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.”
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
August 8, 2018
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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