Thankful for Community

As we spend this Thanksgiving weekend where we can and with whom possible, I sincerely hope this day brings you joy and a renewed attitude of gratitude for our daily blessings. Today, I can’t help but be immensely grateful for my family at home as well as my family at Jenison Public Schools.

This year has thrown each of us unwanted curveballs and forced many customary experiences to be canceled, but I wanted to to remind you that there is nothing that can cancel the unmatched community spirit of Jenison. Our community proudly holds each other up, through thick and thin. No one has to go through anything alone. 2020 has been a year like no other but JPS has risen to the occasion.

On Monday, Early Childhood Center and Bauerwood Elementary teachers were able to deliver family Thanksgiving food baskets to some families of students. This is an annual tradition for them and they were eager to continue, especially in light of this unpredictable year. The classrooms enjoyed helping with the collection and the students know they were a part of helping someone in their very own community enjoy the best holiday possible.

Bauerwood Staff delivered Family Thanksgiving Gift Baskets on Monday.

The Jenison Parent Liaisons is another group that supports our community in big ways, and not just during the holidays. The Jenison Parent Liaisons connect families to resources and support parent-teacher collaboration. JPS families can receive information and support regarding childcare, stable housing, mental and physical health services and other community resources.

The recent orders from the state that has shifted learning to a virtual platform for the next few weeks, may impact families in a variety of ways. Please visit the new JPS Parent Liaisons website to learn more about the support they can provide. The Classifieds page is a great place to see which unique resources they have readily available as well as which items they are in need of. I encourage you to check out the website (and share it with a friend) for resources that may help as you navigate the upcoming days.

If you are looking for ways to help others in our community this holiday season, check out the Classifieds page or the information from Love Inc. Together, we are Jenison! And today, I’m very thankful to be a part of this community.

To read more about the Jenison Parent Liaison program, also check out: https://tomtenbrink.com/2019/09/19/jps-partnering-with-parents/

Happenings at Bauerwood

We’re so grateful for the face to face classroom experience we’ve had the past 12 weeks, and all of our Jenison Public School teachers and staff have really made the most of it. Fundraisers, playground activities and field trips all helped make this fall feel pretty normal at Bauerwood Elementary.

Minds in Movement

For the past 11 years, the Bauerwood Family Network has been able to fund many great fun and educational experiences for their students. And the annual Minds in Movement walkathon is what helps them kick off each year with a big bang.

Minds in Movement gives the students and families the chance to connect with local sponsors and maximize their fundraising efforts as 100% of donations go directly to the school. The students love it because they are engaged and active participants by walking, and they get to celebrate local sponsors. While the classrooms have competitions for their hard work, the whole school gets to celebrate together as they meet their unified goals. It promotes teamwork, connection and unity within the school and our community!

The face to face and extended traditional Bauerwood students came together for the walking days and worked hard to meet their goals and earn prizes along the way. Hat day… pajama day… movie party… a school wide dance party… all the way up to their top prize when Principal Julie Roby would brought her farm to school! The Roby family enjoys and loves animals and has been involved with animal exhibitions at the Hudsonville Community Fair for the last 5 years. She even greeted the students at the morning gate with a chicken in her arms! Mrs. Roby also brought a horse, goat, guinea pig and some kittens. The Bauerwood students worked hard to reach their $16,000 goal and had a great time visiting with the traveling Roby Farm!

ONE TEAM. ONE SCHOOL. ONE FAMILY.
Thanks to everyone who made Minds in Movement 2020 a great success!

Outdoor Discovery Center

Schooling during a pandemic forces field trips to look a little different. Bauerwood students were able to enjoy a “reverse field trip” with the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland. Learning about wild animals in our own frontyard was pretty fun.


Teacher of the Month

Bauerwood Kindergarten teacher, Samantha Duval received a well deserved recognition when she was nominated for a reward from Biggby West Michigan and EightWest. It is great to see families in Jenison nominate Sami (and other JPS teachers) for ‘Teacher of the Month’. Sami loves building a strong community in her classroom and her priority is that every child has a safe, fun, and positive environment to grow in! She received $500 to use how she thinks would most benefit her students. Thank you Sami for your relentless commitment to your students!


