TWIN FALLS — Lincoln Elementary is pioneering a program this year to teach students who are learning English in their regular classrooms, rather than taking them out for part of the day.
A regular classroom teacher and an English as a Second Language teacher works in each of these classrooms, said Principal Beth Olmstead. The ESL teacher helps with lesson plans to include ESL strategies to ensure students get a boost in vocabulary and language instruction. Then, the two teachers work together to instruct the class. This co-teaching system, Olmstead said, helps children who are learning English to “learn from their peers rather than being isolated.”
Middle and high schools in the district have also started to use a similar model to instruct students who are still learning English. It’s significant for Lincoln, though, because all elementary-age English-language learning students in the district are sent there. About 90 elementary schoolers, or about 17 percent of Lincoln’s student body, are English-language learners who are part of the co-teaching program.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, a Republican, visited Lincoln on Thursday to learn a bit about the co-teaching program and to donate to about 100 surplus children’s books he got from the Library of Congress. As he visited classrooms, the teachers pointed out how many students they have from different countries — including Mexico, Iraq, Sudan and DR Congo.
Crapo went to the library first, where he read the book “Whistle for Willie,” about a small boy who is trying to learn how to whistle so he can call his dachshund, to a group of fourth-graders, answered their questions and told them about the Library of Congress.
Crapo said he learned about the Library of Congress’s Surplus Books Program when his chief of staff was eating cereal one day and noticed an advertisement on the side of the milk carton. Crapo has also used the program to get books for several public libraries recently, including in Hailey.
Then, he visited third- and fifth-grade co-teaching classrooms, also answering students’ questions about his job. The students were familiar with who the president is and some asked Crapo if he had met President Trump or been to the White House. (Yes to both.) As Crapo told one class, he has met five presidents — George H.W. Bush and every president since — and worked legislatively with four. (The first Bush was almost at the end of his term when Crapo first entered Congress.)
Olmstead tried to explain to each group of kids the role a senator plays, saying his job is to advocate for Idaho’s interests in Washington, D.C.
“Is he kind of like the president for Idaho?” one fourth-grade boy asked in the library.
“I like that,” Crapo laughed.
“He’s one of them,” Olmstead replied, before settling on “president’s adviser for Idaho.”
Crapo then told the fourth graders he is from Idaho Falls, was elected to the Senate and now splits his time between Idaho and a basement apartment in D.C.
The children were also curious his trips from D.C. to Idaho. One boy asked if Crapo had a limousine (he doesn’t), and others asked about his frequent airplane trips.
“Many people think the government provides us an airplane,” Crapo told the fifth grade class. “It doesn’t. ... I fly in the regular commercial airplanes that everyone flies in.”