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

What’s in a Name?

December 10, 2019


It is a unique world that I teach in. On a typical day I have students from Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Congo, Burundi, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Ukraine…and a handful of other countries. I find that even what appears to be the simplest name may actually be a tongue twister for my American English tongue.

And yet, I am told, and firmly believe, that names show respect to people and help to create community and camaraderie. More importantly, as a teacher, it shows that I care when I try to pronounce a name correctly, even if I fail miserably.

And just What’s In a Name?

My obsession with names began long ago. I would spend hours as a child going over my grandmother’s name book and carefully pick out the best names with the best meanings for my future children…or a character in my most recent attempt at novel writing.
When I became an English instructor at LSS, my obsession with names continued. I found it fascinating to hear all the different names and pronunciations. I also found it intriguing that all my Nepalese women seemed to have the same middle name…Maya…and my Nepali men a common middle name…Bahadur. In fact I was so intrigued that I finally asked why? After a lengthy explanation, my students told me that Maya means “love” and Bahadur means “bravery.” They also informed me that first names, too, had meanings, such as Santi means “peace,” Chhabi means “key,” and Phul means “flower.”

Recently I was able to discuss names with some of my other students from around the globe. We discussed: Who chose their name? Does their name have a special meaning? What is common practice with naming children in their home countries? Students were more than eager to share with me (and often laugh with me as I tried very hard to get the names right).

One interesting thing I learned was that a student from Sudan was named according to the day of the week. If a child was born on a Tuesday, the girls were all one name and the boys another, and then of course the other days had their own corresponding names. He said though that things have changed over the years, and this is not necessarily followed any more.

Additionally, another Sudanese student shared that children receive their own name plus the name of their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Thus a child could be named Aziza Mohammed Ali Osman (child-father-grandfather-great-grandfather’s names respectively) and this goes for either a boy or a girl.

My own name was always kind of an embarrassment for me as a child, and even today I have students calling me “Hi There,” “He There,” and “Heater.” Coincidentally a gentleman from Ethiopia shared that he, too, was always embarrassed about his name as a child as it is not a common name. In fact it was at the suggestion of a family friend that he received his moniker. Then one day he heard his name (at the refugee camp no less) and there was another with his name. He said he was so relieved to meet someone else with his name.

Finally, for today, a student from China explained that their name means “Red Sun.” For him, this was a good name, to be named for the beautiful red sun in the sky. Certainly this was a name that he was proud of, just as my other students are proud of their names and their heritage…just as I am proud of my name and my heritage, too.


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

Technology in the Classroom at the Center for New Americans

September 18, 2019


It’s not just English anymore.  Refugees and immigrants that come to the United States are no longer just bombarded with a new language.  They also have to quickly and successfully learn to navigate technology.

For instance, each morning I come to work.  I log into a computer and sign in for the day.  I check my email for any new messages.  I upload documents to share with my students.  I search electronic files and print papers.  At home I pay my bills, shop online, and communicate with family and friends all over the United States and beyond.

So it goes without saying that to live in America people need to be very fluent in technology. Students look forward to learning technology in our classrooms.  They know that technology is necessary for navigating this new country they are now living in.

At the Center for New Americans we help students learn about technology in the classroom.  In addition to computer specific classes, the Center for New Americans offers monthly technology days in all English classes and often includes technology in daily lesson plans.

Many of our students are dedicated to learning English and mastering computer technology.  They faithfully come to combined English and technology classes.  When asked why they are so dedicated and why technology is so important to them, this is what they answered:

One student, a hardworking young man from Sudan, says he came to the United States “because  it is a free country.” English is important to him, because it’s “the official language in the U.S.  I need to speak and write it,”  but he believes technology is equally important because, “I want to learn computer to apply for a job.”

Another student, a young mother from Ethiopia, came to America because, “I want to live in a free country.” She says that in addition to learning English, “Computer skills have become more and more important as companies have started to depend upon computerized technology to get almost every work done.”

I am so very proud of my students for recognizing the importance of technology and embracing it with such determination.  Kudos to you and here’s looking towards an amazing future!

