Christmas Celebrations From around the World – Reflections from CNA’s Staff

December 28, 2021

One of the wonderful things about working at the Center for New Americans is getting to interact with people from all different countries and cultures. In addition to our students and clients, we also have a diverse staff from many different countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. Read below as a few of our staff members share Christmas traditions from their countries!

The Christkind, who brings gifts to German children on Christmas Eve.

Teacher Silke Hansen (Germany) – “In Germany, our main celebration day is on December 24th. In my family, Christmas Eve is when we put up the Christmas tree and we always had a real tree! Most workers have the 25th and 26th off to visit with family and friends (usually family on the 25th and friends on the 26th).  Presents are delivered not by Santa Claus but by an angelic figure called Christkind on Christmas Eve. In my family, after dinner on December 24th, my siblings and I would go upstairs to our bedrooms while Christkind (AKA: mom and dad) put gifts under the tree. After this, they would ring the doorbell and run upstairs to our rooms asking, “Did you hear the door? Do you think the Christkind came to visit?” Then we would race downstairs to open our gifts! We usually ate a light supper on Christmas Eve and had our big meal on Christmas Day. We normally ate Rouladen (meat stuffed with onions, pickles and bacon), Mehlknoedel (dumplings) and red cabbage with gravy.”

An igitenge worn by many Congolese women.

Caseworker Tez Kiruhura (Democratic Republic of the Congo) – “Christmas back home is different than Christmas here. In my family, we eat fufu (a porridge made from cassava), rice, lots of meat (goat, beef and chicken) and we drink soda and milk. We gather together as a family to eat and give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. It’s traditional that everyone gets new clothes on Christmas. Women usually wear an igitenge (dress) made of bright, multicolored fabric and matching head scarf made of same fabric. There is not always money for gifts but if there is, we exchange them on Christmas. Going to church is an important tradition. We go to church on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday closest to Christmas. It’s always three days because that represents the resurrection of Jesus. There is usually a guest preacher for these church services.”

Shoes stuffed with surprises after a visit from St. Nicolas.

Caseworker Lilly Jasarovic (Bosnia/Serbia) – “Christmas is similar to what it is here in America. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the January 7th, not December 25th. Bosnia is very religiously diverse and it’s common for Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims to go to church to celebrate on January 7th. For Christmas dinner, the meal always starts with plum brandy. Many people eat beef and noodle soup, cabbage rolls, Trappista cheese, pickled vegetables, strudels and cakes. One Orthodox tradition is to make a special loaf of bread with a coin, a heart-shaped token, a tree branch and other objects placed inside. Families bake and then cut the bread and whoever finds a certain object is supposed to receive a special blessing in the New Year. The coin brings success, the heart brings love and the branch brings health. Another fun tradition that children enjoy is St. Nicolas’ Day on December 19. According to tradition, on this day, Saint Nicolas leaves sweets and small toys in the shoes of children.”

Kate Harris  ESL Instructor & Career Navigator 

LSS Center for New Americans

P:  605-731-2000  | F:  605-731-2059

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100  Sioux Falls, SD 57103


What Are We Teachers Thankful For?

November 30, 2021

As we prepared for time with family and friends this past week, consuming the proverbial turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, I thought about my gratitude for my job and my students. I am so thankful to be a teacher of Adult English Learners at the LSS Center for New Americans. I am thankful for our students who consistently awe me with their strength, persistence, and determination. I asked my fellow teachers to share what they are thankful for.  Here is what they shared:

I am thankful for my students’ unique perspectives and life experience, their willingness to help one another, and their energy and enthusiasm.

~Kate

I’m thankful for our students’ patience when we have technical issues.  They are so understanding and gracious!  I’m also thankful for our great coworkers – they are my friends as well as coworkers.  I guess LSS attracts nice people!

~Amy

I appreciate our students’ eagerness both to learn about English and American culture, and also their willingness to share about their own language and culture.

~Sarah

I am grateful that our students want to be in classes, and want to work hard to learn! It is so wonderful to teach students like that!  I am grateful we have a way to have class with both in-person students and Zoom students.  I’m grateful for the times we laugh and have fun in class!

~Susan

I am thankful for the courage, persistence and strengths our students show every day.  I am thankful for the upgrade in technology which allowed the teachers to better serve the students.  I am thankful for the awesome co-workers at the Center for New Americans.

~Diana

I’m thankful for the laughter I get to share with the students. It’s the best thing that accelerates our learning.  I’m thankful for people I get to work with. They are my teachers! Because of them, I can be a better person and keep growing as a citizen of the world.  Thank you for letting me share!

