This project is a collaboration between students from the English Language Learners and Art programs at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. As a librarian, I tried to increase our collection of readers for the adult population of English language learners. Much of the easy reading books available have content more suitable for children. They also tend not to represent the diverse populations on our campus. After hearing stories from English learners in Talk Time discussions on campus, I decided to attempt to create books from local talent. I was able to convince David Fox, an English Language Learner instructor, to gather student stories from his classes, with their permission. Realizing that illustrations are helpful for easy readers, I contacted an art instructor, Jason Sobottka, in search of visual content to accompany the stories. This is the story of this publication. Student work was produced between 2019 and Spring Quarter of 2021. The physical book will be found in the  LWTech library, while the ebook version is available to anyone as an open source publication. I envision this as the first version, as I hope to continue this as a new tradition on our campus.
Sue Wozniak, Librarian

The teachers of the writers and artists share their experience with this project. Working on this project has been an honor for me. As the authors’ English teacher, I had the privilege of inviting them to contribute their homework assignments to help lower-level English students advance their reading skills. Though not apparent through their writings, the life experiences of these individuals go way beyond the musings they’ve expressed on these pages. Their professions back home included, among others, those of real estate developer, farmer, IT professional, teacher and accountant. With talents such as violinists, multi-linguists, chefs and folk dancers, they are now establishing themselves in our communities in roles as varied as manicurists, volunteers, deli-counter attendants and construction workers. I am proud of them for their bravery in sharing their life experiences after having taken the courageous steps to begin their lives anew in the USA.
David Fox, English Language Learner Instructor

Faculty Librarian Sue Wozniak approached me with the idea of having students illustrate the stories written by David Fox’s English Language Learning students. Our college has a two-year degree in Illustration and is currently designing a bachelor’s degree, but at the time of inquiry, we had no specific narrative illustration classes. I thought about which class might best fit this challenge into its existing curriculum and knew that my final project for ART 121 Introduction to Drawing involves visual storytelling. I slightly modified my existing Narrative Illustration creative brief and assigned the challenge to my Winter and Spring 2021 fully online drawing classes.

Professor Wozniak and I agreed that having beginning drawing students illustrate these stories was a great idea, while respecting the challenge involved. Intro to Drawing is a foundational class, and as such brings together students with a wide range of skills and experience. It would be a fair assumption to think some students would push back on illustrating the personal stories of fellow students, especially in a beginning drawing class. However, all my students rose to the challenge.

In human evolution, images and gestures predated language. Communicating through drawing is core to the human experience. There is an honest beauty in these drawings, and the showcasing of many levels of past drawing experience and comfort levels in a published work celebrates the power of drawing. My sincere desire with this project is that each drawing and language student sees their contribution as proof positive that their message and creativity is valued. Hopefully that value will foster a desire for lifelong creativity, an appreciation of Humanities, and a love for their brothers and sisters.

Jason Sobottka, Art Instructor, Humanities Department Chair


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Stories from Our Lives: LWTech English Language Students in Words and Images, Volume 1 Copyright © 2021 by Lake Washington Institute of Technology is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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