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Program helping PC freshmen be more interested

By Luke Smucker
Posted Aug 25, 2018 at 9:45 AM

A group of 40 to 50 freshmen at Prairie Central High School are taking part in the school’s new Freshman Cohort program this year. The core subjects of math, science, English and social studies are split between six teachers into two classrooms in an effort to offer students a STEAM-based teaching approach.

“In the past, those four classes would have taken up a freshman’s entire school year, but what we are finding, is that our freshmen were not getting into the electives, the actual programming that gets them excited about being in school and thinking about what they are going to do in the future,” Tonya Dieken, district director of curriculum for Prairie Central, said.

“So, a group of us met around the middle of last year to design a program that we thought could move forward successfully. It was great, several staff members jumped right in. So, we started with meetings once a week on Fridays to plan the program.”

Essentially, the group of freshmen have their core subjects split into two classrooms. In one room, the students will meet for 90 minutes with a math teacher, science teacher and a support teacher. The other classroom combines English with social studies and another support teacher.

“At the high school level, our teachers haven’t done as much co-teaching as other teachers have within the district,” Dieken said. “So it has been a learning curve for the staff involved. As they have developed the new program, they also received different professional development opportunities to help move the program forward.”

Because the math and English curriculums don’t offer much room for change, the social studies and science curriculums are being realigned for the purpose of finding commonalities.

“We basically looked at two classes where we thought the kids could use the most support, the entry-level math and English courses, put our team teachers in place and built on it from there,” Dieken said.

“It’s great because our teachers’ big focus is on relationships with the students and figuring out how to get those relationships to help the students be more successful. We have a very low drop-out rate here at Prairie Central and we are very blessed for that. But, one or two always slip through and we want to make sure that we are trying to catch them and help them maintain an interest in school while finishing what they started in their following years.”

In addition to encouraging the students, this group of teachers is also encouraging each other. Dieken said the teachers are getting together for 30 minutes each day to talk about what went on in class the day before and what their plans are for the future.

On Fridays, administrators get together with the teaching team to talk about how the project is going and what other support is needed.

“I used to be a high school teacher, so I know it can be isolating,” Dieken said. “You get in deep with your content and you don’t always have that time to collaborate with other teachers. So, I think it’s great that we are starting with just a small group of our incoming freshmen and a group of 13 teachers and administrators.

“Hopefully, we can continue to work together and create a really strong freshman learning program.”

Jeana Forsyth, the program’s science teacher, has been teaching at the school for 18 years. She says the biggest difference between her regular curriculum and what she is teaching through the Cohort program is the inclusion of math.

“We’re integrating more math into the science classes to give them more of a STEAM approach,” Forsyth said. “I completed some math training over the summer to help me prepare for this. We are trying to get the students engaged and also show them how math overlaps with science and vice versa. My goal is to help our students find a love for both subjects.”

Forsyth doesn’t mind teaching a class with other teachers, in fact, she said the program is helping her to learn new strategies to improve her teaching.

“We’re still getting into the swing of collaboration with the kids, but I think as the program continues the students are really going to see the value in what we’re doing,” Forsyth said. “I’m hoping that we could see this program be a part of every freshmen’s experience at Prairie Central for the next school year, if at all possible.”

 

 

Congressman Adam Kinzinger Holds Health Care Roundtable

U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger made a stop in Pontiac Tuesday to speak with regional leaders about topics that affect rural health care.

The congressman took part in a health care roundtable discussion at OSF HealthCare Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center. The roundtable was co-hosted by OSF Saint James and the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council.

Representatives from OSF HealthCare shared questions and concerns with Rep. Kinzinger, along with the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council, the Mayor of Streator and other community leaders from Heritage Health, Evenglow Lodge, and The Pointe at Pontiac.

“This is an opportunity for me to hear from you, find out what you are seeing on the ground and take your concerns back to DC,” Congressman Kinzinger told the group.

The group discussed topics like the need for mental health resources and the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Kinzinger also touted the importance of innovation in health care, and how new technologies have the power to drastically reduce the cost of care.

“One of the areas I am actually really optimistic about is the role that I think innovation and technology are going to play in bringing the cost of health care down,” he said. “For instance, look at wearable devices that let you know if you are pre-diabetic or you have heart disease. If we can get people living healthier and being more aware of it, we can bring that cost curve down. And as you know, if we bring the cost of medicine down through innovation, you have better quality, better access, and frankly there’s more money to spend on people at that point.”

Another major issue in the 16th Congressional District is the challenge of opioid addiction and abuse. Rep. Kinzinger says the concern is a common theme throughout the district, and says he wants to find new ways to introduce alternative pain management methods.