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


Black Hills Federal Credit Union Donation

August 13, 2019


Black Hills Credit Union presents the Center for New Americans with a check for $1800.00


Community support is vital to our success.  Recently the Black Hills Federal Credit Union chose to lend a helping hand and support our English program here at the Center for New Americans.  A donation of $1800.00 was given towards the purchase of much needed document readers in our classrooms, and with this donation, we were able to purchase a document reader for every classroom. In addition, their generous donation enabled us to purchase extra headphones, new power adapters for our laptops, and a replacement laptop for our mobile student computer lab.  Our instructors are so thrilled and very thankful for the new document cameras that enable them to project images of papers and other items on the whiteboards.  The Doc Cams were immediately put to use.

Students at the Center for New Americans range in age from 18 to 95. Some of the students come as far away as Bhutan or China or as close as Eritrea or Congo.  Some students are neighbors from El Salvador or Venezuela.  Some students come with minimal English whereas others may have a great foundation.  Regardless, all the students have one common goal:  Learn More English.


New Document Cameras Waiting to be Installed in the Classrooms

All our students will benefit greatly from this generous gift as teachers use them in the classroom.

We want to thank the Black Hills Federal Credit Union for their dedication to the community and their wonderful support to our program.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Students using one of the document cameras and headphones to learn how to use tablets in the classroom.



LSS English Instructor Laura uses the document camera in the classroom



A document camera is used to project a workbook map during citizenship class.

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

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

605-731-2041 Teacher’s Office | 1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax

Home Remedies from Around the World Part 2

June 4, 2019

Here are a few more tips I learned from my students over the past couple of months while discussing health care.

Home Stomachache Remedies



Stomachaches plague both the young and old.  Perhaps we eat the wrong food or catch a nasty bug.  Maybe we are just stressed out.  Regardless, dealing with a stomachache can be quite the challenge.  My students had great suggestions on the best home practices.


Ethiopia ~ When I have a stomachache, I use lemon, sugar, and water, mix it together and I drink it.  I eat a little ginger.

Guatemala ~ When I have a stomachache, I drink lemon juice and tea for the pain.

Eritrea ~ When I have a stomachache, I drink lemon water and I change my food.  I make rice to eat.

Sudan ~ When I have a stomachache, I take a little walk.  I take a nap.  I drink tea from a tree root.

Ukraine ~ If we have a stomachache, we lie down and then do massage.

So I really did have to look up why lemon (a definitively acidic fruit) would help an upset stomach, and apparently a little lemon juice can go a long way in helping the stomach clear out any leftover irritants.  It gives the stomach the extra acidity to heal itself.

Home Headache Remedies



Headaches, too, are ever present and affect us all.  A debilitating headache could potentially affect a person for several days.  There are often so many triggers too, from dehydration and hunger to lack of sleep or a sinus infection.  Here are the best ideas my students gave me.


Ukraine ~ When I have a headache, I try to relax and put a cloth with mint oil on my forehead.

El Salvador ~  When you have a headache, put a cloth on your forehead.  Drink chamomile tea.  Use lavender oil.  Drink ginger tea.

Sudan ~ When I have a headache, I take a shower with cool water and sleep.  I also eat onion, tomato, and red peppers.



Although my research could give me some insight into the herbal remedies my students suggested, I was not able to find as much information on the vegetable-based remedies as I had hoped.

Peppermint oil in fact helps stop migraines.  Ginger has been used for headache treatments for over 2000 years.  Chamomile relaxes the body and relieves stress, and there may also be benefits to lavender oil.

When it came to the vegetables, this is what I learned.  Veggies high in water content such as cucumbers and tomatoes can help with hydration and relieve headaches.

Hot peppers, on the other hand, can help with congestion as we sweat, cough, and cry while eating them (haha!).  Since some headaches can be caused by sinus congestion, this could be a useful remedy.

There was, however, no mention of onions.  I suppose they could also have high water content and if hot enough could help clear out congestion.

Overall I have found the suggestions of my students very intriguing and definitely worth trying. So bring on the spicy salads and lemon ginger tea!

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

A Visit to the State Capital!

March 26, 2019

official photo with governor 2019


In spite of blizzards and flooding this past month, 48 adult English language learners from the Center for New Americans along with three English instructors and a volunteer, were able to visit the state capital on Tuesday, March 12.

Leaving Sioux Falls in the early morning hours, students representing 20 different countries headed towards Pierre, South Dakota. On the way they stopped and visited Dignity: Of Earth and Sky, at the Chamberlain wayside stop. This was just the beginning of a very eventful and fulfilling day.Full shot of Lady Dignity and our group 2019
The group arrived in time to see the House and Senate in session. Students and teachers alike felt teary-eyed as Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden introduced them to the Senate.

