Time for a Change

April 7, 2017

Spring is in the air! This morning I saw a bird singing on the parking ramp railing, and I even dared to wear sandals and capris this week.  Everywhere I look there is green grass poking up and any trace of snow has disappeared.  It’s certainly a time for renewing and growing.

Boxes, chairs, and tables ready for the big move to East Bank


With that being said, LSS Center for New Americans has been very busy this week packing for our move to the Campus on East Bank. After waiting, talking, touring, and waiting some more, it seems surreal to be packing up everything and moving into our new building.  Teachers and students alike are excited about the move.  For months students have been asking about the new building, and are so very eager to start this new chapter in their lives. Many students are happy about the little things (or maybe they are the big things) that will come with the new building such as a parking lot and a nearby bus stop.  Teachers are excited to have permanent classrooms and a place to call “ours.”


It is of course bittersweet to be leaving the building we have occupied for the past three years. I found I was a little teary eyed on Tuesday as we held our last classes in the “old school.”  However, my students were very happy to hear that the tables, the chairs, and (most importantly) the teachers, would be moving to the new school and would be greeting them when English class starts again.

Boxes and boxes all ready to go


Stacks of packed boxes and empty rooms greet us now, but soon we will be unpacking again and setting up new classrooms. It is time for our new journey to begin.  So this week, we are dreaming of the changes about to come…new building, new classrooms, new experiences…and it feels quite appropriate that spring is here now.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

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 http://www.coabe.org or contact awards@coabe.org.


Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

The Great Pumpkin

October 25, 2016


This week I have noticed the leaves changing on the trees from lovely green to bright yellow and red. The frost covers the grass in the mornings, and the sun hides until about 7 o’clock.  It is most definitely autumn!

With autumn come Halloween and Thanksgiving, two decidedly different holidays, but which hold a common thread…PUMPKIN! Everywhere I look I see pumpkins…pumpkins on front porches, pumpkins at road side stands, pumpkins in the grocery store, pumpkins on my kitchen table…autumn is definitely the time to enjoy carving pumpkins…and cooking pumpkins! I don’t know of anything better than fresh homemade pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving…

However, pumpkin doesn’t just excite Americans; pumpkin is a staple in many, many countries. My African students eat pumpkin, my Asian students eat pumpkin, my European students eat pumpkin, my Central American students eat pumpkin…basically ALL my students eat pumpkin regardless of where they are from.  And it’s not just served in pumpkin pie!

My Nepali students in particular happily inform me that they eat pharsi with rice when we discuss pumpkins in class.   Recently my Oral 1 (beginning literacy) students from Nepal and Burma shared their favorite way to cook pumpkin, and I thought it would be nice to share a new pumpkin recipe with you.

Nepali/Burmese Pumpkin Recipe


2-3 chili peppers (maybe 5!)

Small pumpkin (peel, cut, and cook)

3 potatoes

1/2 onion

1 c of water

2-3 medium tomatoes

Add garlic, ginger, cumin, and turmeric.


Cook all together. Put on rice.  Eat.  Enjoy!

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

5 Reasons You Should Become a Classroom Assistant

October 14, 2016

Today, we share 5 reasons why you should become a classroom volunteer and help the new students!

Reason 1 – Travel the world! (while staying in Sioux Falls) – In our classrooms, we have students from across the globe learning together. One moment you may be sitting next to a former doctor from Russia, the next reading with a farmer from Ethiopia. You’ll be able to see and learn about the culture of other countries without paying the cost of travelling or feeling the effects of jet lag – could it be easier?

Level 4 Students learning about US Universities

Level 4 Students learning about US Universities

Reason 2 – Make new friends – The students see our volunteers as both teachers and friends. While you’re here be prepared to hear choruses of “Teacher, Teacher! Guess what?” and “Teacher, my sister is coming to Sioux Falls; I bring her to meet you!” and even “Teacher, I made this cake for you.”

