LSS Teacher Receives National Recognition

March 28, 2017

Our own teacher, Silke Hansen, formerly recognized as teacher of the year through the South Dakota Association for Lifelong Learning (SDALL), recently received national recognition as an outstanding instructor. Please see the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) press release below for full details about this prestigious award.

Silke Hansen, LSS ESL Instructor

COABE Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award Runner-Up: Silke Hansen

Lutheran Social Services—Center for New Americans

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) is 15,000 members strong and growing, and provides a variety of services including annually providing competitive national-level awards, incentive grants, and scholarship opportunities through special funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Our mission is to inspire educators so adults succeed and communities thrive. COABE exists to provide leadership, communication, professional development, and advocacy for adult education and literacy practitioners in order to advance quality services for all adult learners. Fifteen thousand members strong, one way that we engage in these activities is by spotlighting excellence in the field. Silke Hansen was nominated for COABE’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award and was selected as a runner-up.

Silke Hansen is an excellent, dedicated, and seasoned veteran teacher, having taught in adult basic education for over 11 years. Her teaching duties reach well beyond the classroom. Whenever there is a function of any kind, whether it is the annual student-teacher picnic, yearly LSS fundraiser, The Closer Connections Conference, conference presentations, or welcoming new refugees to LSS, Silke is sure to volunteer and take on considerable responsibilities. Silke’s key role among the staff might be guessed by the position of her work cubicle in the teachers’ room—it is the first cubicle seen upon entering the room, an assignment that the coordinator, Laura, admits was a conscious placement. This crucial location puts Silke where she can assist teachers and students alike who are looking for some help or advice. Silke knows where everything is stored, students’ names (past and present) and what needs to be done in almost any situation practically without fail! She has built so many strong relationships with her students, not only in their classroom endeavors, but also in the greater Sioux Falls area. She has served on the board of directors of two refugee organizations in Sioux Falls: The Khor Wakow School Project headed by South Sudan refugee and past “Lost Boy” David Jal, and the Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Association, an organization that seeks to empower refugee and immigrant women in the community and provide a networking base for its members. Together, these activities and Silke’s level of commitment reflect the kind of dedication to students that her coworkers admire and her students gratefully love. They know that Silke really cares for them as people and friends, stands with them, and will support them. During all her years at LSS, it’s clear that Silke has done whatever she could, both inside and outside the classroom to help her students find meaningful successes in their adopted country. The South Dakota state organization has seen her commitment to excellence and chose her to represent their state for the COABE Teacher of the Year Award.


To learn more about COABE’s prestigious award program, go to or contact


Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

Drink, Save, Be Healthy

March 23, 2017

As I write this, I have to admit that things aren’t quite right in my world.  My attention is wandering.  My head feels like it is bouncing around like a balloon at the end of a string.  The letters on my computer screen might even be dancing just a little for me.  We can pick things up from our close friends and family like phrases, ticks, and habits.  I’m blaming this one on my wife.  My world is not right and it’s all HER fault! Read the rest of this entry »

Adult English Learners from Fourteen Nations Visit the South Dakota Capital

March 22, 2017

Students and government officials pose for picture inside the capital building


53 adult English language learners from the LSS Center for New Americans had the privilege of visiting South Dakota’s capitol this month. This is such an exciting opportunity for our students that we received 100 applications for these 53 seats.

These 53 learners are from 14 different countries: Burma, Guatemala, China, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bhutan/Nepal, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Mexico and El Salvador.

About 60% of these LSS adult learners came to the US with refugee status. About 40% came as immigrants.

The goals of these learners are:

  • To become self sufficient communicators in English
  • To get jobs and advance to higher education and training
  • To become United States Citizens


This civics education field trip was sponsored by the Department of Labor and Regulation. The Department partners with the LSS Center for New Americans to provide adult education and literacy services in the Sioux Falls community.

The learners visited with legislators, toured the capital building, observed proceedings in the house and senate chambers and visited the Cultural Heritage Center.

On the Steps of the South Dakota Capital Building


Touring the Cultural Heritage Center

Having fled the impacts of persecution and injustice, the adult learners deeply treasure the freedoms and democracy of this great nation and the great state of South Dakota. It is, in fact, a dream come true for them to visit our state capitol. They are grateful to be residents of South Dakota, to have the opportunity to raise their families, work and contribute to a safe and welcoming new home.

written by Laura Smith-Hill, Education Program Coordinator

An Early Impact – Meet Outstanding Rookie Mentors

March 20, 2017

All mentors are outstanding in the eyes of the student that they meet with each week. Today we would like to share about a few who are making a big impact early in their mentoring relationship. School counselors get to see mentors and students interact, and every so often, they witness mentors with an extra special commitment…a touching moment…and whose sheer presence absolutely makes that student light up. Please take a moment to learn a little more about the 2017 Outstanding Rookie Mentors.