2019 fun photo in Governors Office
Later Governor Kristi Noem met with students at the capital rotunda, where she spent a brief time speaking and answering questions and then posed for a photo. Additionally Representative Michael Saba greeted the students in the governor’s office.

Pierre Lunch Group Photo 2019
Senator Reynold Nesiba, Laura Trapp of the Department of Labor, and Director Kendra Ringstmeyer were able to meet the students for a lovely lunch.

The group also spent time touring the capital building, visiting the Korean and Vietnam Memorial, and learning about South Dakota history at the Cultural Heritage Center. At the end of their busy day, they managed to make it home before the next snowstorm! Way to go!
Thank you to the South Dakota Department of Labor, Adult Education and Literacy, and Lutheran Social Services for sponsoring the event.


Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

Our Students, Our Poets

March 5, 2019

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” – Rita Dove

My Oral 4 class recently dedicated nearly a month of their lives to one of my first loves: poetry. As their teacher, I may have had a hand in forcing their dedication, but nevertheless, they welcomed this challenge and tapped into their impressively creative brains.

Over the course of our lesson, the students read, analyzed, wrote, and recited poetry; for many of them, this was the first time they had done this in English. I was so excited for them as they wrote their first poems and proudly (and maybe a bit shyly) stood up in front of their classmates and read them aloud. Of course, the audience is always warm at our school, so the poets were met with cheers and whoops and claps.

The last, and most challenging, poem the students wrote was the “Where I am From” poem. This is from a template developed by Kentucky author and teacher George Ella Lyon. I love this poetry exercise; I think it really helps to turn everyday students into magical poets.


The poems are proudly displayed in the Center for New Americans hallway.

I am sharing a few of the poems my students wrote here, but, if you are ever at the Center for New Americans, I reallyreallyreallyreally really encourage you to walk down our hallway and read all the poems for yourself. They are piercing, beautiful pieces. Our students’ words will stay with you for a long, long time.


Where I am From
I am from animal skin,
from fish and charcoal.
I am from the blue flag, big ocean, and tall camel.
I am from the jasmine flower and mango tree,
white petals and yellow, nice smell.
I am from Somali Danto and very helpful people,
from Ibrahim and Takow.
I’m from eating and storytime,
from pray! and study!
I’m from Islam.
I’m from Mogadishu, Somalia,
rice and cambulo.
From the love and strength of my special mom.
I am from these moments.

I am From
I am from the place of enterprising people.
From the Banda and Coconut candy.
I am from the smell of wet earth and the sound of birds,
from the people of happiness, friendship, and comfort.
I am from of the harvest of corn, the beautiful carnation.
I am from San Juan Festival in Purepero and Christmas.
I am from Celebration and eating together,
from Claudia and Jesus.
I am from the Football Players and Cheerful.
I am from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church,
from the red pozole and pork tamales.
I am from Purepero, Michoacan, Mexico.
I am from those Moments.

Where I am From
I am from a nation of poetry.
I am from a nation with beautiful crops,
maize and sorghum.
I am from a country with the national flower King Protea.
I am from the family tradition of tea and incense.
I am from a tall family, and I look more like my mother than my father.
I am from Cibado and Abdulahi, from Halimo and Cali.
I am from helpful and sharing.
I am from respect! pray! and be good!
I am from Islam,
from rice and fish.
I am from the peacemaker who was finally shot.

Where I am From
I am from lemon tree.
From the blue and white.
I am from the green land,
outside, lightning, best.
I am from the crops so green,
tall and yellow in color.
I am from Sudan and the Nile,
from the Kuku and the Kaka.
I am from the mud and the rainbow,
from the mango.
I am from sky and ground.
I am from love and joy,
clouds, foundation.
From my grandfather and grandmother.


To come read these words yourself, and to take a tour of our amazing school, contact Laura Smith-Hill, our Education Program Coordinator, at 605-731-2000.

By Lindy Obach, ESL Teacher, Center for New Americans

Winter Reflections

February 12, 2019

Well, the deep freeze has hit us here in Sioux Falls, and for many of our students, this type of frigid weather is a new experience. In my advanced speaking class, we are studying poetry, and when my students were asked to think of something they were afraid of, many of them answered, “Cold weather!”