New Game

Bauerwood students were so excited to have a new activity on their playground this fall. The Bauerwood Family Network was able to provide the funds for a new ‘9-square in the air’ game while a special thanks goes out to the Sherman and Gillespie families and All Area Plumbing for the installation. The teachers seemed almost as excited to teach the kids this classic game!

Wheels n’ Reels at El Puente

Creative problem solvers are providing some real special opportunities to experience social activities these days. Remaining connected while keeping our friends and families safe is a win win!

The ‘Padres del Puente’ (Parent Club of El Puente) arranged a special night for families to enjoy some socially distanced fun with their first ever drive-in movie night. About 50 cars showed up to the school parking lot ready to get cozy in their vehicles and enjoy the double feature for the night.

The movies included Coco and Addams Family, and clear sound was available through the FM tuning on car stereos.

The excited movie goers included students who are part of in-person classes as well as those who are Extended Traditional Learners.

There was at least one battery that needed some friendly help but in the end, movie reviewers of all ages gave this event many thumbs up!

Music Soothes the Soul

These days, I am continually amazed (not surprised) at the lengths our teachers have gone in order to uphold the integrity and tradition of an education from Jenison Public Schools. I, along with the school board, am proud to support them however possible and today I’m happy to highlight the extreme excitement and importance of continuing our music education programs during this time.

As a result of Covid-19 and all the challenges that come along with in-person instruction and hosting public events, some districts – even those in our own local area have decided to defer music education this year. I am truly grateful that we have the dedication and capacity to continue our remarkable music program.

Since the beginning of the school year, our band and orchestra directors have continued to work with and teach their students throughout some unusual circumstances. Over the last few weeks, families were given the opportunity to enjoy concerts live and in person.

Impeccable logistical planning allowed the High School Orchestras to perform 4 individual concerts on the evening of October 29. With more than enough appropriate spacing on the stage and in the auditorium seats, the strings filled the JCA with beautiful, soothing music. Dan Scott and Josh Zallar led their musicians in an amazing evening that seems to have touched hearts just a little more than during a ‘normal’ year. It felt so great to be in our beautiful Jenison Center for the Arts and hear it come alive with music again!

The Jenison Junior High Bands also performed an outdoor concert on October 21. Anne Gembis and Marc Palma led students as they took their turn playing underneath the lights at the football field. No specific uniform was required but as the weather was starting to turn, it was encouraged for all to bring hats and gloves. Both evenings went very smoothly with family guests observing safety measures and making it possible for all to enjoy. Watching our Wildcat Musicians perform is a highlight and offered a blissful momentary escape, for the players and attendees alike. We are all hoping this isn’t our last set of concerts for this year.

Jenison Junior High Band Concert, October 21

If you are a parent of a Jenison Musician, you have so much to be proud of. I am very pleased with the staff and students for pushing through these unprecedented times, and I’m thankful to you for choosing to involve your child in the program. Our district is so very blessed to have a brilliant, hardworking staff of directors cultivating their life long musical talent.

Bursley Elementary Welcomes New Teachers

I am excited to introduce another group of dynamic teachers who are new to Jenison Public Schools this year. It’s great to welcome folks from within our community and outside the area. A big thank you to principal Holly McGoran and the entire Bursley Elementary School team for a successful beginning to this school year and your daily commitment to show up and finish strong! Our children are blessed to spend their days with you.


Samantha Anderson

We welcome Samantha Anderson to her first year at JPS as a 6th grade Teacher at Bursley Elementary. She is so proud of her students and what they have been able to accomplish together in the short (and somewhat unconventional) year we’ve had so far. The hardworking reputation of our Jenison teachers grabbed her and she’s excited to add her name to the list of those that go above and beyond for her young Wildcats.

Outside the classroom, she spends time as a student herself at Grand Valley State University working towards a Masters of Education in Instruction and Curriculum. Samantha also works with children through ABA therapy. You can also find her enjoying the great outdoors year round in water, snow or by the campfire.


