Georgia Lyons, known affectionately as the “Grammar Granny,” was a writing instructor at Nipissing University where she worked with students to develop their writing skills. She helped them increase their confidence and taught them not only about writing, but “about life, citizenship, and love for learning” (as one colleague noted). She is remembered for her dedication to her students, good humour, and gentle manner. She was killed in a car accident in 2011. We honour her and her work in writing centres with this award.
Below are some reminiscences of Georgia from her friends and writing centre colleagues.
I just wanted to share a bit about the amazing life of Georgia Lyons, the Grammar Granny.
I first met Georgia when she sent out an e-mail asking for assistance teaching students how to sew. Some of her English students had been complaining about the cost of replacing torn T-shirts. Georgia was appalled that they felt they had to replace something that could be easily mended. When they replied that they didn’t know how to sew, Georgia’s response was to decide they had better learn how. For three years, we met about 6 Saturday mornings a term for 2 – 3 hours in the Founder’s common room to sew with the students. They quickly learned how to not just mend torn garments but to read patterns and to sew their own clothes and/or crafts for gifts. Georgia was always laughing and joking with the students, teasing and cajoling them. When she wasn’t working on sewing, she was doing some informal language instruction or helping them with essays. We became good friends over the course of our time in sewing club.
I think that was the year that Georgia started the International Foods event. Seemed like she didn’t quite have enough to do so added one more idea to her volunteer load.
I discovered we had a mutual love of books and film. If she didn’t have a class scheduled, we were often able to go to film club together. Georgia had one of the best and most interesting DVD collections of anyone I knew. And books! She had to build a library in her garage to hold them all. And then she had to heat and furnish it. She called them her guilty addiction. I don’t think she ever met a book catalogue she couldn’t purchase something from.
Georgia loved the students she worked with and they were always in her thoughts. As the “grammar granny” she merited mention as one of the students’ best loved icons in one of the McLean’s articles about Nipissing. I think she was one of our most undervalued assets. I miss her every day, her warm laugh, her gentle manner, her self-deprecating humour.
Georgia devoted herself to Nipissing’s students. We were all enriched by her presence, even if we didn’t personally know her. Her work on behalf of the students gave them confidence, taught them not just about writing but about life, about citizenship, about loving learning.
Andrea Parolin, Nipissing University