Reason 3 – Help fulfill dreams – Many of our students were unable to attend school in their homeland as a child due to war and violence. Now that they are here, they have the chance to. You can help by practicing flashcards and having conversations with them!

Reason 4 – Learn something new! – Not only can you learn about other cultures but you might learn more about America too. As one volunteer said, “I couldn’t believe what they have to know [for citizenship]! I couldn’t answer any of their questions!” Volunteering in a citizenship class is great way to brush up on your civics knowledge. Stun your friends with all the information you have!

Teaching gets physical when learning action words like "unconscious"

Teaching gets physical when learning action words like “unconscious”

Reason 5 – It’s fun and easy – You don’t have to be an expert to volunteer. We’re just looking for encouraging and welcoming individuals to help our students learn English. We laugh and joke while we teach in our classrooms. Just try not to smile while you’re here!

So if you’re looking to have fun, give back, and learn more about the world, become a classroom assistant! Sign up today to begin volunteering or call 605-731-2009 for more information!


Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans

Meet the Student: “Grandfather Karna” part 2

September 29, 2016
Karna Mongar, Age 91, Working on his English Literacy Skills

Karna Mongar, Age 91, Working on his English Literacy Skills

Last week we introduced you to one of the amazing students we have here at the LSS Center for New Americans, Karna Mongar. Karna, originally from Bhutan, came to America from Nepal in August, 2012.

Karna, our oldest student, is always outgoing and positive. He ritually presents his teachers with a handful of Halls cough drops after daily classes. Karna talks with everyone he meets in as much English as he can muster and then resorts to Nepali, his native language, when he runs out of words in English.

Because of his always fascinating and humorous English/Nepali anecdotes, I wanted to learn a little more about Karna. So I asked my co-worker, Deo Rai, to be our translator for a brief interview. Here is what we learned!

I had always thought Karna was my oldest student and was probably in his seventies. So, I asked…

Laura: How old are you?

Karna: I will be 92 in October.

Laura: What languages do you speak?

Karna: Bengali, Hindi, Dzongkha, Nepali and Chinese (but I have forgotten the Chinese).

Laura: How did you learn these languages?

Karna: In my job. I was a police man in my village in Bhutan. Because I was very active, I was asked to become the bodyguard of a Bhutanese official, the Kumar of the Kalimpong region.

(Deo explained that Kalimpong was a part of Bhutan but in the 1950’s it was taken over by India.)

I became the village head; I mediated conflicts and had governmental duties like making sure roads were maintained. I had that role for eleven years.

Laura: At the age of 91, you are very intelligent, cheerful and healthy. What advice do you have for people who are younger than you?

Karna: Nothing. I have tried to give advice in the past and no one takes it, so I have no advice to give.

I passionately pressed the issue…

Laura: But I am asking you, so maybe I will listen to your advice! Can you please tell me?

Karna: Work hard. Don’t leave a job incomplete. Do some exercises. If you do a good job, your country will appreciate you.

(Sounds like wise advice to me!)

Laura: Karna, you are very healthy and strong for your age. How do you stay this way?

Karna: I seem younger than 91 because of my job in Bhutan. I wasn’t farming and building roads like other people. I was a police officer and a body guard. It wasn’t physically hard work.

Karna continued to describe his good health…

Also, I walk two times each day. If someone else walking on the sidewalk tries to compete with me, they can’t win!


written by Laura Smith-Hill, English Instructor

Meet the Student: “Grandfather Karna” Part 1

September 20, 2016
English Instructor, Laura Smith-Hill, and her student, Karna Mongar

English Instructor, Laura Smith-Hill, and her student, Karna Mongar

We would like to introduce you to one of our students here at the LSS Center for New Americans- Karna Mongar, also known as “Grandfather Karna.” Karna makes an impression on everyone who has the opportunity to meet him.

Karna came to America from Nepal in August of 2012 . He is originally from Bhutan.

