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.
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.
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!”
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