Wednesday, November 05, 2008

SL educator: Language is key to immigration issue

This assistant professor understands how important it is for immigrants to learn English if they want to succeed in this country. She has been here 11 years, an immigrant from Moscow. DP

By: Dana Larsen, Pilot Tribune Editor

For Katya Koubek, the key to understanding is to be found within the beauty of common language, and multicultural Storm Lake is a perfect place to search for that key.

The Buena Vista University assistant professor of education is becoming a national leader in the campaign to win cultural gaps through language teaching. Along the way, she is involving Storm Lake's Latino immigrant population and their perceptions of their new country.

When Koubek speaks of the immigrant experience, it is with the passion of someone who has lived it.

"I came here from Moscow," she says. "I've been 11 years in the U.S. and four at BVU, where I was brought in to develop a program to teach language aquisition. It's been so exciting, because nothing like that existed before. We have been able to create it from scratch."

Far from any traditional ports of call, BVU has been quietly working to build a population of international students, and is currently focusing on recruiting from places like Taiwan and Vietnam - not just to educate people from other countries, but because a multicultural environment is a positive learning environment is a positive learning experience even for students who grew up entirely in Iowa.

With the help of a a student assistant, Koubek gathered opinions from local Latinos at various businesses around Storm Lake.

"A lot of what we discovered about their attitudes on immigration and illegal immigrants was surprising even to us. We would like to do more work in depth on this. One thing that I thought was interesting is that we have people in Storm Lake who earned master's-level degrees in Mexico and they are working as meatpackers in our Tyson plant."
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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