TRAVERSE CITY — It took years for Kitty Bucholtz to track down her old sixth-grade teacher and then to muster up the nerve to call her.
But last week the Kalkaska native and the Birch Street Elementary teacher who inspired her to write hugged each other for the first time in more than 30 years.
“She was the first adult besides my family who laughed at my stories and encouraged me,” said Bucholtz, now a writer and self-published author living in Southern California. “She made me feel: ‘I’m the queen of the first-grade universe.’”
Bucholtz published her first book, “Little Miss Lovesick,” in 2011 and dedicated it to retired teacher Sherry Day of Rapid City. On Saturday the two met at Horizon Books, and Bucholtz finally presented Day with a copy of the book at an author talk.
“You’re allowed to call me Sherry now. It’s all right,” said Day, 68, after the two exchanged tearful greetings.
Bucholtz, 45, recalls grade school and the event that changed her life.
“I was in Mrs. Day’s sixth-grade class in 1980 and I was kind of distracting other students when I finished my work,” she said. “At some point she brought me up and said, ‘If you’re done with your work, you can write me a story.’ I kept writing and I’ve never stopped.”
Day, who retired in 1997, doesn’t recall the moment or Bucholtz, one of an estimated 900 students she taught over 30 years in Kalkaska and Rapid City. But that didn’t take away from the joy she felt when the two reunited.
“It’s every teacher’s goal to be a positive influence on their students, so it’s amazing to hear from her and hear she’s a writer,” Day said.
Bucholtz went on to graduate from Kalkaska High School, studied business at Northwestern Michigan College and Ferris State University, and spent years working in accounting and finance while blogging and building a writing business. When husband John got work in Australia on the “Happy Feet” movies, she began writing full time and received her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Technology in Sydney.