SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls is growing with people from all around the world.
This is creating a more diverse student population, and has the Sioux Falls School District working to ensure the same is happening with teachers.
This past year there was a five percent increase in diversity among Sioux Falls teachers.
Lilian Keough is a 4th grade teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary School, but Sioux Falls has not always been her home.
“When I first came here, I was only like 12 years old. I was born in El Salvador, so I was an ESL student, English as a Second Language student, so I didn’t speak any English at all,” fourth grade teacher Lilian Keough said.
While this is the third school Keough has taught in, it offers something most schools don’t.
Rosa Parks Elementary has a two way immersion program, which means they teach classes in both English and Spanish. The only other school in Sioux Falls that has this is Hayward Elementary.
Because Keough’s first language is Spanish, she is able to identify with students far beyond just the teaching of her language.
“I always thought my accent was a weakness, until I started teaching and I used it as my strength, example: ‘Hey, look I came young just like you guys, had to learn English, now look where I’m at, now I’m teaching you guys, if I can do it, you guys can’,” Keough said.
Another new recruit is Behavior Specialist Tyler Knight. He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and while he is from the United States, he noticed a culture shift when he moved.
“Primarily though, for my school, we didn’t have many Caucasian students, we would have a lot of primarily African American students, where probably here in Sioux Falls the dynamic is the exact opposite,” Behavior Specialist Tyler Knight said.
This is Knight’s first year with the school, but he already appreciates some of the differences from the one he grew up in.
“I know those are things that I didn’t have as a student growing up, you know, to learn Spanish 50% of my curriculum,” Knight said.
He understands how a diverse set of staff benefits the students.
“So if you see teachers interacting, you see your teachers working together, despite whatever differences they have, as a student, that’s that role model for those students to follow the same thing, to embrace their peers differences and understand that their peers are the same as them, they might just have a different background and that doesn’t make them any different from each other,” Knight said.
And it benefits the one on one relationship staff have with students.
“So I think the better that I can relate to them from my background, it gives me the advantage to come in and try to get to their level and see where they’re at and relate to them on that background,” Knight said.
At the end of the day, these teachers truly live to inspire their students.
“If I can do this and be all the way to where I am right now, cause right now I feel like I’m on top of the world, being a teacher, teaching small children my language, that anyone can do it,” Keough said.
Both Keough and Knight say their different backgrounds have helped them relate to their students on a deeper level.