I asked my Pre-GED English students their thoughts on our winters in South Dakota. Using the sentence starters “When it snows, I …” and “Winter in my country is different from winter here because …” here’s what they wrote. Enjoy!

“When it snows, I look for any reason to go outside because I love the snow. I could be outside all day doing things like going to the grocery store, gas station, The Mall


picture from

on 41st street or just driving around Sioux Falls. When I drive I try to take some  photos or videos so that I can show to my friends from Argentina; they all love it because in Salta we don’t get snow.


Winter in the Northwest of Argentina is totally different. Winter starts in July and is not really cold; It could be 32 but not very cold.” -Student from Argentina who’s been in Sioux Falls for 7 months

“When it snows, I stay at home with my family, because it is warm; also I like to cook. My home is more comfortable, because I like to cook beef soup, chicken soup, and fish soup.


picture from wikipedia

I really enjoy cook this because my home is more warm, and -my body too.


Winter in my home town call Quesada Jutiapa is very good, winter time start on May until November. So, in Quesada sometimes is warm and sometimes is a little cool but not like here. In South Dakota we can see 4 seasons, winter, fall, spring, summer. In my country just 3 seasons not snow.”  –Student from Guatemala who’s been in Sioux Falls for 3 years

“When it snows, I feel good and I like the snow because we have to double up; and I like that very much it makes me feel warm and good and when it snow I like to cook fufu* and soup because it take away the cold from the body and it reduce the coldness. Also when it snow it makes you keep in door and makes you sleep all day for me and also for some people. When it also snow I like to play in the snow and also like to takes pictures with my family and friends.

Winter in my home country in my country during the winter we don’t see snow but we experience rain than snow. And also during the winter we also experience more sun than the winter in America. The weather is always warm and hot so we don’t experience snow but we experience more sun.” -Student from Liberia who’s been in Sioux Falls for 4 months


picture from

*Fufu is a staple food common in West African countries. It’s made by pounding starches like cassava, yams, or plantains into a dough-like consistency; it’s eaten with the fingers and can be dipped into soups or sauces.


I am SO impressed with their writing skills. Can you tell we’ve been working on semicolons? I also love reading how our students think about something that so many of us native Midwesterners take for granted or think of as ordinary (or as something awful!). These students are able to find the good.

Written by Lindy Obach, ESL and Citizenship teacher, Center for New Americans

The Heart-Shaped Holiday

February 6, 2019


Everyone is seeing red. Valentine’s Day is here. The day for lovers, for family, for friends, for co-workers – the official day when we show the important people in our lives how much they mean to us. The day is celebrated with cards, flowers and chocolates – and lots of them. Many of us grew up with the annual tradition of Valentine’s Day, we remember our parents and grandparents reminiscing about it.
But how long has this special day actually been around? The answer is quite simple: Forever. The beginnings of this romantic day are anything but romantic – they are rather mysterious. Christian and Pagan rituals evolved into the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated today.
Many legends surround the saint named Valentine. One story tells about Valentine, a Roman priest, who secretly married young lovers until he was found out and thrown into prison. There, he fell in love with a young woman who visited him on a regular basis. Shortly before his death he penned her a letter and signed it ‘from your Valentine,’ a phrase that is still associated with this special day. All the tales that speak of the beginnings of this tradition center around a romantic hero named Valentine.
The British Library in London has the oldest Valentine’s card on display – written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was held in the Tower of London. Americans started designing their own hand-made cards, beautifully decorated with ribbons and lace, as far back as 1700. In 1840 these cards were replaced by the first printed, mass-produced cards. About 150 million Valentine’s Day cards exchange hands every year, only the number of Christmas cards is higher; 85% are bought by women.
Many countries around the world celebrate the day with their own traditions. Denmark sees the exchange of pressed, white flowers called snowdrops. France, with a reputation for romance, had a rather unusual tradition. On February 14, men and women would fill up houses on opposite sides of a street. Then they would call out to each other and pair off that way. The women who were left behind later gathered for a huge bonfire where they burned pictures of the men who stood them up and insulted them greatly. Over the years, this event got so out of hand that the French government banned it altogether. In China women prepare elaborate offerings of fruit to Zhinu, a heavenly king’s daughter, in hopes of attracting a worthy husband.

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day?


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Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor

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