New Americans Zooming into Employment

May 25, 2021

13 months ago, I could have told you very little about Zoom. Prior to 2020, I used Zoom maybe a handful of times to join various meetings, but I had no other Zoom skills besides clicking a link and hoping I ended up in the right place. Fast-forward through a global pandemic, and I might consider myself a Zoom expert.

We have all emerged from 2020 with about a bajillion Zoom meetings under our belt. The phenomenal team I teach alongside not only deserves a Masters in Zoomology themselves, but they have all taught our students, some as true beginners to English and technology, to expertly navigate their way through a Zoom class.

Our students in varying levels can join, leave, and rejoin a Zoom Meeting; mute and unmute themselves; turn on and off their cameras; join and ask for help in a breakout room; send messages through chat; put a cute emoji up in the corner; and, most impressively, join their English or citizenship class without being sent an invite. Words like join, download, swipe, mute, audio, video, leave, and breakout room are all now part of their everyday vocabulary.

We knew that Zoom would benefit our students in the obvious ways: they would continue learning English in the safety of their homes, they would see and talk to their teachers and classmates every day, and they would become much more comfortable with technology. One not-so-obvious benefit is that their Zoom proficiency has landed them jobs!

More than once has a current student applied for a job and then were asked to interview over Zoom. Because the students learned Zoom at LSS, they could confidently tell their potential employer that they could use Zoom, and, because the LSS teachers incorporated Zoom etiquette into our lesson plans, the students knew to sit in a quiet place with good lighting and professional camera angles to make that first impression the very best it could be.

And it worked! Those Zoom interviews turned into job offers, and our Zoom-savvy students turned into full-time workers. We couldn’t be more proud of the digital literacy skills our students are learning and demonstrating!

Written by:

Lindy Obach ESL Instructor
LSS Center for New Americans

New American Student Spotlight: Carlota Zetino Tovar

March 9, 2021

Sioux Falls is filled with generous businesses and organizations that partner together to better serve the people living in this city. One such business is Xcel Energy. Xcel Energy has supported high-level adult ESL education here at the LSS Center for New Americans for over 10 years. One way we thought we’d say “Thank you!” is by highlighting one of our most dedicated students, Carlota Zetino Tovar. Carlota has graduated into our high level speaking, writing, and citizenship classes, and because of grant support from Xcel Energy, she gets the opportunity to learn daily by working on her literacy and vocabulary skills.

Carlota in Zoom English Class

After our Zoom class, Carlota stayed on the computer with me so I could ask her some questions about her life and her commitment to her education.

Carlota is originally from Santa Ana, El Salvador – “the little country in Central America,” she tells me, and she came to Sioux Falls seven years ago. I asked her why she came to the US, and her answer was family. “My family lives here in Sioux Falls. Only me … was staying in El Salvador. They helped me for immigration to the United States.” Carlota has five sisters in Sioux Falls, and her husband has very recently come to live permanently with her here. “My husband says he is too old to try this new living, but I am happy he is here.” Now Carlota has her whole family near her.

Before Carlota came to South Dakota, she worked for thirty-two impressive years in the Santa Ana health care industry. She was a nurse for twelve years and then worked as a psychologist for twenty years. Her caring and capable nature certainly shines through in the classroom, and it’s easy to see her as a caregiver. Carlota currently works in a cafeteria and she was recently moved to the cashier position because her English skills have improved so much

Carlota started taking English classes at LSS because of language barriers she wanted to overcome. “I need English classes for more opportunities for work. It’s necessary for different relationships everywhere: for the business, for the bank, for the clinic.”

Carlota is very happy to be living in Sioux Falls. “Yes, I like it! It’s a beautiful city, it’s little. For me, it’s not dangerous. There is no problem for the traffic. It’s different than a big city. I am liking Sioux Falls very much.”
Carlota has a big goal she is working toward: getting her American citizenship. She is currently taking citizenship classes on the weekends studying American history, government, and the N400 interview. “I am grateful I can study the citizenship. It’s important for me. When I get my citizenship, I will have more opportunities. For example, for voting, for choosing the president.”

