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Pontiac Heartland Community College History Classes

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Woodland getting ahead of the game

STREATOR — Recent years have seen the job market trend increasingly toward careers requiring skills in computation, engineering and manufacturing, and the desire for education to meet those demands has expressed itself in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics academic discipline.

And Woodland High School is putting itself ahead of the curve, becoming the first school district in Livingston County to implement a STEM curriculum for all its grades, K through 12.

But ambitious programs such as these require a bit more than sheer determination and sweat — they need a serious capital investment.

That’s where the beneficence and patronage of Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council, along with Country Financial and Streator Onized Credit Union, is crucial: after the GLCEDC helped procure a seed grant of $31,000 for Woodland, the insurance agency and the bank pitched in as well.

With the investments, Ryan McGuckin, superintendent of the Woodland School District, said that Woodland had teamed with Texas Instruments to add its line of TI-Nspire series of graphing calculators to the school’s repertoire.

He believed that the science teachers and math teachers had been able to utilize such technologies to “revolutionize the curriculum,” making it even ready to tackle “the 22nd Century” when it arrives.

Hannah Cox, the STEM teacher at Woodland, works with the grant equipment and gave a specific accounting of its impact in the classroom.

“My students get to learn about things that they don’t necessarily get to see in an everyday chemistry class or an everyday math classroom,” she said. “They get to build it … They get to see how it actually works on a small-scale, and how it should work on a large-scale.”

A project that Cox is particularly excited about is the arrival of futuristic Texas Instruments TI-Innovator Rovers, purchased by the school due largely to the largesse of Country Financial.

“With Country Financial, they were able to give us money to buy what are called Texas Instruments Innovator Rovers, which are these little robots that we’re able to use with the calculators we have now,” she said, explaining that the Rovers could essentially be piloted once connected with a calculator.

“It’s really cool and I’m really excited about it,” she added.

Kevin Derossett, the representative of Country Financial of Dwight whom Cox had first approached about procuring cutting edge tech, said humorously that today’s technology made him nostalgic for a time when “you could make a computer screen flicker like a strobe light.”

On a more serious note, though, he said Cox’s enthusiasm was “inspirational” and a “great opportunity to give back to the local community.”

Lori Christopherson, a representative of SOCU, added that her employer is pitching in for consumable supplies for Woodland.

“We were told that they needed consumable products so … we found out what that need was,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we were giving back to the community in that regard.”

In addition to the recent bequests from SOCU and Country Financial, McGuckin also expressed gratitude to the GLCEDC for helping kick off Woodland’s significant expansion of its STEM curriculum.

“If not for the generous grant from the (GLCEDC), we couldn’t do this,” he said.

CEO Adam Dontz said that after the initial grant, which he likened to a seed, was planted, he was encouraged that other community organizations and businesses helped the school bear fruit.

“I think we were the initial contributor to help Woodland really develop its STEM program, and what I was really pleased by was that from our initial contribution, not only has Woodland received additional benefit and partnerships with Country (Financial) and SOCU, but then they’ve also brought in other local businesses like Iberdrola and others.

“I was happiest to hear from what Ryan conveyed is that, stemming from what we did, it has really become a community effort.”


The Daily Leader
By Paul Westermeyer
Staff Reporter
January 18, 2018

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Interview on Pontiac Caterpillar’s Future

WJEZ interview with Caterpillar’s Pontiac Factory Manager Steven Harding and Adam Dontz of the GLCEDC.

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Jobless Rate Creeps Up In October

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District Moving Full STEAM Ahead

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WEEK News: Community Leaders See Growth at Caterpillar’s Pontiac Facility

WEEK News 25
November 2, 2016

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CAT Hiring in Pontiac

September 15, 2016
CIProud.com (link to article)

We’re used to seeing Caterpillar in construction zones, but in Pontiac, we are seeing construction zones in Caterpillar.

“By restructuring and making the space more efficient and by having a large facility, a million square feet, we could leverage a lot of existing resources here,” the facility’s product manager Susan Toher said.

The CAT facility in Pontiac is going through a $12 million upgrade to make room for the production and people they are getting from plants in Thomasville, Georgia and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Shannon Ziegler was working in Thomasville when he learned the company was consolidating.

“It all sunk in, you know, yeah, we’re going to be losing our jobs, but we’re going to make the best and we’re going to do the right thing and we’re going to keep our integrity high,” the third shift group manager said.

He is part of the select few who were able to move back to Pontiac. It’s the same facility where he originally got his start with the company.

“How could you not want to come back to a facility and a community like this,” Ziegler said.

“We have had a few folks that transitioned with the business. Many of the jobs, most of them were hires from the local area,” human resources manager Kevin Kramer said.

Robert Armour is one of those locals.

“I know a couple people who have worked here, so I decided I’d give it a shot,” he said.

He’s been with the company for just two weeks. And he’s not alone.

The Pontiac facility has hired 80 new employees with plans to hire at least 80 more much to the delight of those in the area.

“To see everything grow into Pontiac, it’s going to be fantastic,” Ziegler said.

Aside from the open space, the company chose Pontiac because Livingston County was able to offer them incentives to stay put.

The transition should all be complete by the end of this year.