Amanda Matthewsby Amanda Matthews
Lincoln Elementary United Way Community School Director

Approximately 55 percent of students at Lincoln Elementary in South Salt Lake are English Language Learners (ELLs). Renate Brunsvik, Lincoln’s ELL Instructor, is a vital part of the Lincoln community. I sat down with Renate to get her perspective on our students and the work that is happening to support them.

Lincoln Elm ELL Instructor, Renate Brunsvik (left) and ELL Paraprofessional, Pare Kaderi (right)
Lincoln Elm ELL Instructor, Renate Brunsvik (left) and ELL Paraprofessional, Pare Kaderi (right)
  1. How long have you been at Lincoln?
    1. 25 years
  1. What do you love most about working here?
    1. The students and their diversity and their backgrounds.
  1. Tell me about the students here at Lincoln.
    1. The students I work with come from all over the world and speak almost 30 different languages. Their parents want to be supportive but usually don’t speak English. However, we love what they add to the school and bring such cultural diversity. Families are quick to come in and help their kids in math. The students that I work with are usually very eager to learn and want so much to fit in. I see them becoming Americanized, they love soccer and pizza. One thing I have noticed is that it takes a while for students to integrate and they often hang out with students from their same culture. One thing I would wish for them is that it was easier for them to feel like a complete part of the school. But that just takes time as they learn English.
    2. I love hearing the parents and children talk about what they miss about their home countries. Our Arabic families talk about palm trees, and wonderful fruits, the Burmese talk about the greenness of the jungle, their gardens, and the fishing, which they still love to do here. The Nepali Families talk about holidays and special foods, however, many Nepali families only remember being in refugee camps. Many parents were well educated back home, however, here they work as sweepers or cooks. They are looking at America as a way for their children to succeed educationally as they had before they came here. We notice that parents all value education because they made sure that even in the refugee camps there were schools set up.
    3. Also, I just love the colorful clothes, the food, the different holidays and celebrations.
  1. We recently had training as a school around supporting ELL students through co-teaching in the classroom. What was your biggest take away?
    1. ELL students need access to grade-level academic material for all subjects, and I’m hoping that as we keep them in the classroom more, we will see them grow. They understand science and math, they just don’t understand the English that goes along with it.
  1. If you could ask our community to help support our students, what would you like to see?
    1. Read with them every night and help them with homework. It’s wonderful when families new to this country have one friend that comes over and supports them in understanding American culture and the education system. I would also like to see all our refugee parents be able to get jobs.
Lincoln Elem students with backpacks from Stuff the Bus
Lincoln Elem students with backpacks from Stuff the Bus