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LP County Teachers Gain Skills at Summer Tech Conference

Educators from all across La Porte County got a high quality opportunity to learn how to
integrate technology and computer science into their classroom. The Unity Foundation
coordinated this first ever event so teachers could be close to home and attend for free. The
Summer Teacher Tech Conference was held at Purdue University Northwest Westville campus
on July 30 & 31 and featured knowledgeable, interactive sessions.

Local educators, Nextech, Edge Factor, and La Porte County Public Library provided concurrent
training sessions with hands-on materials, while representatives from Sullair, Arconic, and Ivy
Tech shared the types of jobs that coding skills are valuable for. Sullair’s HR manager Kelly
Molchan surprised conference attendees with a truckload of school supplies donated by Sullair’s
employees! This further reminded educators of how much La Porte County cares and helped
them prepare for students that come to school without the necessary tools. Teachers also had
the chance to win over $4,000 in coding materials for the classroom and received attendance
gifts including reading glasses from Peepers in Michigan City. Peepers supports teachers
throughout the year through their Peepers for Teachers program and other events.

In December 2019, more than 12,000 students throughout LP County public schools
participated in the Hour of Code in a county-wide effort coordinated by Unity Foundation and La
Porte County Public Library, and supported by the school corporations. After this successful
event, teachers asked for training in incorporating coding activities into their daily lessons. They
know that coding teaches problem solving, communication & how things work. They want our
County’s kids to have an advantage when they graduate – and these skills can provide that! In
response, Unity Foundation worked with other local organizations to coordinate a Summer
Technology Training Conference for local educators.

The La Porte County Public Library, Purdue Northwest, and the Skill Up Network immediately
jumped on board to sponsor this important event along with Unity. Earlier this week, more than
80 educators attended the free training on their own time to bring new ideas to their classrooms.
On July 30, Maggi Spartz, Unity President, kicked off the conference by saying, “Unity saw an
opportunity to support teachers even more with a local, free and high quality summer learning
event. We love our teachers and want them to feel supported.” Purdue University Northwest’s
Richard Rupp, welcomed the teachers to the PNW Dworkin Center, while commending their
commitment to ongoing learning. Blair Milo, Indiana’s first Secretary for Career Connections and
Talent, was the keynote speaker. She reminded the group how important this type of training is
and how glad she was that they were attending. The group was motivated by her reminder that
statistics show that 85% of today’s kindergarteners will end up doing jobs that do not even exist
today. Automation makes way for new jobs – and we want our students ready for them!

Maggi Spartz, President of Unity Foundation said, “Through the work of Chairperson Linda
Wiltfong and the planning committee, local educators are heading back to school with new
knowledge, additional motivation to implement the Department of Education’s computer science
standards, and even some school supplies for their classrooms or students! We are proud to be
part of the community lifting up teachers and showing appreciation for their important work.”
Post-event surveys indicated great satisfaction with the knowledge gained, as
evidenced by this quote from a teacher, “I really enjoyed getting to experience the kits
that are coming to our schools. It allowed me to gain insight and information into how to
use these devices with my students.”

Another attendee said, “I think it was great that this was free to educators in our
community. Hopefully more people will take advantage of this.”

One teacher was most excited about connecting with other La Porte County educators,
“This was a great opportunity to collaborate with other schools.”

The collaboration amongst school corporations and the outstanding presentations by local
educators have created relationships and contacts that all of those involved hope will continue
into the school year. They are thrilled that so many teachers took their own time to gain new
knowledge to take into their classrooms this fall!

More photos from the 2 day event can be found on Unity Foundation’s Facebook page.

Since 1992, Unity Foundation of La Porte County has served donors, nonprofits and local
communities. As La Porte County’s community foundation, it manages approximately $32
million in assets, administers more than 325 charitable funds, and has distributed approximately
$19 million through direct grants and scholarships. The Council on Foundations has deemed
Unity Foundation in compliance with all Indiana and national ethical and operating standards for
community foundations.

Unity Foundation’s mission is to strengthen La Porte County now and forever by building
permanent endowments; providing leadership; offering philanthropic vehicles for everyone; and,
being a catalyst for social and economic vitality. For more information, please visit www.uflc.net
or call 219-879-0327.

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