Impressions of a 1st-year Teacher

Hi! I’m Lindy Obach, and up until a year ago, I spent my career nagging college students about comma splices and reading poetry. I taught college English for the University of South Dakota at University Center-Sioux Falls for 11 years. And then it was time for a change. At University Center, I realized quickly that the students I most enjoyed teaching were immigrants and refugees.

So, as I job-searched, I came across the LSS Center for New Americans. I submitted an application to be an On-Call Instructor, and after an interview and teaching demonstration, I was hired! I spent the first few months subbing and meeting students in all levels of our program. After subbing for awhile, a full-time position opened up, and I am very happy to be the newest full-time ESL teacher here.


Sharing food & fun with my Oral 4 students

One of the most paramount discoveries I’ve made since teaching at the Center for New Americans is just how truly connected we all are – how truly we are brothers and sisters. A Bhutanese student of mine has a sister who lives and works at a major hospital in Fargo; so do I. A Congolese student and I discovered that she lived for a while in my home area in North Dakota and that she attended the same small-town Catholic church I grew up in. A Ukrainian student has neighbors back home with the same last name as my paternal grandmother, herself a Ukrainian immigrant. This commonality, this sense of family, is what makes teaching here so completely special.


Sumitra & I at our graduation celebration

I knew when I stepped into a classroom at the CNA that this job would be different; what I didn’t realize was just how joyful and fun and life-changing this job would be.  Because of this job, I have hundreds of new friends (like Sumitra!). I have tried all sorts of new foods (momo, anyone?), learned phrases in about a dozen languages (ameseginalehu!), and watched the most dedicated, hardworking people develop their English skills and burst with confidence and pride. Because of this job, I have rediscovered the pure delight teaching brings. Every day I go home and tell my spouse, “Another great day with my students!”


A plate of momo, roti,& curry from one of my Lit 2 students

Teaching immigrants and refugees is the absolute best job. Real learning, gratitude, friendship, and community take place in our classrooms every day. When there is a birthday, a holiday, a new job, a graduation, a new baby, a wedding, or a day that ends in –y, we celebrate and our little school buzzes with happiness (and delicious food!).  I love watching my fellow teachers interact with our students – so many hugs and namaste’s and high-fives are exchanged throughout the day. We are truly a team of learners here at the Center for New Americans; I am very blessed to teach and teach alongside the most extraordinary people.

— Lindy Obach, ESL Teacher, LSS Center for New Americans






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