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

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

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


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

Citizenship in the Time of Covid

March 23, 2021

In spite of being in the Time of Covid, many immigrants are still making the decision to become American citizens.  Over the past year, this process has changed to incorporate Covid-safe practices during the interview process.  I spoke with our lawyer, Dana Boroos, to get some insight on changes that have been instituted.

From the mid March, 2020, until the end of July, 2020, there were no citizenship interviews or oath ceremonies as coronavirus protocols were implemented. 

Now that interviewing has resumed, the following requirements are in place:

  • The officer and applicant must wear a mask.  If an attorney or guardian is present, they are also required to wear masks.
  • Temperatures are taken before proceeding from the waiting area into the interview room.
  • A Plexiglas barrier separates the applicant from the officer. 
  • Only up to three people are allowed into the office at one time.  If both an attorney and a guardian present, they will take turns in the interview office as needed. 
  • Attorneys and interpreters may also appear at the citizenship interview via telephone. 
  • Finally if an applicant has any symptoms of Covid-19, an outstanding test, or known exposure within the last 2 weeks, the interview will be rescheduled.

Additionally, the Oath Ceremonies look different at this time.  There have been various adaptations for the Oath Ceremony. 

  • Some applicants may receive their certificates of naturalization the same day as the interview if traveling to Omaha, NE, or Minneapolis, MN.  These are “administrative ceremonies” without a judge.
  • In Sioux Falls, the USCIS office has been holding Oath Ceremonies for 5 to 10 applicants at a time with several ceremonies scheduled in one day about once a month.  Some of these ceremonies are administrative as well.
  • The judge will attend the ceremony via Zoom when needed for name changes. 
  • The ceremony is very short, no singing or speeches.
  • All attendees are required to wear masks and socially distance. 
  • Friends and family are not allowed to be present. 
  • Again, if the applicant has any symptoms of Covid-19, an outstanding test, or known exposure to coronavirus within the last 2 weeks, they are asked to reschedule.

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

The First Time

November 17, 2020

As we all know, November 3 was voting day.  We were reminded that many people participate in this privilege.  This day marked the first time for many new Americans to vote in their democracy.  It was a privilege to be celebrated and the results were greatly anticipated.

Here at Center for New Americans we learn that voting is a responsibility and a right reserved for U.S. citizens.  When studying for the naturalization test, students need to know the answers to the following questions:

  • What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?  To vote
  • Name one right only for United States citizens.  To vote in a federal election
  • What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?  Voting and serving on a jury

According to https://americanhistory.si.edu/citizenship/ Preparing for the Oath:  “It is the responsibility of the United States citizens to vote in federal elections.  Voting is important.  However, there is no law that says that citizens must vote.”

Another question that is asked during the naturalization interview is, “Why do you want to be a citizen?”  As a citizenship instructor, I hear the answer, “America is my home!  I want to vote!” over and over.  I also hear, “I want to be part of a democracy!” 

We are so happy for our new citizens that voted this year.  Congratulations!  Here’s to many more years of voting and participating in our democracy. 

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


October 27, 2020

Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church upholds its name. 

Updated Technology in the Classrooms Helps Provide Successful Online Classes

A couple of years ago, Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church had set aside money in their yearly Outreach budget to support a new refugee family.  However, this year in light of the pandemic, an alternative was needed for the designated funds.  The Outreach Committee discussed the situation with the LSS Development Department, and it was decided to donate the $5000 to the education department at the Center for New Americans in order to support technology in the classroom.

The LSS Center for New Americans provides English classes to preliterate through pre-GED students, vocational classes, and citizenship classes to refugees and immigrants within the Sioux Falls community.  The classrooms were dramatically changed this past March when the program searched for a safe, online solution.  As of today over 150 students are attending classes via Zoom, but with outdated laptops and lack of appropriate microphones and speakers, the initial launch of classes was accompanied with an array of technology challenges. 

This generous donation supported the purchase of essential technology for the Center for New Americans.  Classrooms are now equipped with instructor laptops, audio-speakers and microphones.  Now limited in-person students and virtual students will be able to communicate with their teachers and their classmates. 

Carole Chell, Outreach Team Leader, and also a volunteer for Lutheran Social Services, says, “I’m surprised how well it [using Zoom classrooms] has gone.  The students have adapted well!”

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 Foundation Empowers Sioux Falls Immigrants To Succeed in the Workforce

February 19, 2019


Students from across the globe work together to learn more English and develop both job and academic skills.

A grant from the Xcel Energy Foundation provides intermediate (literacy level 3) and advanced (literacy level 4) English classes for our students. With this grant we have been able to teach literacy skills for our students as they also work on College and Career Readiness Skills. Students learn important vocabulary and skills to help them secure and maintain jobs, and, if they so choose, continue on with their education.

Xcel Energy is a major U.S. electricity and natural gas company operating in eight Western and Midwestern states. The company is committed to providing cost-effective, clean, responsible energy delivered with the highest standards for safety, reliability, and responsiveness. Xcel Energy supports communities in four important focus areas: STEM education, workforce development, environmental stewardship, and access to arts and culture. Xcel Energy has supported LSS since 2004 and the Center for New Americans since 2009.

One Burmese student says that for her, the most important thing about English class is that “my English is growing a little” every day.

College Readiness Skills help students work hard to develop the reading and writing skills needed for college. Students learn to make predictions, answer comprehension questions, cite evidence, read charts, edit, etc. Students often come from an interrupted education background and may or may not have written in their own language. Learning to write a coherent paragraph is an accomplishment that many students cherish. Many students have not had the chance to write entire paragraphs in English before and are very excited to go through the drafting process, learn to communicate with clear, organized thoughts, and express themselves.

Well over half of the literacy students have never had the opportunity to use a computer before coming to English class, and it is very important to them to learn how to use technology in American society. Students also master the use of online translators and learn to search the Internet for information.

Career-Readiness Skills are important for our students to become fully productive members of American society. Students learn to write resumes and cover letters, learn the in’s and out’s of job seeking and the interview process, and they also develop the career-readiness skills and vocabulary to succeed in their chosen fields. Some of the other skills include reading charts, work schedules, inventory lists, menus, and receipts. Students have learned to write messages to supervisors and co-workers, use computers to access email and navigate the Internet to search for information and find jobs.

Talking with my students, a student from Guatemala says that literacy classes “open opportunities” for new jobs and help him identify and “understand many safety problems,” that could occur at the work site. In addition he says that working with computers in the classroom has taught him to “navigate, because it has a lot of English and sometimes there are no options for translating.” He states that, “A good English class provides many options.” The Xcel Energy Foundation helps provide these options, empowering adult English learners to meet their goals by gaining practical college and career readiness skills to use the in the workplace and in their ongoing studies.

Thank you, Xcel Energy, for your financial generosity and partnership, which is helping refugees and immigrants at the LSS Center for New Americans.


Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

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