Stephanie Bell has become a fixture in my life. She started out as a friend of a friend that I was determined to really get to know because of her history–she was a rock’n'roll girl who did zines in high school, and was mouthy, smart and articulate. Stephanie also has a career–I’ve watched her be totally in love and dedicated to radio, moving from one city to another, following where ever her dream takes her. Stephanie is currently a station manager in Chico, where she keeps everything on track. Stephanie, like so many of us former zine makers, keeps a blog and a Twitter.
What is the name of your lady?
At that time I knew her as Ms. Augustine, but later Marie Clark.
How did she come into your life? At what age? What was the situation?
Ms. Augustine was my 7th grade drama teacher and then my 8th grade English/Creative Writing teacher. I remember walking into her class in 7th grade thinking she was prettier than any of the teachers at the school and really wanting to make her laugh.
Were there challenging events in your life that you were struggling with, that she helped you to understand or clarified for you? How did she do this?
Just normal adolescent stuff, really. I was starting to like boys and doing the whole puberty thing and at that time I wasn’t super comfortable talking to my mom about boys or anything. Or how I felt about issues or the way I was treated by other kids at school. I felt like the only reasons I was uncomfortable in my skin and feeling so down all the time, were obviously being brought on by myself. Like if I could just learn to be like the other kids or if I were smarter, I’d be happier.
By the 8th grade, Ms. Augustine was my English teacher and I think she was the first to realize that my writing had any kind of merit. I wouldn’t have pursued it at all, even as a hobby if it wasn’t for her. I had been really unhappy with school during the last part of elementary school because I had tested for G.A.T.E (gifted and talented education) for junior high and didn’t make it in, due to my math scores. Ms. Augustine pushed me to test for G.A.T.E for high school and with a little support from her, I got in. I probably wouldn’t have pushed the issue otherwise.
Did you know right away that she would have an impact?
Not immediately, but I did realize that she was no b.s. and talked to all of us like little adults instead of just assuming we were too young to “get it.” I was so grateful since I really felt talked down to most of the time in junior high.
What was the characteristic that drew you to her?
Awww man, Ms. Augustine was stylin’! She drove this cool little red convertable and had all these rad dresses and suits. And great great hair. But best of all she was funny, sarcastic, and didn’t take any crap.
Did you two become friends or was distance imperative to her influence on you?
Well, she was my teacher but I did go back to visit her a few times when my sister was going to school there. Also we’re Facebook friends now, Thanks, Lady Party!
How did your relationship evolve?
Unfortunately it took me this long to get back in touch with Ms A., but I was glad to know she remembered me and was still interested in what I was doing. I credit her with so much, school-wise, and I don’t think I’d be where I am professionally without her.
Where is she now? What is she doing?
She’s still teaching school in Kern County, at a different junior high school. Lucky kids!
In what ways, specifically, did she influence or guide you?
Ms. A. used to have us do an activity in English where she gave us a sentence like “The room was cold,” and we were to expand on it and build a paragraph out of it, “showing” not “telling.” This was a HUGE help in my writing, even in journalism. It taught me a lot about action words, descriptive words and above all thinking about what I wanted my reader to “see” in their head. This has also carried over into my radio work because I need to be able to convey my thoughts in a very short amount of time but to give my listeners a clear idea of what I’m saying and the feeling I want them to feel when I am telling a story on the air.
How did you actively try to be like her?
I wanted to have the sassy confidence that Ms A. had. It seemed like it was completely effortless for her to say what she meant and I wanted to be like that.
Is she still in your life, and in what capacity?
Thanks to Lady Party, we’re now Facebook friends. I’m happy to report that Ms. A is as cool and pretty as ever.