~Rihoko

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor & Volunteer Coordinator Assistant
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


Volunteer of the Year: 2021

October 26, 2021


Karen: LSS 2021 Volunteer of the Year

The English classrooms at the Center for New Americans rely heavily on the support and expertise of volunteers. Volunteers aid the teacher in classroom management (both online and in person), assist one-on-one tutoring, lead classroom and small group activities, and provide support to the teachers in numerous ways.


Each year the Education Program has the opportunity to honor one of our hardworking volunteers and nominate them for the Distinguished Volunteer of the Year Award for LSS of SD. This past week, our nominee, Karen Kraus, was recognized at the 2021 Distinguished Volunteer of the Year.


Here’s her nomination:
Karen Kraus started volunteering at the LSS Center for New Americans on 12/14/2016. Since her first day she has provided 460 hours of ESL classroom help for our adult Refugee and Immigrant students.


She has worked with all the English class levels and has also tutored one-to-one a student who had no prior literacy with the challenging task of learning to decode. Karen has been an amazing volunteer – flexible and consistent – in supporting the Education Program at LSS.


When the pandemic closed our in-person classrooms, she reached out to her assigned teacher to see how she could still help. While volunteers typically work once a week for two hours, she joined the online students in Zoom every day until other volunteers could be trained. At the training meetings, she was able to speak with the other volunteers, answering their questions about how it felt to assist in Zoom. She encouraged them to jump in and continue to help out even if they could not see the student due to technology challenges. She spoke about how the students still needed their volunteers more than ever in the Zoom Classrooms.


Karen brings amazing qualities and skills to our English Language Classes at LSS. Patient, insightful and collaborative – Karen communicates clearly and effectively with true beginners. She is a talented co-teacher in any classroom and a treasured partner in the team effort that is equipping our adult English learners with knowledge of the language, literacy and the content they need to communicate and succeed as new residents of South Dakota.


Here are a few of Karen’s insights about volunteering at LSS Center for New Americans.


What are some of your favorite memories from working with a student/in class?
I especially have enjoyed the following experiences:

o Assisting a student who just sounded out a word and seeing the big smile on their face!

o I love it when a joke is shared and understood even through our language barriers!

o The students call all of us “Teacher.” I can tell it is a term of honor by the way they say it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering at CNA?
For me, it feels like an honor to be a small part of an English Language Learners’ journey. I strongly encourage anyone who might be interested to give this a try. The classroom teachers will first ask you to observe, then will give you direction on how to work directly with students. It’s a chance to meet people from other cultures, right here in Sioux Falls. I learn so much. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it allows me to volunteer in a meaningful way.

Would YOU like to join our team as a classroom volunteer?
Contact diana.streleck@lsssd.org
Apply Here
https://lsssd.org/what-we-do/center-for-new-americans/volunteerapplication.html

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


America 101: Cultural Orientation at LSS

October 19, 2021

Two PowerPoint slides shown to students in Cultural Orientation class

Adjusting to life in a new country is no easy task. New arrivals to the United States must learn new practices and ways of being to survive and thrive. To help with this transition, LSS offers Cultural Orientation class every month. The class is offered to clients who have just arrived in the U.S. and teaches essential skills and knowledge about American life. It covers topics including home safety, American laws, banking and finances, education and healthcare.


One special feature of this class is its use of guest speakers. LSS invites community members to Cultural Orientation to lend their expertise on pertinent topics. We have law enforcement officers, health professionals and financial experts come in to speak to the students. Not only do the students benefit from the insights of these guest speakers but they are also introduced to trusted community members that they can call upon later for help and support. Building these bridges helps make the transition to life in Sioux Falls easier for new arrivals.


Community building is done not only through guest speakers but also through the dynamic, multicultural nature of the class itself. Students in the class come from many different countries, cultures, languages and backgrounds but they are all there for the same reason: to learn how to live and thrive in their new home. This shared purpose helps the students bond and build community in the class. Cultural Orientation’s teacher, Silke Hansen, notes, “One of my favorite things about Orientation is that new arrivals from different countries meet and get to know each other which might not have happened otherwise.”


Cultural Orientation is taught for two weeks every month from Monday through Friday for 3 hours per day.

