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    Professor Grace Megnet wins statewide writing award

    It is an ironic world in which Grace Megnet lives.

    She has spent her adult life as a champion of the English language. In fact, this December she will receive her master’s degree in English and she recently won first place for nonfiction in the annual Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers competition.

    Yet she says her accent betrays her to those who don’t really know her well enough. Often, she said, people believe she is less educated, less valuable, simply because of the Swiss German accent she’s carried since childhood.

    “There’s a barrier that exists when you speak with a strong accent,” she explained, tears rimming at the edge of her eyes. “Some people automatically presume you can’t speak English. They consider you to be a second-class citizen, someone who is less worthy.”

    That unfair perception has driven Megnet’s ownership of the English language. She writes for the love of writing, but she also writes in self-defense of her immense ability to convey emotion through words on a page.

    “There are times I’ve felt handicapped because of my accent,” she said. “That has driven me to learn the language better than those who are native to this country. “When I write, people don’t hear an accent,” she said.

    This September she will attend the TACWT awards ceremony where she will read aloud her winning entry. This will be her third first-place award in the organization.

    “Nothing makes me happier than finding the right words,” she said. “I love my job, I love teaching. But with art, I feel like I’m dancing in the wrong shoes. When I’m writing, I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

    Those who question Megnet’s intelligence based on her accent might be surprised at her true brilliance in the field of education. Megnet is originally from Switzerland where she attended high school in a small medieval town called Olten. After studying Modern Languages at the University of Berne, she attended one year in Paris at the Sorbonne and spent two summers in Cambridge, England, studying English. She already has master’s degrees in Studio Arts from LU and Painting from Stephen F. Austin State University.

    When she arrived in the United States in the late 1990s, she came with a suitcase and $1,000 in her pocket. She found work at St. Anthony Basilica School in Beaumont, where she taught art, music and French. In 2005, she joined LSCPA as an art instructor and has since risen to the ranks of associate professor.

    And while language is what spurs her current collegiate goals – she speaks six different languages – art has always been a deep-seated love for Megnet. Her artwork hangs in a museum in Spain as well as in the Swiss Embassy in Madrid.

    “Teaching at Lamar State College Port Arthur has been an enriching experience,” Megnet said, a smile splashing across her face. “There are so many students I will never forget. I feel especially close to students who have overcome obstacles to finish their education.”