“We all know the problem when it comes to opioid abuse, but we also know there are people who legitimately need these medicines,” he said. “We are trying to figure out areas where there are government barriers to find alternative methods to treat pain. There is a very important need for opioids, but is there something out there that in some of these folks’ cases that is non-addictive and can do the same kind of thing? And if there is, is the government blocking either the introduction of these medicines, the research of it? So we are trying to find ways for the government to back off and give room for innovation.”

Rep. Kinzinger was first elected to congress in 2010. He currently serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the House. His subcommittee assignments are Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, Communications and Technology, and Energy. The Congressman also serves on the Committee of Foreign Affairs and serves on the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

 

SOURCE: OSF HealthCare
https://newsroom.osfhealthcare.org/congressman-adam-kinzinger-holds-health-care-roundtable/
August 8, 2018

Boys & Girls Club gets computers from ATR

By Paul Westermeyer
Staff Reporter | Pontiac Daily Leader

The ever-increasing prominence of the STEAM initiative is usually thought to only encompass or concern schools. But on the local level, the local after-school Boys & Girls Club of Livingston County program has made it an extracurricular activity as well.

On Wednesday, the Boys & Girls Club received eight laptops from Advanced Technology Recycling free of charge, a donation facilitated by the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council.

“What we were looking to do when starting the STEAM program was to appeal to the high school students at the Boys & Girls Club,” said Jodi Martin, the interim chief executive officer of the local youth organization.

“We were brainstorming about ways in which we could recruit teens into the Boys & Girls Club at Fairbury and in Pontiac. So we got in touch with (GLCEDC CEO Adam Dontz) and he reached out to ATR and helped get this setup for us.”

On the importance of technology to the Boys & Girls Club’s broader mission, Martin said that while the national organization was trending in this direction, it was still fairly new on the local level.

“It’s been prevalent across Boys & Girls Clubs across the United States to now focus on the three key priority outcomes, which are academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles,” she explained.

“Within that goal of academic success, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America has 98 programs. But what’s been different here is that we haven’t accessed that much in the past, and now we’re seeing what it takes to be more successful.”

As evidence of STEAM being crucial for a flourishing academic environment, Martin referenced the tech-savvy culture of the junior high students of Pontiac School District 429. Last month, Pontiac Junior High School STEAM teacher Christine Chiodo told the Daily Leader that PJHS was one of 98 schools chosen for the state’s “Students for the Information Age” TECH 2018 event. The PJHS STEAM program also received similar assistance from the GLCEDC.

Martin expressed gratitude to both ATR, for the donation, and to Dontz, for facilitating the gift.

“If it weren’t for Adam and the GLCEDC, we wouldn’t have these laptops,” she said. “He’s really the reason this is happening, and it’s really great that ATR very generously donated to help us kick this off.”

For his part, Dontz commented that the GLCEDC helping out the Boys and Girls Club was in line with his organization’s goals of ensuring a workforce that could readily meet the job market of the future.

“Increasing the knowledge and skills of youth in our area is a critical component to ensuring the the longevity of a high quality workforce,” he said. “The GLCEDC is currently working with the Boys and Girls Club to promote their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programming and we approached one of our members, Advanced Technology Recycling, and requested a donation of laptop computers to help the Boys and Girls Club.

“I’m deeply appreciative of ATR’s generosity and the Club’s commitment to advancing its program offerings.”

 

GLCEDC 9th Annual Golf Outing

Dear GLCEDC Members and Friends:

The GLCEDC will be hosting its 9th Annual Golf Outing on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at the Dwight Country Club. The GLCEDC Golf Outing is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with existing friends and to meet new people!

Event registration and sponsorship information for the outing are contained in the two documents attached. If you have any questions regarding the outing, or would like additional information, please contact me at adam@glcedc.org.

I look forward to seeing you at the 9th Annual GLCEDC Golf Outing [and hopefully before!].

Thank you in advance for your support of the GLCEDC’s work to increase commerce and economic opportunity in the Greater Livingston County area.

REGISTRATION FORM

SPONSORSHIP FORM

 

Pontiac Heartland Community College Youth Enrichment Summer Programs

[CLICK TO DOWNLOAD INFORMATION]

Pontiac Heartland Community College Youth Enrichment Summer Classes

[CLICK TO DOWNLOAD INFORMATION]

Pontiac Heartland Community College Cinco De Mayo Celebration

[Pontiac Heartland Community College Cinco De Mayo Celebration]

Pontiac Heartland Community College History Classes

[CLICK TO DOWNLOAD INFORMATION]

New downtown coffee house offers crafted flavor

By Luke Smucker
Staff Reporter
The Daily Leader
February 14, 2018

A new cup of joe is making its mark in downtown Pontiac.

