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New LaPorte County teachers shine and dine at annual networking luncheon

By: Sarah Corn Last Updated: August 8, 2019

What do Oakland Athletic’s star pitcher Sean Manaea, prolific Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts have in common? 

All three were guided to graduation—and eventually fame and fortune—by the hard work and dedication of LaPorte County School teachers.

That potential for success innate to all students, and exemplified by celebrity alumni, is what motivated Riley Elementary School’s newest second-grade teacher, Angelica Kasper, to pursue her career.

“It’s not about the income, it’s about the outcome,” she said.

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Kasper was one of the guests of honor at Thursday’s 2019 New Teachers’ Luncheon, hosted by the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership (LEAP) and sponsored by Newby, Lewis, Kaminski & Jones, LLP (NLK&J, LLP).

“I was not expecting any of this, so it was wonderful to see the community really care about us as educators and teachers,” Kasper said.

Local businesses, alongside school superintendents from around the county, welcomed the class of teachers and administrators who joined the La Porte, New Prairie, South Central, Tri-Township, New Durham and La Lumiere schools for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

In addition to lunch and a goodie bag of supplies, each new hire was recognized individually in turn, and celebrated with a round of applause.

LEAP Executive Director Bert Cook said he looks forward to the event every year. The yearly luncheon held at The Allure in La Porte has become a key networking and relationship-building opportunity for new staff and local businesses.

“It’s about creating a community and making sure that we know each other,” Cook said. “La Porte is a small enough place where that really makes a difference.”

As part of the ceremony, LEAP recognized Teacher of the Year Amy Jackson and Student of the Year Carley Hobbs for their academic excellence and contributions to the LaPorte County region.

Nick Otis, Attorney and Partner at NLK&J, LLP, graduated from La Porte High School. He said he understands first-hand the importance of recognizing and strengthening the connections between those who educate potential employees, and those who want to hire them.

“It really is a big circle,” Otis said. “A lot of the small businesses want local people to come back and work for them. They have the most success by hiring grads that went to our school corporations because they are invested in the community.”

LaPorte County school administrators agreed. Mark Francesconi, Superintendent of the LaPorte Community School Corporation, spoke about the importance of responding to changing community priorities.   

“One of our goals is to engage our staff and students in the community,” Francesconi said. “More and more now we’re starting to see a need to involve our students in education that prepares them for skills they’ll need to be involved.”

A close-knit support network is a big draw for new teachers, according to Dr. Sandra Wood, Superintendent of MSD of New Durham Township’s Westville Schools. 

“Our teachers like Westville and feel that the small community, the small town atmosphere and smaller class sizes are very appealing to them,” Wood said.

“That was definitely the lure,” agreed Jeremy Lowery, the new Head Football Coach at La Porte High School. “It didn’t take long for me to get an idea of the passion and excitement for sports in this community.”

He, his wife and their two young children moved in just a week ago from Southern Indiana. They can’t wait to explore their new life in La Porte.

 “We just want to dig in and be a part of the community,” Lowery said.
More information about the LEAP mission and future events is available on their website at laportepartnership.com.