School Bulletin: English teacher offers more than language lessons

School Bulletin: English teacher offers more than language lessons

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --A Milwaukee teacher was recently named the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's Global Educator of the Year, but her school is a hidden gem that deserves recognition too.

"I've learned about cultures that I never would have known existed," Erin Sivek said.

She's an English language arts teacher at the MPS International Newcomer Center, and her students come from all over the city. But really, they're from all over the world.

The center is for kids in 4th through 8th grades, who are new to this country or refugees. Part of Sivek's job is to help them learn English, but the learning doesn't stop in the classroom.

"They don't just get to be a kid in this possibly terrifying new place where they don't really know the language that well, and then [they] are often the interpreters for their families," Sivek said.

While the students are adapting to life in Milwaukee, Sivek said she's adapting to their needs as well because some kids are from Africa. Some are from Latin America, where her Spanish-speaking skills come in handy. Still other students are from Asia.

"I was told I would have Burmese students, but many of them were minority," Sivek said. "So, they were Karen students, Chin students, and addressing them as Burmese students wasn't appropriate because that wasn't their culture."

At times the program has just a few dozen students, but by the end of the year, Sivek said sometimes there are 100. It's all about having an open mind and finding ways to work together.

"So many languages, so many cultures. They're incredible," Sivek said.

After more than a decade at the Newcomer Center, Sivek still finds the energy of kids and their motivation inspiring. She also said that one of the best parts of teaching is seeing how the students find success after they complete the program.

"I've been very fortunate to see former students who are in college now or have graduated and are now working in the community and for their own community," Sivek said.

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