BCS Alumna reflects on the support of her teachers, rediscovers passion for writing

Katie Meredith

Growing up, Holly Porter, ’95, was surrounded by an affirming, supportive community of teachers and peers at BCS. Her teachers fostered creativity, empowering her to explore her gifts in Art and English. At the time, she didn’t realize how valuable those kinds of relationships could be until many years down the road.

In the early 1960s, Porter’s grandparents moved to the Bellevue area. In 1964, they were part of the group of families that founded Westminster Chapel, which started as a house church before moving to a permanent location. Her father, Robert Porter, ’67, also attended BCS.

Porter started attending Three Points in preschool, where she developed a love for art, books, and reading. She remembers the library at Three Points and the art classroom, which had a distinct smell of oil paint. She took an art lesson with Mr. Brown, who had also taught her father when he was at Three Points. “Mr. Brown was so kind, peaceful, and reassuring. He always had time to stop and chat with you and he always had a smile on his face. He was always encouraging.”

At the Clyde Hill Campus, Porter’s gifts in art and English continued to develop. Mrs. Grambush gave her the opportunity to express herself in a variety of art styles and mediums. In class they did charcoal sketches, still life sketches, drawings of nature, and pottery with clay to be fired in the kiln at Sacred Heart. She remembers doing a Matisse-style painting on the back of an old window shade. Her piece was purchased by Mrs. Jennifer Smith, who was Porter’s Spanish teacher at that time.

Looking back, Porter is grateful for Mrs. Grambush’s unique approach to teaching art. She was patient, joyful, and open to the creative potential of her students. Porter says, “She didn’t expect perfection from us because she didn’t expect it of herself. She wanted us to be able to do the best that we could possibly do and be satisfied with the result.”

Beyond the art program, Porter thrived in her English and film classes with Mr. Ulstein. She was his teaching assistant for a semester, spending many hours devouring the books in his library and organizing his press kits of films. She remembers the books they read for English were thought-provoking and included a wide variety of genres. In film class, they watched movies from Germany and France. Mr. Ulstein taught her and her classmates about storytelling and narrative resolution, which could vary depending on the culture.

“He gave us great exposure to other countries, cultures, and viewpoints. He taught me to think critically and informed the way I look at entertainment, asking questions about why an author or filmmaker chose to do things one way rather than another.”

Porter remembers that Mr. Ulstein always supported her, even outside the classroom. As an upperclassman, she experienced mental health challenges that made school difficult. Mr. Ulstein noticed something going on in her life, but he didn’t pry for details.

“He wrote me a typewritten letter saying that he didn’t know what I was going through, and he didn’t need to know what I was going through, but that I was still a good person. I found the letter about a year ago…to have a teacher believe in you so much, even when I wasn’t sure what was going on in my mind, that made a huge difference in my life.”

After graduating from BCS, Porter went to cooking school and took business classes. She took some theology courses, including one on the history of the Old Testament. Her administrative skills led her to Providence Healthcare, where she worked in a support staff role for about 10 years. She currently works for Safeway and recently joined a local National Novel Writing Month group (NaNoWriMo).

Through the support of creative, like-minded members of the group, Porter has regained her confidence as a writer. When the group decided to create an anthology of short stories, Porter was invited to submit a piece. “Beyond the Latch and Lever” is a collection of tales with “doors” as the common theme. The genres include science fiction, fantasy, mythology, and ghost stories. After being published independently in December 2020, “Beyond the Latch and Lever” is now available on Amazon Books.

Porter has about a dozen stories written, which she says were inspired by C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” books. The common theme in these stories is symbolic objects that transform a person’s life in a significant way, which was a theme she found in Lewis’ books.

Today, Porter is grateful for the support of her writing group. “When I was going through my mental health challenges, I wasn’t capable of sitting down and writing something. It wasn’t until I had a group of friends who helped me see that I could write and that it was valuable, that I could start writing again.”

Read “The Pantry Ghost” by H.K. Porter https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Latch-Lever-Speculative-Stories/dp/8269132519/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=beyond+the+latch+and+lever&qid=1618196592&rnid=2941120011&s=books&sr=1-1

BCS Alumna reflects on the support of her teachers, rediscovers passion for writing