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Gift Supports Education Technology Center 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, opportunities for gainful employment in the mining, forestry and fishing industries brought many Swedish immigrants with related work experience to the Upper Peninsula. The Hagberg family was among them, settling in Amasa in Iron County. Florence was the oldest of five children in the household. As a teenager, she showed incredible resilience in overcoming a series of obstacles. First, breast cancer claimed her mother. After her father succumbed to poor health two years later, her youngest sibling was adopted by relatives in Illinois and separated from the family. Florence and the other children lived as orphans, or as she described it, “a Pippi Longstocking” type of existence. They were largely left to their own devices, but received critical help and guidance from key adults.

Helen Little, a social worker from Oklahoma, connected the children to social programs established by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration to meet their basic needs. Albino Weber, the former principal at Amasa High School, encouraged Florence to pursue an education degree. She earned her bachelor’s in home economics education from Northern in 1943 en route to a teaching career that spanned more than three decades (she is pictured in college and more recently). Florence Hagberg-Hannewald is now 92. To pay forward the assistance received during challenging times and to honor her life and career, brother John Hagberg Jr. and his wife, Vivian, have contributed $100,000 for a new technology center in the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service. 

“Even before they passed away, mom’s parents had instilled in their children the value of education,” said Barbara Bruning, Florence’s daughter. “Mom was the first one to go to college and paved a path for the others to follow. She even walked into the Patten Timber Company’s office in Amasa and asked for a $25 loan for books and supplies at Northern. They granted it and she made sure to pay it back.

"Mom didn’t stay a home economics teacher. That ended the minute synthetic fabrics arrived and it was no longer only cotton or wool. She just couldn’t imagine continuing after that, so she converted to elementary education. Mom spent most of her career as a first-grade teacher. That was her true calling. I have degrees in education and nursing and I could never be the teacher my mom was. She was absolutely wonderful the way she related and connected to the little ones. The family wanted to support something for elementary kids and the technology center was a great idea.”

The funding will be used to purchase equipment and technology that will help NMU teacher candidates and practicing teachers engage K-5 students and their families with computer coding languages and robotics.

“We are focusing on those because they are the next natural progression in the work we have already done,” said Joe Lubig (Education, Leadership and Public Service). “The faculty and K-12 educators in this region have been exemplars in programs like the National Writing Project, The U.P. Writing Project and Young Authors. These programs have engaged K-20 educators from across disciplines and they have in turn engaged students with powerful tools for expressing their learning and their ideas. Using technology, which is part of our every day, to pattern the same process we used in writing and reading will allow students to have a broader audience for their work and show them the power of their ideas. Using coding and robotics will be important because they are familiar enough to students so that they are curious, but new enough that we can shape their use in the subject matter taught in our schools and universities.”

Lubig said the technology center will be integrated into the work already being done at the NMU Seaborg Center, which already leads the region in STEM professional development for K-12 teachers and educational programming for students. . 

“Taking one more step to engage parents in the classes and workshops is something Seaborg has the capacity to do extremely well," he said. "This will also allow our teacher candidates to rehearse and prepare instruction using technology for a parent/student audience. Communicating with parents as to what the curriculum is and how students can explore that curriculum and demonstrate their understanding of it is key to student success. This center allows us to do just that. The momentum and excitement this gift has infused into our programs is awesome. The obligation we feel to represent Florence Hagberg-Hannewald and every child with whom she worked is the pressure under which we like to work in our professional lives. This gift makes every one of our teacher candidates better. It will, in turn, make every child with whom they work better.”