Upright: Downright Fabulous!

Last Wednesday, into my inbox popped a message which included an invitation to lunch from Karen Bruner Upright, my former student at Florida State College. The last time I saw her, she was a “surprise” visitor at Christmas, marching up the walkway to our house, book proudly in hand, with a chapter she co-wrote with a colleague.


When we first met in my college classroom, Karen was my first-year composition student on her third try at getting through the course. Though she attributes her previous failures to not going to class and not feeling motivated, from the beginning, she was a stellar student, whose essays became examples I repeatedly used as models for other students. Revealing her occupation back then as a restaurant chef, one essay in particular stands out, an illustration-type paper with the line “The heat of a commercial kitchen comes from both the ovens and the chefs” as she proceeds to describe two other chefs and herself as “the most obnoxious chef I have ever known.”

When I pointed out her writing gift, she at first stared at me blankly, almost in disbelief. She has since gone on to complete her M.B.A. degree at Purdue University and is currently employed as Systems Manager for Proctor and Gamble–and become co-author of a chapter in a book about technology for human resources. There is no end to what this woman can accomplish. Oh, and did I mention, she still loves to cook, featuring her savory concoctions on her website plannedovers.com

Along the way, Karen has also become conversant in French, every Friday calling her friend in the south of France, so she can maintain her fluency. Also, she has been featured as a Profile in Success in a college textbook by Susan Anker entitled Real Writing with Readings.

Thumbnail of page 145 in Real Writing with Readings college text, 5th ed.
Thumbnail of page 145 in Real Writing with Readings college text, 5th ed.

Of all the students who have paraded through my classroom, Karen Upright stands at the top my list of Students Who Inspire.

Downright fabulous!

Is there some you know, like Karen, who persisted and made it through high school, college–some other challenge? Do tell us about it.

Your comments welcome. I will always reply!


16 thoughts on “Upright: Downright Fabulous!

  1. Kudos to Karen’s persistence. Marian, you are the consummate encourager. Love the way you praise the success of others and inspire them along the way, as you have so many, including me. Have forwarded this current BLOG on to a friend of mine who is currently an English teacher at FSCJ.


  2. I so love to hear the never give up stories. I am glad you let her know that you saw in her something to strive for. You are a beautiful person. Her perseverance is now a great strength.


  3. In a world filled with confusion and tragedy, I love to pass on an inspiring story about a woman with true grit! Karen now has plans to get an undergraduate degree in French. She wants to take a sabbatical and perhaps live in France for a short while, or maybe go to Nova Scotia to research the stories in her ancestry. Her mind is always churning with bright ideas!


  4. What a beautiful tribute to your student, but also to you as a writing teacher. It was essential to me to have someone recognize my work in this way–and that was Ellen Schmidt in a writing class called “Writing Through the Rough Spots.” I was in a tear-filled grief-stricken place, but she saw the potential under my need to put my experience down on paper. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher to Karen, and I imagine many others.


    1. It sounds like such a cliche, but we inspire each other–really! I really loved your post today and the photo of your sacred space at home. As guess we’ll both keep on reading and writing.


  5. I had a freshman begin the year with an average in the 50’s, and by the end of the year he had a solid C and was beginning to write in his free time “for fun.” I was so proud of his effort and accomplishment!


    1. And I’m proud of your contribution to all of that change for the better. Seeing that change is one of the many things I miss about teaching. But now I get to be inspired by stories like yours. Thanks for sharing, Traci!


  6. Marian, Karen worked for my husband, Kevin at Citistreet! I was impressed as she continued her higher Ed degree all while working full time. She was certainly motivated to climb the success ladder. So glad she has acknowledged you and FSCJ!


    1. Is that you, Ileana? Spanish professor and Symphony pianist! So wonderful to hear from you. I hope Karen sees this; in fact, I’ll make sure that she does. Thanks for stopping by to comment.


  7. Marian – it’s always such a pleasure to see you and thank you for the recognition! I had a lot of people who helped me along the way as I struggled to get back on track. I’m so glad we were able to find time to reconnect! I was also able to have dinner with Ileana and her husband/my former boss, Kevin, while I was in town.


    1. You are most welcome! Now Ileana and I have more connections. We were colleagues together at FSCJ, I gave her a nod or two at the Symphony (She is pianist, which you probably already know), and now you help me make another connection to her. I’m glad you value all this “community” as do I! Thanks for stopping by today.


  8. Marian, I was being too “peripatetic” in 2013 just after my memoir came out and must have missed reading this post then. So glad you brought it to my attention now. Your student has done amazing things with her life, and you were an agent of transformation. For teachers, nothing is better! Cheers to both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is sweet of you to comment here and now. I can’t imagine keeping up with other’s blog posts during a book launch.

      Karen is now contemplating doctoral work. Also, a few months ago I wrote a letter to NEH recommending their awarding her a stipend in order to move toward “publication of the journal of Marie-Madeline Chaineaux, whose detailed diary (in French, mind you!) gives voice as an eyewitness to World War I events in Braux, France from a woman’s viewpoint.” She’s headed for the moon – and stars!


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