Home > finals > Linguist-turned-teacher shares her zeal for words with students

Linguist-turned-teacher shares her zeal for words with students

By: Daisy Sarne
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Graham_Lisa

Lisa Graham teaches at Waverly High School

Lisa Graham has always been infatuated with the English language.  Her enthusiasm for correct grammar and punctuation combined with her passion for detail has led her through a career she calls meaningful.

Graham earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Graham then went on to earn her doctorate in English from Penn State University.  After obtaining her doctorate degree, Graham taught internationally in Germany and China.  Eventually, Graham found her way home and taught as a professor at Boston Language Institute and at Washington College where she displayed her passion for words in her linguistics courses.

Linguistics is the science of language. “In my linguistics courses we looked at how language is formed, different sound systems and different meaning systems,” Graham said.

Graham found linguistics fascinating but missed the diligent work of writing, reading and editing. During her time as a professor, Graham was a part of a team of authors who published “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning German” where she gained substantial knowledge on the editing process. But Graham was looking for something more. went on to work for a SAT preparatory company, Study Works, developing curriculum and teaching students.  That’s where she Graham found her passion for working with high school students.

She went on to work for a SAT preparatory company, Study Works, developing curriculum and teaching students.  And that’s where she Graham found her passion for working with high school students.

Graham’s attention to detail and thoroughness when writing and editing propelled her through her various jobs. When her boss at Waverly High School approached her with the idea of an editing-centered study hall, Graham knew she was just the teacher for the job.

In 2013, Graham was nominated for the Nebraska Teacher of the Year award through The Nebraska Awards of Excellence Program.  Graham, who was nominated for her enthusiasm and expertise, was one of four finalists.

Dr. Graham was nominated for the Nebraska Teacher of the Year award.

Dr. Lisa Graham was nominated for the Nebraska Teacher of the Year award.

During an interview, Graham explained the way she encourages her students to self-edit:

First, give it time.  “Write it and walk away,” Graham said.  Time is essential in the editing process.  “If you can give it a little space and time, you can change your perspective.”

Second, read your writing out loud.  Graham explained that hearing the words out loud activates different parts of our brain than reading to yourself.  “If you read it out loud or in a different setting, then you can gain some clarity,” Graham said.

Third, use a pen or pencil to physically edit.  Graham explains this process as putting your “grammar goggles on” or using your “editing pencil” that makes it easier for students to identify his or her mistakes.

Graham’s extensive experience makes her a great resource for students.

Throughout the interview Graham described one fundamental reason editing is the most important part of writing.

“Editing assesses whether you are saying what you mean,” she said, “and if it’s an accurate reflection of your thoughts.”

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