Madison Baker

Madison Baker is an Extended Traditional Kindergarten teacher at Bursley Elementary. Her students are learning from home with her as their dedicated online teacher. Growing up in the area, she knew that the values and mission of Jenison Public Schools aligned with her own so she is very excited to start her full time teaching career with us. She has been impressed with the resounding theme of cohesiveness among the Bursley staff members – knowing that she has support around every corner.

As Madison is also personally passionate about mental health, she could see herself working in that field if she wasn’t a teacher.


Sarah Faasse

Sarah Faasse is as a Kindergarten Extended Traditional teacher at Bursely Elementary. Her family chose to move to Jenison for her own children’s education. She appreciates the size of the district and the programs we are able to offer. Between four children, her family was involved in the special education and spanish immersion programs.

She previously spent 10 years teaching. Volunteering in the classroom for her own children for the last 7 years eventually brought her back to the classroom full time. After classes to update her teaching license, she joined the collaborative teaching ranks of JPS. She can’t imagine doing anything else, teaching is one of her greatest joys and no matter what capacity she finds herself, she will always be teaching something!


Kady Hernke

Kady Hernke comes to JPS from a local community where she spent 7 years teaching. She is excited to teach 2nd grade at Bursely Elementary this year.

Kady sensed that Jenison is a community full of people who want what is best for the students they serve. And she is excited to join our district as we strive to provide students with an excellent education while also developing their character.

An outdoorsy booklover, Kady enjoys arts and crafts and spending time with family and friends, and especially her young son.


Katie Johnson

Katie Johnson feels lucky that she had the opportunity to fill substitute teaching positions in the Jenison District last year. This meant she was able to experience the comfortable, team focused atmosphere within the teaching community. It was also one of the reasons she chose to officially start her career with us. In joining Bursley Elementary as a 5th grade teacher, she looks forward to continuing the friendships and great working relationships she has enjoyed with so many colleagues. 

When she’s not teaching, she might be taking in a sporting event in-person or from the couch with her snuggly cat. She also enjoys time with friends and occasional trips to the east side of the state to visit family. Given the role athletics have played in her life, she might have chosen a career in sports management field if she wasn’t a teacher.


Becca Kelly

Becca Kelly chose Jenison because of our commitment and clear emphasis to ensure each student is able to achieve success, and that lasting relationships are encouraged with students and their families. 

A lifelong Michigan resident and Michigan State University alum for Bachelors and Master’s education degrees, Becca is excited to join Jenison Public Schools this year as a 5th grade teacher at Bursley Elementary School. She previously taught 3rd grade for 6 years.  In her spare time she enjoys camping, hiking, biking, and being outdoors. If she wasn’t a teacher, she thinks it would be fun to work as a museum curator! 


Tara Kortman

Tara Kortman joins Bursley Elementary this year as a 4th grade teacher. She chose Jenison because she shares the priorities of relationships in learning, a strong focus on literacy and support for staff and students. She grew up in Hudsonville and is now happy to move back to the area with her husband and 2 young sons, after teaching 10 years in Saugatuck.

When she’s not teaching at school she loves taking walks and spending time with her sons and the family golden retriever. If she wasn’t a teacher, she would enjoy being a stay-at-home mom.


Jennifer Merritt

Jennifer Merritt attended Rosewood Elementary and is a proud graduate of JHS. She and her husband (Calvin Merritt, new Sandy Hill 5th grade teacher) live in Jenison with their 4 children who also attend JPS. She previously taught Kindergarten in Grandville.

As a student and a parent of JPS students, she already knows and loves the district. In these early days of her teaching experience at Bursley, she says it is evident that the Jenison district watches out for, and takes care of one another. She appreciates the environment created between staff and students, remarking that is such a positive, respectful family atmosphere. 

When she’s not teaching 6th graders, or attending/coaching her kids’ events you might find her shopping, baking or just enjoying some downtime with her family.


