Doniyor Yusupov, a sophomore from Uzbekistan, is halfway to being fluent after six months in the program. While he knows a handful of other languages, he said English was the hardest to learn. Without Cyphers and the ELL program, he fears learning the language would have taken him at least five times that.
"If you are learning on your own and you don't have a teacher it can take you like five or six years to learn it," he said. "I have friends who they learned by themselves and it takes a long time."
Doniyor, along with Jakhongir Yusupov, a junior, are now in honors math classes and exiting the program is in both of their near futures. Doniyor would like to go to a prestigious college and work in economics or engineering while Jakhongir would like to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting.
So Da Lam, a sophomore from Vietnam, is preparing to transition out of the program. She takes honors courses, can read 200 pages a week and is also learning Spanish. The English Language Learners program has led her to nearly master the language and has also given her relationships that she would not have had otherwise.
"You can understand that you are not alone. There are other people that understand what you are going through," she said.
Cyphers beams with pride over the success of her students. While her goal is to help them succeed, it's a bittersweet feeling to see them move on from Clinton High School.
"We want them to succeed. We have very high expectations. It makes me very happy, but I am sad when they graduate," Cyphers said. "We are like a small family. They are like my children. When they leave home, you are sad."
The statistics of success According the National Center for Education Statistics, between 3 and 5.9 percent of students enrolled in Iowa's public schools in the 2010-2011 school year were English language learners. These students often have a harder time in school than their peers. The Iowa Department of Education shows that in the 2011 to 2012 school year, English language learners had a four-year graduation rate of 73.91 percent while the same rate for all students was 89.26 percent.