Linda was very good at gathering information to help her be successful as a mentor. She approached mentoring as something that should be fun, but also a serious responsibility. Linda was matched with a young student who moved away after just a few months of meeting her. As is typical, there was a possibility of the student returning to the community, so Linda decided to wait it out. She brought cards to school to be mailed to the student and always let the student know that she was thinking of her. When it became apparent the student was not returning to Sioux Falls, Linda was matched with another student. This student is so excited each week when Linda comes to visit.

Manuel just started his second year of mentoring this fall. He was anxious to get started as his student was entering middle school. He has an amazing relationship with his student. They play basketball, football or just chat. Manuel is willing to do exactly what his student needs and craves. He is reliable and has never missed a session. Manuel brings a great positive attitude that has made a different to his student.

Previously, students at Augustana were required to mentor as part of a class. Most of those mentors only stay for their required time. Trey was one of those students, but unlike most of his classmates, he was able to make mentoring work in his very busy schedule. And by busy schedule, he is taking 22 credits and pursing two – possibly three – majors. He and his student formed a great connection that really works. From appearances, Trey and his student are opposites. However, they have been a perfect match. His student has shown great maturity in the past year and attributes that to his mentor. He is able to easily talk to adults and is very polite – a skill taught to him by Trey.

Last year Oak Hills Baptist Church did a call for mentors and Doug answered the call. Doug has a knack for making everyone around him feel comfortable. He right away made an instant connection with his student. Doug’s student says, “Doug is my friend and helps me. He comes and sees me almost every week. It is fun to hang out with him. We laugh, play games and he is just there for me. I have several siblings at home so it is not always about me. I always feel good when I see Doug.”

It WAS A Great Deal…

March 17, 2017

You’ve gotta love the store credit  cards.  They are so easy to get.  You just fill out one little part of a tri-fold brochure, invest all of five minutes, and boom!  You have a credit card to use every visit you make.  But that’s not the best part.  The best part?  The discounts.

“Sign up today and get 20% off your purchase!”Happy woman shopping
“Sign up today and get 5% off purchases every time you come back!”
“Sign up today and receive EXCLUSIVE offers and discounts!”

I decided to write today based on a question I got from a participant in one of our classes.  They had signed up for the credit card to get the big discount.  But it was a one-time purchase and they don’t ever plan to go back to that store, let alone use the credit card.  So now what?  What do you do with the card?  Cancel it?  Keep it?  Now what? Read the rest of this entry »

Reunited! And it feels so… ??

March 16, 2017

Ah, adoption reunion – it’s the stuff of movies, novels, and reality TV – and it is a big deal. I was in tears at the end of the movie Tangled when Rapunzel was reunited with her biological parents. For me, that was where the movie should have begun, not ended. And although I have not yet seen the movie Lion, I have heard that it is honest and responsible in its portrayal of the emotions involved in adoption search and reunion. But it too, ends at reunion. What happens next?! Read the rest of this entry »

Mr. Laughs-A-Lot & Legend

March 9, 2017

When we asked Legend, a 3rd grader at Laura Wilder Elementary, what he would name his mentor, he said Mr. Laughs-A-Lot. Legend says that his mentor Wes is always fun and cheerful.

Wes, who is retired, says that mentoring is a very rewarding experience. Wes says he learned the value of mentoring when he was young and had a great mentor. “When I was in 4th grade, I met a college student. He was then a coach for me when I was in junior high and I knew him my whole life,” said Wes.

When together, the two like to talk and play games. Legend says, “It’s fun to get a break from friends and be creative. He makes me happy.” The feeling is mutual as Wes says he loves being around such a creative and bright boy. The two have been meeting for three years now and recalled a fun story when Legend was doing pushups. Wes still remembers that Legend completed 26 pushups and how proud he was of himself!

Like many who mentor, Wes was encouraged by friends to apply. As he was retiring, a co-worker encouraged him to spend some of his new found spare time mentoring. At the same time, a friend from church was talking about the program. Now, Wes is encouraging others to apply. He said it would be nice to see more retirees mentoring. “It’s great to have a friend a couple of generations below me,” said Wes.

The two have definitely taught each other so much. Just as I was leaving the interview, Legend was talking about a You Tuber and how he wanted to be one himself in the future. Wes had not heard that term before and asked what that was. Legend loved explaining the nuances of his potential career to a listening ear. And Wes completed the moment by pointing out that you can learn something new everyday.

Post by Michelle Madsen

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