Jalynn Mitchell

Jalynn Mitchell is starting her first year with Jenison Public Schools teaching 2nd grade at Bursley Elementary.

The staff support and the students’ big hearts have made a great first impression. Jalynn appreciates the family culture of Jenison and highly values intentional, positive relationship building.

She loves to go to the beach, watch Hope College basketball, and practice yoga. If she wasn’t a teacher she would probably be an event planner.

Friday Night Reunion

Last week, under the Friday night lights, there was a reunion of fans, players, cheerleaders and musicians. Amidst the regulations and protocols for public gatherings in this season of COVID-19, being together brought a little sigh of relief and a refreshing feeling of normal. Last week, in David McKenzie Stadium, the resounding theme of the evening for seniors on the field would be, this night was a dream come true.

Michael Care, wide receiver felt the opportunity to not only have a fall season but to celebrate on their home field last week with their cheerleading and marching band counterparts was a big relief. Michael and his teammates appreciated being surrounded by the community and hearing all the normal sounds that accompany their games. Time spent together as a team and the rallying of Friday nights, especially with a great win, is something that cements the bonds of everyone. For this senior, he hopes this is an indication that life will be slowly returning to normal. 

Shelby Monday, Varsity cheerleader was elated to be given the chance to continue her final Varsity sideline cheer season. Training and cheering with masks as an accessory to her uniform is something she never thought she’d have to do, but felt it was definitely worth it. Time seems to be on fast forward for Shelby these days, and she’s looking forward to enjoying the rest of her senior year with more glimpses of normal, while embracing other unique memory making opportunities as she can.  

The Jenison Varsity Cheerleaders, Class of 2021

For Madelyn Schab, Head Drum Major for the JHS Marching Band, it was an absolute dream come true to be given the opportunity to be under the Friday night lights. The marching band students experienced a great disappointment when their competitive season was cancelled 5 months ago, along with their football performances. Yet, she and the entire marching band and crew relentlessly pursued excellence as a team. Hopeful for a performance, they pushed forward perfecting their show. They have been so grateful that that approval for parent performances and this final football game became a reality.

Madelyn felt that this season was a reminder of the simple, pure experience of coming together as a group. Combining their passion and love for music, diligently pursuing perfection as they create an amazing show together, while supporting each other along the way, was a pretty great thing too. However, being able to support the football team and cheerleaders one last time as seniors, is something none of these musicians, (or this community) will soon be able to forget.

I’ll forever be proud of this class of students and teachers for the obstacles they have endured and the magic they have achieved. Go Wildcats!

Sandy Hill New Staff Spotlight

Sandy Hill Elementary has welcomed two new teachers and embraced them with open arms. We’re excited to put their passion and experience to work for our students.

Hannah Plawski

A first year teacher, Hannah is very excited to be off to a great start in her teaching career with 3rd graders at Sandy Hill Elementary. The reputation of Jenison Public Schools and the community drew her in and we’re so glad to have her. She has already enjoyed her students and the cohesive community with her new colleagues.

Hannah enjoys spending time outdoors, running/being active, and spending time with family/friends. If she wasn’t a teacher, she would probably be teaching fitness classes or traveling the world. 


Calvin Merritt

Calvin is no stranger to Jenison or the wonderful world of 5th graders. He spent 20 years teaching in Grandville, but has always been a Wildcat at heart. He is a resident, alumni and parent of children in the Jenison district.

As he leads a 5th grade class at Sandy Hill Elementary, he has been overwhelmed with how welcoming everyone was and he really appreciates the respectful, positive, family atmosphere. He feels the commitment of colleagues watching out for each other and taking care of one another. 

A few hobbies Calvin enjoys are cooking, yard work, spending time with family, and coaching baseball/softball.  If he wasn’t a teacher, he might take that yard work hobby a little more serious and own a lawn care business with his son.

Pinewood Pride Updates

This school year has presented many challenges to traditional teaching methods but the Pinewood team has forged ahead with giving their students every opportunity possible.