Kate Harris ESL Instructor & Career Navigator
LSS Center for New Americans
P: 605-731-2000 | F: 605-731-2059
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 Sioux Falls, SD 57103
LssSD.org


Mini Library at Center for New Americans

October 5, 2021

As I meander the halls of the Center for New Americans, I find a special shelf dedicated to literacy for both our students and their families.  Through an outreach program via Siouxland Libraries, we are able to have a mini library at the convenience and delight of our students. 

Our mini library allows students to check out books to read not only to themselves but also to their children and grandchildren.  Books are in English and multiple target languages such as Spanish, Amharic, Vietnamese, Arabic, etc. 

This opportunity gives our students the capability to practice their English skills and also to pass along their culture and language to their children and grandchildren.

Students are always hungry for new reading materials in English, and as such the library has been a great resource for our students, who immediately started taking advantage of this opportunity.  One grandmother was super excited to see books in Amharic that she could read to her grandchildren.  Another was thrilled to see a book of poems in her language.  Others are excited to see word-to-word translations from their language to English.  There are a variety of books to appeal to everyone.

The books are rotated through Siouxland Library every 3 months so students are able to find new and exciting things to read at home.  Easy access to books helps promote literacy in our adult student population outside of the school setting. 

In the spirit of International Literacy Day (September 8) and National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (September 19 to 25), here are some ideas to keep reading fun for the whole family:

1.  Read when traveling

2.  Read when on a lunch break

3.  Join a tutoring group or an English class or a book club

4.  Find fun places to read:  coffee shop, park, etc.

5.  Read books that fit reading ability level.

6. Read with a friend or a volunteer.

Our students love to work with volunteers in the classroom. Volunteers help foster a love for reading and build relationships with students.

Want to be a classroom volunteer?
Contact diana.streleck@lsssdblog

Apply Here
https://lsssd.org/what-we-do/center-for-new-americans/volunteerapplication.html

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103

1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


Xcel Energy Helps Immigrants Excel in Sioux Falls

September 28, 2021
Students participate in a hybrid classroom

LSS Center for New Americans once again received a generous grant from Xcel Energy. This grant has helped to provide classes that prepare students to enter the workforce. The project, called Career Literacy for Refugees and Immigrants, teaches students career readiness skills such as critical thinking, teamwork/collaboration, leadership and digital literacy. The project also provides instruction in the four major language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. These skills help students find jobs, advance in their current jobs or find jobs that match the skills and training they had before they came to the U.S. Many of our students have gone on to get and excel in jobs in production, manufacturing, industry, customer service and other areas.

One unique feature of these classes is that they use the hybrid model of instruction in which there are some students learning online and some students learning inperson simultaneously. This model enables students to come to class and learn in a way that best suits them, their schedules, and learning preferences. It also provides equity for students who do not have the skills or resources to participate in Zoom instruction. Each LSS classroom is equipped with an OWL (combination camera/speaker/microphone) that allows online students to see and hear their in-person classmates and vice versa. Students have been very receptive to the model, often joking and having conversations between online and in-person students.  In one recent class, a student joining class online for the day instantly recognized the voice of an in-person student; the two students immediately starting chatting like old friends. Interactions like this warm the hearts of our instructors and build community in the hybrid model.

Xcel Energy provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the company is an industry leader in responsibly reducing carbon emissions and producing and delivering clean energy solutions from a variety of renewable sources at competitive prices.

The company also supports communities and local community organizations in four major areas: STEM education, workforce development, environmental protection and stewardship and arts and culture. Xcel Energy has partnered with LSS for seventeen years and specifically with the Center for New Americans for the past twelve years.

Thank you to Xcel Energy for your generosity, compassion and commitment to our students. We are thrilled to see our students “xcel” thanks to your sponsorship!

Kate Harris  ESL Instructor & Career Navigator 

LSS Center for New Americans

P:  605-731-2000  | F:  605-731-2059

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100  Sioux Falls, SD 57103

LssSD.org


National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

September 21, 2021

What is National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week?
September 19 to 25 is National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. This week focuses on public awareness and understanding of the essential role of adult education and family literacy in the workforce.


Why is literacy important?
Statistically we find that illiteracy leads to a multitude of socioeconomic problems.
Illiterate adults are:
• 2x more like to be unemployed
• 3x more likely to be in poverty
• 4x more likely to be in poor health


At LSS Center for New Americans, we serve an average of 793 adult English language learners every year. We offer courses in English language acquisition, cultural orientation, workforce training, job interview skills, and citizenship education.


Adult education is essential for workforce development. Statewide statistics show that adults who complete a course have a 54% employment retention rate after 6 months.