After months of planning and preparation, business owners Scott and Jennifer Cranford and co-owner Marty Fannin opened The Cup and The Scone coffee house, located at 213 W. Madison St., on Feb. 9.

Until he became an owner, Scott Cranford didn’t intend to operate a small business. Initially, he just wanted to work part-time at Starbucks, but after he and his wife came back from a trip to Europe, Jennifer suggested a coffee house.

“Although I’ve been a small business owner before, this is our first foodservice-based business,” she said. “When I lived in Minnesota, I ran a medical billing company for just under 20 years as well as a driving school. I also helped with the business planning of The Blend, a coffee shop in Washington, (Ill.), with my neighbor at the time.”

“So, I had an idea of the business structure of owning a coffee house, but my husband and I are really new to operating one.

Fortunately, we partnered with Marty Fannin, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years. So, all of the foodservice-based information is coming from him. “Together, I think the three of us make quite the team.” Even with an idea and the proper people in place, the business still needed a location.

After a lot of prayers, the idea to buy the location on Madison Street came to Scott during a walk with his wife.

“We were walking down Madison Street and it just came to me,” Scott said. “I wanted to call it ‘The Cup and The Scone’ because I really like old English coffee houses. Although we’re not located directly on the square, we like this location because everybody
seems to drive down Mill Street in front of Bernardi’s II and DeLong’s and most people make that left turn on to Madison
Street.”

The coffee houses’ rustic interior is made up of ideas from the Cranfords’ daughter, Olivia, and Jennifer Cranford. The owners say they can comfortably seat about 80 people.

“We wanted something with an old English feel, something like you might find in Europe,” Jennifer Cranford said. “We wanted something that is cozy, comfortable and a little timeless. Our daughter, Olivia, is a little more cutting-edge, so she pushed us to go a little bit modern.”

Although the decorating is mostly complete, Scott said there are still a few finishing touches to be added. “We want to give each booth a stretched canvas, which depicts the history of old English coffee houses,” Scott said. “That is my contribution.”

The Cranfords bought the location last September and spent the past five months in construction.

Along the way, both had their fears and doubts. During the rough times, the couple says they looked to one another and God for support.

“There were moments leading up to this, where I was pretty overwhelmed, to say the least,” Jennifer said. “In those moments, I was glad to have my husband with me, he’d always keep me calm.”

“I’ve had my moments, too,” Scott added. “I remember one time when my wife and my daughter walked in here and I was sitting on some of the building materials. The walls had just been tuck-pointed and acid washed and there was dust everywhere.

“We were talking about when we were going to open and all of a sudden, I just remember saying, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me. When are we going to open? I don’t even know when we’re going to get the floor cleaned.’”

In the darkest moments, the Cranfords say Fannin always knew how to find the answer.

“Marty would stop us and say, ‘let’s pray about it for 10 minutes.’ Every time we prayed about it, someone came through for us — it has been very humbling,” Scott said.

The coffee house’s signature roast is a five-bean blend called Black Velvet, which features rich caramel notes.

“It is good hot, but it gets better cold and it’s great at room temperature,” Scott said. “A lot of people will tell us, ‘I need cream and sugar,’ but then they take a couple drinks of Black Velvet and they’re OK drinking it black, I have never seen anything like it. I tell people all the time, ‘adding cream and sugar to this coffee is kind of like adding ketchup to a steak at a restaurant.’”

When it comes to coffee, the owners say there isn’t much they can’t make. Their specialty is a Kyoto cold brew. Kyoto is a traditional Japanese cold brew that is never heated.

“It takes 10 to 12 hours to make, but I can get unbelievable flavors out of it — like nothing you’ve ever had before,” Scott said. “You’ve heard of craft brews before? This is craft coffee. I think we’re the only ones who offer a Kyoto south of Chicago.”

The coffee house also features a number of baked items to complement their coffee.

“I don’t want to compete with Pfaff’s Bakery because I love it so much,” Scott said. “However, I like scones and I wanted to bring that European feel to this place by offering some scones and muffins to compliment our coffee.

“Our baker, Anna, has knocked it out of the ballpark since we opened. People are coming to get so many scones that we have used up what we thought would be enough scone mix to last us three weeks.”

They also offer a gluten-free option for those with food restrictions. “We want people who are on a gluten-free diet to be able to enjoy our food,” Scott Cranford said. “We want people who are eating a gluten-free muffin or scone to feel like they are eating the real deal.”

The Cup and The Scone is open Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“We don’t want this to be a place you only come once per week,” Scott said. “We want people to come and hang out here with their kids. This isn’t another restaurant where we want you to eat and leave, we are hoping you will stop on in and stay a while.”

For more information, search for “The Cup and The Scone” on Facebook, or visit thecupandthescone.com.

 

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