Our teachers are the best and are really showing their relentless spirit this year! Among many other unique ideas: outdoor learning and reading sessions have been a welcome break by students in all grades. Michelle U’Ren’s 5th grade students were able to visit the Gerald R Ford Museum virtually and they really enjoyed the very timely lesson of learning about the importance of Character in Campaigns.

A few weeks into the school year, Pinewood Elementary students received a great donation of new playground toys donated from local church, Chapel Pointe. We are grateful for all of our community partners.


Introducing Judy Ko

Formerly a youth pastor, Judy Ko became a JPS substitute teacher in 2018, returned to school for her teacher certificate and completed her student teaching this past spring. This year, she is taking the position of 5th grade long term substitute (for Kristen Carpenter) at Pinewood Elementary. Growing up in Jenison, and raising her kids here, she describes this as her dream job.

She has fallen fast for her colleagues and students, appreciating their friendly help and welcoming attitudes. When she’s not living her dream with her students at Pinewood, she enjoys being outside and spending time with friends and family, taking walks and bike rides. If she wasn’t a teacher, she could see herself being a stunt driver!

Rosewood New Staff Spotlight

Rosewood Elementary is proud to welcome some amazing teachers this year. It’s always exciting to attract new talent to our district as well as see Jenison teachers take on a new challenge and shift to a different post. Check out the new additions to the Rosewood teaching team.

We are thankful for each of them and everything they bring to Jenison Public Schools!

Stacey Miller

Stacey starts her 5th year teaching as a Special Education Interventionist at Rosewood. In the first few weeks of school, she has been impressed by the kindness and respectful attitudes of her students. She comes from the Grand Rapids area and chose Jenison based on the reputation of the district. Stacey enjoys traveling to see friends and explore their new diverse cities. She also loves reading, drinking coffee and loving on her young niece.


Kelsey Wolffis

Kelsey officially joined the Jenison District this fall after spending time at Bauerwood for her student teaching and a long term substitute position at Sandy Hill. After these experiences, she couldn’t imagine officially beginning her career anywhere else and we’re excited to have her in the role of Special Education Interventionist at Rosewood. She has really enjoyed the inclusive team atmosphere at each school and is looking forward to getting to know her students better. A few of Kelsey’s hobbies include basketball, volleyball, and painting. If she was not a teacher and the ocean was not so far away, she might have been a marine biologist studying ocean animals.


Amanda Maxted

Amanda kicks off her 17th year of teaching in an Extended Traditional post for Third Graders. Extended Traditional students are learning from home with a dedicated online teacher. Amanda and her students are embarking on a new type of learning this year and we’re grateful for her efforts. Amanda loves spending time outdoors, hiking, kayaking, rock hunting, and reading. She loves horses and if she weren’t a teacher, she might have been a large animal vet.


Cindy Schenkel

The Rosewood Kindergarten teacher position gave Cindy a reason to return back to her hometown. She taught for 18 years in Indiana and is happy to be back. She wanted to be a teacher ever since she was in Kindergarten herself. When Cindy is not at school she enjoys spending time with family, bike riding and spending time at Lake Michigan.


Randi Alferink

Randi is no stranger to JPS as she has previously filled teaching positions at Bursley and Rosewood; in Spanish Immersion and General Education. After a few years home with her son, she is now choosing Jenison again and is excited to become reacquainted with the “Let’s work together” attitude that exudes Rosewood Teachers. Randi is now a Spanish Specials teacher at Rosewood.

In her spare time, she is learning a third language with her son through LAMP Words For Life (a program used on a communication device for those who are unable to speak or those who have difficulty speaking).


Melanie Lason

Melanie is not exactly new to Rosewood but after 6 years of short substitute teaching posts, we’re happy to add her as a long term 2nd grade teacher. She has chosen Jenison because she feels decisions are made with a perspective of what is best for the kids and she really appreciates the sense of unity among her colleagues. She truly has a passion for kids that even if she wasn’t a teacher, she is confident she would still work with kids in some capacity. Her hobbies include reading, sewing, and camping.


