Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana hosted its second annual two-day leadership conference at Purdue University Northwest’s Westville campus on August 2 and 3. As a way to engage administrators, educators, and staff members, Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana opened up this conference to principals, teachers and support staff from all local Big Shoulders Fund network schools within the Catholic Diocese of Gary to learn, collaborate, and reinvigorate before heading into the 2022-23 school year.
“We discovered that a lot of our principals were in silence. While they shouldered all the responsibilities of the school, we wanted them to branch that responsibility out and share it,” said Dan Kozlowski, managing director of Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana.
Kozlowski said the event was created to help principals identify individuals in their own schools who had leadership potential. Now, the scope has broadened to teachers, staff, and other supporting roles within their schools. Participants are encouraged to learn more about sharing responsibility, what it means to be a leader, and other professional development topics.
“We have close to 150 attendees, which is almost double last year,” Kozlowski said.
The two-day long event began with a breakfast and a keynote speech from Dr. Robert Rohm, which led to breakout sessions on various educational topics. With lunch to follow and two more breakout sessions afterward, participants were also invited to join in similar activities the next day for even more opportunities to learn.
“I just want all of our teachers, principals, and support staff, to feel that they have received world-class professional development close to home,” Kozlowski said. “We wanted the feel of a national conference in their backyard.”
Kozlowski thanked his team for conducting such a spot-on conference. Gisele Jones, director of community partnerships and engagement, said the concept for this year’s conference, “Where Theory Meets Action,” came about after sending out a pre-survey to the schools within the diocese to see what needs they had for the event.
“We added keynote speakers, gifts, and prizes, just to show our appreciation for all that the educators do for the students that they serve. We also added a spa treatment for day two,” she said.
Jones said last year’s event was such a success for Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana, as well as the schools involved, that they decided to start preparing for this year’s conference in April to ensure participants had a one-of-a-kind experience.
“We started a lot earlier with our pre-surveys and getting everyone acclimated to involving teachers as well as their support staff this year,” she said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones added that this leadership conference was also a part of a larger vision and agenda.
“We need to re-envision what education looks like,” Jones said. “It’s more than getting back to learning. It’s what education can look like going forward.”
Jones said that Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana was honored to host the 2022 Northwest Indiana Leadership Conference.
“Being able to put on a conference, specifically for educators, is very special, however, being able to do this based on their requests and needs is amazing.”
For more information on Big Shoulders Fund, visit this website.