Student in the Spotlight — Yahir Zapata-Guerra

Fisher kindergartner a ‘benchmark student’

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Fisher kindergartner Yahir Zapata-Guerra holds up some sentences he wrote in English in his free time at home. He said he enjoys practicing and likes being able to use English and Spanish words.

It has only been a matter of months since Fisher Elementary School kindergartner Yahir Zapata-Guerra arrived in Marshalltown from Mexico, but his teachers are impressed with his progress in classes.

“When he came to Fisher, he said very little. He wouldn’t talk, he was withdrawn,” said teacher Hilary Klyn. “I don’t know what happened. We were just talking and a light switch came on and he’s talking a lot, he’s participating, he’s catching on to new concepts that we’re learning.”

She said that is impressive given how much Yahir’s life has changed in less than a year.

“I just think it’s kind of neat, coming from Mexico right in August, he’s pretty much a benchmark student now,” she said.

Yahir’s English language learning (ELL) teacher Kristianne Buck said Yahir’s knowledge of English has exploded since he came to Marshalltown.

“He’s a very hard worker. Since the day he’s come, he’s been given a lot of new vocabulary words,” she said. “He takes those words and then he writes sentences and he likes to show his learning through speaking. He’s advanced very quickly for the short time that he’s been here.”

Buck said Yahir is one of 127 English language learners at Fisher. That’s about one-third of the total student population at the building.

Yahir said he likes being able to say words in two different languages. He also said his favorite part of the school day is when he is learning in Klyn’s classroom.

“I like to read books and color,” Yahir said of his favorite class activities.

He said he likes to read about animals, particularly lions.

Outside at recess, Yahir said he enjoys a good game of tag with his friends. It is a skill he practices at home with his older brother, he said.

Yahir said Marshalltown has taken some getting used to. Other than the language, one big change has been getting used to how big Fisher is compared to his much smaller school in Mexico.

Buck said not only is Yahir an excellent and hardworking student, he is also a great classmate.

“He’s also just a generally kind and friendly student. He’s a good friend,” she said.


Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or