Now, he takes the bus to our center for English Classes daily, Monday through Thursday from 10 to noon. Karna, the most senior student in class, is always able to quickly complete the task at hand whether it is speaking, reading or writing in English. Sometimes, when he’s in an especially chipper mood he will quietly sing a traditional song in his native tongue – Nepali. Everyday after class, he chats with his teachers, says “Boli aunsu” (“I will come tomorrow,” in Nepali) and gives them a heaping handful of Halls cough drops. Now I have two bags and a bowl overflowing with cough drops in my office, but Karna won’t take “no” for an answer. He maintains this daily ritual as faithfully as he comes to class.

Karna is relentless in his desire to communicate with everyone he sees. He will use all the English he knows and when he runs out of English vocabulary he will continue in Nepali, whether the listener can understand him or not. When we don’t understand him, his smile, teasing expression and the laughter from his classmates bear evidence that Karna has a great sense of humor.

I teach Karna in a beginning literacy class. One day, I came into the classroom to find him standing at the whiteboard addressing his classmates. He told me, “Today Karna Teacher. Nepali Teacher! (unintelligible Nepali words followed by) Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Dzongkha, China!”

I didn’t need to know Nepali to understand he was showing off the list of languages he can speak.

Of course, I smiled – “OK. No problem. Today, Teacher Karna. No Teacher Laura. Teacher Laura is a student today!” As I moved to sit in his regular seat at the table, Karna turned the classroom back over to me.

Karna has piqued my curiosity with his brief English-Nepali stories. It is surprising how much you can understand from someone using 50% English and 50% of their native language supplemented with gestures and facial expressions.

After class, Karna shared a little anecdote with me. He repeated his list of languages, marched like a soldier and mimed a rifle in his arms while speaking Nepali. So I understood that in addition to some English, Karna speaks five other languages and this has something to do with him being a soldier of some kind back in Bhutan.

I wanted to learn more so I asked my co-worker, Deo Rai, to be our translator for a little interview. Stay tuned for next week’s blog from the Center for New Americans program for the results of our interview with “Grandfather Karna!”


written by Laura Smith-Hill, English Instructor

A West African Proverb: A Life-Lesson from Your Own Hand

September 1, 2016

I have the privilege of teaching an English class for high-beginning adult English learners. The beauty of teaching adult learners is that the teaching goes both ways.

While I facilitate my students’ language learning, I feel they teach me more. They teach me about their cultures, their perspectives and values. They teach me from their wealth of experiences and their own living examples of perseverance.

Here’s an example.

Last week I started a unit on Health for Community Living. As we reviewed vocabulary for the parts of the body, my students were most curious and enthralled to learn the unique English names for each finger. The pinky finger takes the prize for evoking the most giggles and smiles!

Body part lesson

Adult English Class students at the LSS Center for New Americans review vocabulary about parts of the body.


As I taught them this finger vocabulary, one student with especially sophisticated speaking skills taught all of us a proverb from her native country of Guinea, in West Africa. Here is the gist of her lesson within our English lesson.

In Guinea, when someone is having conflict with others we remind him about the fingers on his hand. These fingers were not created the same, we say. Some are big, some are small. God created them that way. Just like people. Some are big, some are small, some are rich, some are poor, but God created us that way.

When we share this saying with people, they cool down.


A few of the morning English Class 2 students pose to remind us each hand and finger is created to be different; just as we were created to be unique individuals.


This little proverb reminds us that in the midst of disagreement – and  sometimes  conflict – we can have peace when we remember we were created to be different after all. Like the contrasting landscapes we see driving across the United States, the variety expressed through the people of our nation also makes this a nation that was created to be beautiful in its diversity.

If you are interested in both supporting and learning from adult English learners in our community, contact Kristyne Walth to ask about becoming a classroom volunteer or a family mentor at Kristyne.Walth@lsssd.org

Written by Laura Smith-Hill, Education Program Coordinator for the Center for New Americans

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