This educator will help you mind your manners

Are Americans slowly giving up their manners with each modern-day advance they make? Not if Donna Foard Knorr can help it, and especially not in North Carolina.

Knorr recently opened the Piedmont School of Etiquette in Concord, hoping to keep manners from sliding completely off the dinner table and into the dog's gullet.

Manners aren't just about knowing which fork to use, said Knorr, who finished training to become an etiquette and protocol consultant at the American School of Protocol in Atlanta last October. She opened her school out of her Mountview Court home in February.

"It puts the individual at ease in any social situation, and they will be more confident," she said. "It gets them further. It gives them that edge that I think a lot of people in business, that the employer, is looking for today."

Topics Knorr covers through her courses range from introductions to writing thank-you notes, and she can offer advice on any etiquette question posed.

How do you deliver a proper handshake?

"You extend your hand and you lock thumbs, and you squeeze the hand firmly and shake," said Knorr. "One or two shakes, and that's fine."

What is the last course in a five-course dinner?

"The fifth course is the finger bowl," said Knorr, who always serves hers as warm water with a single rose petal floating on top. "Wiggle the fingers in the water and pull the napkin up and blot."

Knorr started noticing a decline in manners during her 40 years as a speech pathologist in the N.C. public school system.

Part of the reason is the fast pace of a modern world. "I know schedules are very, very hectic for children. I understand that," said Knorr, mentioning the scant number of sit-down meals many families share together. "Food on the go. It's very difficult to teach that (manners) on the fly."

As a young woman raised in Morganton, Knorr spent much of her time entering beauty pageants and eventually modeling for a local agency. Both experiences taught her the importance of etiquette and protocol.

"You have to know how to hold a knife and fork," she said. "You learn those things quickly when you want to compete."

Later she began teaching voice and diction for the modeling agency, then public speaking for Cabarrus College of Health Sciences. She always had in the back of her mind the idea for a school of etiquette.

Knorr will teach any age, from 4 up, the proper etiquette and protocol lessons she's learned over the years.

The school is slowly picking up in popularity and Knorr takes that as a sign that good etiquette may be making a welcome comeback.

"I think there's a real need for good manners," she said.