The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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May 25, 2013

'Now I can talk to anyone'


Clinton High School has offered the English Language Learners program for seven years, with Cyphers at the helm for the past five. Cyphers said she's never had a student from her program drop out.

This year the program had 10 students that come from countries such as Guatemala, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Mexico and China. Eight of the students are members of Clinton's 3.0 Club for having a GPA of 3.0 or higher and three of the students will graduate this year, with two of the three graduates receiving academic college scholarships. These students also work and stay involved in the school.

"They're all exceptional," CHS Principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones said.

Cyphers sympathizes with her students because 11 years ago she immigrated to the United States from Russia. While she knew English, having been an English teacher for 11 years prior, she spoke it with a British accent that gave her trouble when speaking to Americans.

"People would say, 'I'm sorry, could you repeat?' It was frustrating," she said. "But now I'm very comfortable. I think with having my background I know different techniques for teaching."

Students work with Cyphers for two periods a day to learn English or strengthen their English skills. The rest of the day they spend in classes with the general population.

Each February, they are given an English proficiency test to see where students fall on a scale of one to six. Once students achieve a six, they exit the program and their entire days are spent with their native-English speaking peers.

Cyphers has seen above-average growth in her students.

"Usually it's first level, second level, third. With our students, they jump from level one to level three," Cyphers said. "They are really moving very fast."

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