Carlota is a shining example of a motivated and empowered ESL student. The LSS Center for New Americans is thankful for Xcel Energy for helping make Carlota’s dreams a reality!

Thank you, Xcel Energy!

Written By:

Lindy Obach, ESL Instructor
LSS Center for New Americans
P: 605-731-2000
300 E. 6th St., Sioux Falls, SD 57105

Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

New Americans Visit the Library!

September 3, 2019

“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”              Albert Einstein

I always knew I wanted to be an English teacher – always. So you can probably guess that one of my most favorite places in the world is a public library. Whenever I moved to a new city, the very first thing I did was go get my library card. Ben Franklin did a lot for our country, but I rank his founding of free libraries as #1.

New Americans Visit the Library!

The gang in front of the Downtown Library.

Imagine my delight, then, in taking a fun and diverse group of students to the Sioux Falls Downtown Public Library, all of them for their very first time! Our school is right on the beautiful river walk, so Teacher Mary, Volunteer Karen, and I walked along the Big Sioux to 8th Street with everyone, and then two blocks later, we were at the library.

FIRST, though, we had to stop and take a picture underneath the “Arc of Dreams.” I sure can’t think of a better group to stand beneath this special sculpture than these brave people who have survived the unimaginable and are now realizing their dream of living in freedom in a safe and healthy community.

New Americans Visit the Library!

American dreamers underneath the Arc of Dreams!

The Downtown librarians greeted us warmly upon our arrival and ushered us into a conference room to explain the day: library tours, getting library cards, and time to explore.

New Americans Visit the Library!

Three smart and helpful librarians took care of us!

I really couldn’t have asked for a better day. I just about burst with pride as I watched them get their library cards—just think of how much their worlds expanded with that little piece of plastic. One student told me, “Teacher, I think I will come here a lot. No more sitting at home with the TV!”


Some students found books right away that they checked out; others explored the online learning the library offers. And others really enjoyed the comfy chairs. 🙂

A huge THANK YOU to the staff at the Downtown Public Library. You sure made our day special.

By Lindy Obach, LSS Center for New Americans ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free

Why It Is Not a Good Idea to Use a Torch during a Power Outage in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (and Other Musings)

August 27, 2019

However, it is a perfectly sensible idea if you come from that part of the world where British English is spoken. But English is English is English, right?

Well, I’m sure that’s what our students here at the Center for New Americans thought when they landed in their new home. Many of them studied English in their home countries, be it at school or to get prepared for their move to America. Many of their countries were colonized by the British, so their English was influenced by British English as well.

Today, there are more than 80 countries in the world today where the official torchlanguage is English. Most of these are former territories of the British Empire. Over 2 billion people in the world speak English, but word choice and pronunciation vary greatly.

English is the official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other international organizations and businesses. These differences come up in the classroom almost on a daily basis.

When we practice how to write a complete sentence and I explain to the students how important it is to put a period at the end they look at me with a bewildered look on their faces. “Oh, you mean a full stop, teacher.” Yes, that’s what I mean.

When we talk about the possibility of a power outage during a thunderstorm, they tell me not to worry. “We have a torch in our house, we will use a torch to give us light.” An American torch would have a disastrous effect; the term flashlight would be much more appropriate here.

In Sioux Falls, our students may live in a second floor apartment and take the elevator up to their floors. A speaker of British English, on the other hand, would describe the same home as a flat on the first floor and use the lift to get there. In America, a woman might wear a bonnet, whereas in British English this same word describes the hood of a car. Americans eat French fries while the British eat chips. Many American children wear braces on their teeth, but British men wear braces to hold up their pants. And the list goes on.


With that being said, Cheers!

Written by:
Silke Hansen | LSS Center for New Americans ESL Instructor and Interpreter

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

605-731-2041 direct, 1-866-242-2447 toll free

Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities

Images courtesy of and Pinterest



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