mrs. Keane think of my books. 15 years later, Mrs. Keane still influences me.

A year ago my high school had their yearly fundraiser benefit where they honor the staff and teachers who have taught at the school. Mrs. Keane was given an award. She looked older and more fragile, but still had that sparkle in her eye and that recognizable smile of hers we all loved seeing. I went up to her asking if she remembered me. She did. I told her she was such a big influence and one of my most precious teachers, a woman I admired very much. I told her hat because of her I found the courage to write and to get published. She congratulated me. That was the last time I saw her.

We all have that one special teacher who influences us in some way, where they will always be in our thoughts or the back of our minds because they had such a profound effect on us in some why. Mrs. Keane was that teacher to me.

Rest in peace Mrs. Keane. I’d like to think you and Willie Shakespeare are chatting about Hamlet and your crush on Mel Gibson while surrounded by your loved ones who have welcomed you home.



ahz1 said...

You were so very lucky to have such a wonderful teacher.