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Dragon's Tale

The Student News Site of Sonoma Valley High School


Closing a Chapter; Mr. Knight and Ms. Manchester to Retire


Several beloved SVHS teachers are retiring, choosing the 2023-2024 school year as the final year of their teaching careers. Dean Knight of the Science Department and Alison Manchester, co-chair of the English ELD  Department, announced their retirements in April.

Mr. Knight has taught for 51 years, taking the record for the longest public teaching career in Sonoma County according to the Press Democrat. While running a successful business selling science kits since 1991, Mr. Knight sustained his passion for teaching through AP Physics, Chemistry, and Physics. 

Ms. Manchester, co-chair of the English ELD Department, AP English teacher, and our Dragon’s Tale’s advisor, is retiring after 42 years of teaching, 36 years at SVHS. After receiving her Bachelor’s from Dominican University, her teaching credentials from the University of New Mexico, and her Master’s degree from the

University of Iowa, Ms. Manchester began teaching high school English in New Mexico before coming to SVHS in 1989. 

Since joining the English ELD Department, she has taught generations of students, many from continuous family lines, advanced writing skills, and textual analysis. She has instructed every class in the English department except for yearbook and drama, and her students include poet laureate of the United States, Ada Limón. 

Most of Ms. Manchester’s students are under her tutelage for both of their upperclassmen years, growing with her academically and personally. Seniors from her graduating class reflected on their time being her students, sentimental at the news of her retirement. 

Reina Gibbs, crying, recalls “The first three months that I had her, I was so enraptured by her. I was like ‘this woman is amazing.’” Gibbs feels moved that Manchester’s “goal in life is to teach other people,” and it is obvious that “she loves connecting with her students” above all else. As Ms. Manchester is keen on reminding her students, she is not only a teacher but a mentor. 

Ms. Manchester’s class has a reputation for being academically rigorous, both in workload and content. Adriel Velazquez affirms that it is the hardest but “hands down the most rewarding class” he’s ever taken, and the class he thinks he’s “learned the most from.” Uniquely, Ms. Manchester’s classes are discussion-based and loosely structured. According to Velazquez, the collaborative environment is “amazing.” Fostering such an environment allows students to connect with their peers and Ms. Manchester. Classes commonly begin with a personal anecdote about Ms. Manchester’s day or her house renovation updates. Solana Staes corroborates that Ms. Manchester is “always excited to tell us stories.”

Genevieve Smith appreciates that she can talk to Manchester “about anything,” and students can “walk into her class and feel comfortable.” Smith looks back fondly on senior winter finals, where every Manchester student brought in cookies, read cookie-related poems, and “watched Paris mansion tours.”

Manchester is deeply enthusiastic about all of her endeavors. She is known to tell jokes based on class content, and if her students don’t laugh, she threatens to fail them. Gibbs attests to Manchester’s sense of humor enhancing her teaching. “I love her laugh. I love it when she makes the class laugh. I love when she laughs at her own jokes and prompts other people to laugh.” Gibbs describes Manchester as, “Intelligent, intellectually curious,” and most importantly, “enthusiastic.”

Ms. Manchester is known as a fashion icon at SVHS. Like her teaching style, she puts thought into her clothing choices. Her outfits are intentional, colorful, and coordinated, often matching the themes of her classes. Among her greatest hits was her Emily Dickinson Halloween costume, threatening to fail students who did not recognize her impersonation. She wore striking red outfits during her lessons on Scarlet Letter to emphasize the novel’s potent color symbolism. 

Emmanuel Gomez was particularly impacted by Ms. Manchester’s unit on Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Gomez thanks Manchester for introducing him to “transcendentalism, which completely changed [his] life.” He lives by Thoreau’s mantra, ‘simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,’ which quickly caught on as an inside joke among her students. Due to Manchester’s Walden unit, Gomez became “more aware of [his] surroundings,” realizing that “there is nature out there!” 

SVHS alumni and current children’s buyer and events coordinator at Readers’ Books, Rosie Lee-Parks, fondly reminisces on her time with Ms. Manchester, whose teachings prepared her for her English and Victorian Studies degree. “You don’t necessarily realize how lucky you are when you’re taking the class… you don’t even realize immediately after how much you’ve learned from it.” 

Ms. Manchester adapts to her students’ needs, helping them excel and discover their love of English. Lee-Parks remembers that “She had this great ability to not underestimate people. I think it’s really easy to say ‘You guys are only sixteen, you can’t do this or that,’ but she was like ‘Well, of course you can…’ That confidence in a teacher is really inspiring.” 

Ms. Manchester is also feeling sentimental during her last few months of teaching. She cites her “literatures” as her “good friends all these years.” She knows it will be “really hard” to not teach literature anymore as it means retiring certain books that she won’t pick up again. Macbeth, for example, is an exhilarating teach, but “who wants to read about a psychopathic murderer” in their free time?

Ms. Manchester believes intentionality is the “mark of a professional,” revealing that she adapts her curriculum to the political state of the world, although “very slyly” to avoid pushing a political agenda on her students. She selected The Handmaid’s Tale for her class curriculum in response to the recent US policy on women’s bodily autonomy, though many of her books contain “universal” messages. She is “very, very intentional in everything that [she does],” and her students “read between the lines pretty well” to contextualize the deeper meaning of the novels they read.

As the Dragon’s Tale advisor, she fosters productive intellectual curiosity and discussion. It is common to find newspaper students sitting by her desk discussing politics and local issues with her, or simply updating her on their lives. Ms. Manchester is invested in the well-being of her students beyond the classroom, evident through her advice on all life matters from financial aid to appendicitis. Her students have felt fortunate to have such a caring, intelligent teacher preparing them for life after high school. 

Among her many recognitions, Ms. Manchester was awarded the National High Society of High School Scholars award, the California League of High Schools honor, was recognized by the Harvard Club of San Francisco, was nominated for NorCal Teacher of the Year, and was recommended for the Mason McDuffie “Inspirational Teacher” award through student nomination. However, she says her favorite prizes are the ‘thank you’ letters she receives from her students. 

Ms. Manchester’s impact throughout her decades at the SVHS is immeasurable. Her passion for literature, her dedication to the intellectual and personal development of her students, and her lovingly quirky personality have made her the beloved community member she is known as today.  


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About the Contributors
Celine King
Celine King, Editor
As the editor, my goals include reimagining our social media presence and encouraging the creativity of all of our writers. Among my passions are studying astrology, strengthening my fluency in English, Spanish, and French, and social media marketing. As a dual citizen of the U.S. and France, my future plans are to spend at least one year in Europe during undergrad.
Kasper Bolling
Kasper Bolling, News Editor
As the News Editor for the Dragon's Tale, I value writing and freedom of expression as being highly important to our campus culture. I love reading, writing, and reptiles. My favorite show is Our Flag Means Death. I want to report on pressing issues at SVHS.

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