For more information on a state level, here is Governor Noem’s press release this past week: https://news.sd.gov/newsitem.aspx?id=28528.


As teachers, here at Center for New Americans, we are very blessed to continue to help our students reach their goals and become productive, successful members of our society.

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


Bring It On! Hybrid Classes: Making it Work

August 10, 2021
The OWL allows students to see, hear, and communicate during hybrid classes.

For the past several weeks, students have been slowly filling our hallways and classrooms again. Yet, it is a quiet transition, with only a few in-house spots available while the majority of students remain online.


This hybrid design was proposed to help students remain in English classes while still allowing for social distance and safety. Currently students are given the option of in-house or online attendance.


Creativity has made this model work for our students. Online students attend classes via Zoom while in-house students are able to see and communicate with the online students via OWL and projector. Additionally our volunteers are also still able to assist in the classroom via Zoom and are happy to help in any way.


“The hybrid model has been a learning curve for sure, but the students are engaged and we are happy that we can accommodate their need for both in-person and online instruction.”
-Kate Harris: Adult ESL Instructor and Career Navigator


There are benefits for both the online and the in-house model. Online classes provide students who otherwise could not attend due to health issues, child care issues, work schedule issues, etc., the ability to still receive quality instruction. The in-house model gives the benefit of a more traditional classroom, face-to-face instruction, interaction, and no need to rely on technology. Regardless, opening up the hybrid classes has added a new and exciting dynamic to our classrooms.


The hybrid class is challenging but we say, bring it on!


Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


A Celebration of Cultures

June 29, 2021

The Festival of Cultures drew a large and diverse crowd to Falls Park on a beautiful Saturday in June. Blue skies and lots of sunshine brought together vendors, singers and dancers and plenty of  food from all over the world.

A beautiful morning to start setting up for the big event

Mayor Paul TenHaken kicked off the event by reading the World Refugee Day Proclamation, informing the audience of the significance and importance of the refugee population. 

The World Refugee Day Planning Committee which included LSS, the Presentation Sisters, South Dakota Voices for Peace, Caminando Juntos, the Multicultural Center, Sioux Falls Public Library, and other amazing community advocates, put together a booth at the Festival to celebrate our refugee community in honor of World Refugee Day. 

Falls Park was full of people, and we were so happy to welcome many visitors to our booth to read poems written by refugee students from the Center for New Americans, play trivia about refugee resettlement topics, and learn more about the refugee community in Sioux Falls.

One of our newest entrepreneurs from the refugee community, Nadifa Mahamed

Lindy Obach, ESL instructor, staffed the booth with many wonderful volunteers throughout the day. “We had so much fun meeting people and telling them more about the vibrant refugee community here in Sioux Falls. Our trivia game was a big hit, where we asked questions about refugee resettlement, language, geography, and United States citizenship. The day was awesome, and we connected with so many people.” 

Written by Lindy Obach and Silke Hansen, ESL Instructors at LSS-Center for New Americans

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103

1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


The Problem with Stress

June 15, 2021
Photo by Errin Casano on Pexels.com

Today we had the vocabulary word, “defect.”  This is a simple enough word, commonly used in both written and spoken English.  It means of course that is something is not quite right; an item is not quite perfect.  It is defective. 

However, that same word takes on a whole new meaning with a different pronunciation.  A simple change of stress from the first syllable to the second, and now we have “to defect,” i.e. to leave one’s country in order to live in a competitor country.

Word stress can completely change the meaning.  It is this simple misplacement of stress that can confuse many people, and it is also one of the many challenges that my English learners encounter in the classroom.  Typically nouns in English stress the first syllable and the same word as a verb will stress the second syllable, but of course there are always exceptions and variables that students work on learning. 

Here a list of some of the most common multi-syllabic homographs in English:

the desert vs to desert

a minute vs something minute

refuse vs to refuse

a project vs to project

an object vs to object

As an English speaker, I follow the stress-timed rhythm of English to clarify and understand what is being communicated.  I naturally open my mouth wider, speak longer and louder, clearer, and change my pitch to stress the correct syllable of each word. 

Unfortunately word stress cannot be learned overnight.  In the past seven months of teaching intermediate English speakers, my class has had a daily warm-up to recognize both the number of syllables and the stressed syllable in words.  This seemingly simple activity has been eagerly embraced and practiced by the students.  My students want to speak “good English” and to be understood by everyone, and being able to both recognize and produce words with correct stress is an important step towards their goal.

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103

1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax


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