Kari Reynolds

Kari taught for 18 years before joining Jenison Public Schools at Bursley in 2019. This year, she comes to Rosewood as a sixth grade Extended Traditional Teacher. As someone who may have been a starving writer instead of a teacher, she is pleased with the district’s commitment to quality literacy instruction through reading and writing workshops and has been very excited to join the welcoming staff of Rosewood. Kari enjoys cooking, traveling with her husband and children, writing, and reading great books. 


Student Retailers Respond to Changes in Business Landscape

Jenison High School’s ‘Green Bean’ coffee shop and ‘Cat’s Corner’ spirit store offer more than just a place to snag a tasty snack and the latest Wildcat wear. They are both self-sustaining, student run, school-based enterprises providing real life business experience. Students develop plans for the shop and are responsible for the operation, including details like ordering products and even dealing with the Health Department.


The Career and Technical Education classes in the business department at Jenison High School are relevant and help students gain valuable insight and skills for college or future careers. Through both levels of her Marketing Studies classes, Jordan Whittecar leads groups of students as they manage the operations for the storefronts. The student groups represent six different business ‘departments’ including Visual Merchandising, Operations, Digital Marketing, Human Resources, Finance/Inventory, and Promotion.

After an abrupt closure in March, the business students now face reopening both operations in a completely different business atmosphere. As the school year resumed, the marketing students have been part of the preparing and planning for this new business climate. Tackling the current challenges include restaurant trainings sponsored by the Governor’s office, writing their own Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan and planning a shift in distribution for the sale of retail items.

Last week, students representing the Operations team met with high school principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, and presented their plans to reopen both storefronts and safely move forward. Approval was given and they are very excited to be back serving customers soon. 

The Green Bean coffee shop is located in the High School Media Center. This was an important part of their original intent to provide a central location for students to enjoy a beverage or snack and relax or get some homework done in a casual environment. However, current social distancing practices and limiting the gathering of people throughout the school building makes it impossible for students to visit the Green Bean. The students went to work figuring out what would be needed to shift to a ‘take-out’ and ‘delivery’ model. They will be putting technology to work for them and utilizing a website order form. This will allow students to pick up their order or receive a delivery.

The Green Bean delivery cart will be visiting classrooms soon to serve students and teachers. Hannah Gingerich is ready to offer service with a smile.

Students, Sophia Velez and Alyson Scholten have been stepping into leadership roles getting both stores open. They recently represented the students in a virtual brainstorm session with Erin Mitrzyk, a designer from the Visual Merchandising team at Wolverine Worldwide

Advanced Marketing Students Sophia Velez and Alyson Scholten

They came away with some real life application and ideas to reopen and encourage sales to continue. The marketing students will proceed to evaluate the ideas, which include a possible new reward and incentive program for both students and teachers, a program to schedule automated orders (managing workload of orders and minimizing classroom disruption), and a possible alternative payment method suitable for students of all ages (reloadable payment card or account).

Cat’s Corner is also located inside the high school and is following social distancing and mask protocols as you see in other retail locations around town. Currently, customers who are not students and/or teachers are not allowed in the building. This has required the students to investigate other ways to keep business moving. Online ordering has already been an option so they will continue to evaluate ways to make that a seamless process with affordable shipping options. Something new for this year is a tent sale scheduled for next week. It’s really exciting to see these students embracing the current challenges and coming up with some creative ideas. If you’re able to support either of these student businesses, please do – and be prepared to be impressed at the professional level of service and goods!


The Cat’s Corner Tent Sale outdoor tent sale is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (September 30 and October 1) from 7:30am – 5:00pm both days. Stop by for some great deals on Jenison merchandise.

Orders can also be placed on the Cat’s Corner website and shipped directly to you. SHOP NOW at  https://jenisoncatscorner.square.site/

Check out other stories about Cat’s Corner and the Green Bean:

https://tomtenbrink.com/2013/06/27/jhs-green-bean-gives-many-a-reason-to-smile/

https://tomtenbrink.com/2013/03/21/jenison-high-school-deca-students-take-honors/