Artist Spotlight: Heidi Jastram, writing tutor

Brent Schwert

Heidi Jastram is one senior who has taken to the Center for Teaching and Learning with increasing talent and vigor in her years at Lawrence. Wielding a red pen like a concert violinist, she has rescued many a Freshman Studies paper from certain failure in the Seeley Mudd Library. We thought it best for you grade-grubbing Lawrentians to get to know this stellar writing tutor a little more personally.Where are you from and what is your major?
My childhood home is and forever shall be Oak Park, Ill. but now I spend reading periods and summers with my family in a suburb of Milwaukee. My major is French, but I finished that pretty quickly with my sweet paper-writing skills, so I finished a English minor and am working on a self-designed minor in writing-intensive classes.

How did you first get involved in correcting people’s writing?
In high school, I often corrected grammatical mistakes in the teachers’ handouts. After a couple weeks of sending homework assignments back to my English teacher covered in red ink, she callously suggested I redirect my efforts to my classmates, who sorely needed assistance.

How have you seen your interests in nitpicking and helping people take new shape here at Lawrence?
Before Lawrence, I was limited to marking up the papers of whoever accidentally left his or her work unguarded on his or her desk. Once at Lawrence, however, I was approached by Timothy X. Troy, my Freshman Studies professor, after I turned in my first paper. “I’ve read through your paper on the Analogy of the Divided Line five times,” he said in that slightly gravelly, yet radio-ready voice of his, “and I can’t spot a single extraneous comma, dangling modifier, or sentence that ends with a preposition.” He recommended then and there that I apply to be a writing tutor at the CTL, so that my skills might benefit the Lawrence community.

Are there any writers or grammarians who you’ve found to be particularly inspirational?
First of all, that’s “***whom*** you’ve found to be interesting,” and second, I would advise against using a contraction in this setting. Nevertheless, yes, I do have a few heroes: Robert Lowth, whose book “A Short Introduction to English Grammar” never leaves my bedside; James Murray, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (I have nearly every edition and peruse them every weekend); and The MLA Style Handbook, a slim volume with which I like to batter infinitive-splitting, semicolon-misusing, tense-shifting freshmen.

What do you hope to accomplish with your art?
I hope to transform as many freshmen as I can from stream-of-consciousness, grammar-check-ignoring, sorry excuses for writers to accomplished essayists who can wrangle and support a succinct thesis from Chuang Tzu’s “Basic Writings.”

What are your plans for the near or distant future?
Come graduation, I hope to use my superior writing skills to usurp Julie Haurykiewicz’s position from her so I can continue to ensure the betterment of academic writing here at Lawrence, and also so I hold my own mandatory meetings with twice as many statistics and half the cookies.

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