History with a Hero

Without America’s veterans, our beloved country would not exist as we know it today. I am grateful for their sacrifices to protect our freedoms. I believe that passing this gratitude and appreciation onto the next generation is invaluable.

Earlier this week, our elementary schools were preparing projects about respecting and honoring Veteran’s Day to share with their classmates, and learning about different components of military service. One Bauerwood 3rd grade classroom was creating lap quilts that will be taken down to the VA.

Right before the anniversary of D-Day this year (June 6), Sandy Hill 4th and 5th graders also had the distinct privilege of meeting a very decorated war veteran and local hero.

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Al Johnson

After his initial medical training, Al Johnson signed up for a very risky assignment. He worked during World War II as a spy for the secret division called Office of Strategic Services (OSS), aiding the French Resistance and cover operations in Germany and China. The OSS is the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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Al Johnson joined the military and was assigned medical training.

Christy Roloffs is a Sandy Hill teacher and through family connections was aware of his amazing story. Mrs. Roloffs invited Mr. Johnson as a guest speaker to make this history come alive. She knew that a living example is far superior to textbooks and films.  

The confidential nature of the work he did was made public in 1987 when the order of secrecy was lifted. At this time, the story of his work and the OSS is fairly new; sadly many who experienced it with Mr. Johnson are no longer alive.

Just last year, nearly 3/4 of a century after the war, the contributions of Al and his team were recognized with Congressional Gold Medals. This is the nation’s highest civilian honor. The members of the OSS were previously awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian distinction in France. 

He brought photo albums, his medal cases, and even pulled out his OSS medal and let the kids touch it. The kids were enthralled, listened intently and asked great questions.

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What an amazing experience for our students to spend this time with Mr. Johnson and learn first hand what his military career was like.

Every day is a great day to tell all those who served our country in the military thank you for their service. We are thankful for all they have given to protect our freedoms and way of life in the United States of America. We are also so proud of all our Jenison Alumni and parents that served or are currently serving their country.

For the full story of Al Johnson’s service, check out the video below.

For more local news coverage on Mr. Johnson: WOOD TV and HOLLAND SENTINEL

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JHS Thespians present “The Miracle Worker”

The Miracle Worker tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker dramatizes the volatile relationship between the lonely teacher and her charge. The JHS cast and crew have stepped up to the task with some big challenges portraying this classic story. Don’t miss your chance to catch the phenomenal student-run, annual Fall production this week!

The Miracle Worker has powerful messages for everyone. In Helen, Anne, and Kate Keller (Helen’s mother), audiences can identify with strong and independent female characters.  Others can empathize with parents of children with disabilities, and try to imagine the challenges as well as rewards these courageous and loving families experience.  It’s also easy for those in education to admire the tenacity and strength of teacher Anne Sullivan. 


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Performances will take place at the Jenison Center for the Arts, November 7 – 9 at 7:30pm and a matinee on November 10 at 2:30pm. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for Senior Citizens or Students under age 18. 

*Due to its dramatic nature, this play is not recommended for younger children who are unable to sit quietly for the duration of the performance.


When Anne Sullivan died, her ashes were placed inside the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  After Helen died, her ashes were interred next to those of her beloved teacher. Teachers know how important and special a relationship with a student can be. Finally, everyone experiencing the show can relate to the importance of perseverance.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of Mr. Todd Avery bringing quality educational theatre to Jenison and our surrounding communities. 

Miracle_Worker_2019-1-2“Theatre can make a difference in the lives of everyone! No matter how our production touches you, we are delighted to share in our storytelling.  

Thank you to the many amazing volunteers overseeing essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound. BRAVO Cast & Crew! Another job well done showcasing your talent and dedication! I am blessed to have the opportunity to direct this incredible play in my last year at JHS with this talented group of young actors and techs.” – Todd Avery, Director of Theatre Arts JPS

Click here for the full photo gallery.

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.” Anne Sullivan

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Language Arts and Life Skills

Jenison Junior High students are combining key components of Language Arts studies with a journalism focus to sharpen powerful life skills. The 8th grade students invited community members to help them hone their listening, speaking and writing proficiency.

Packed with students and friendly interviewees, the JJHS media center was abuzz with conversation. Students were prepared to practice natural speaking and active listening but it also required them to do some quick thinking on their feet. Taking quick, succinct notes was also a challenge.

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Dawn Dykstra shares her perspectives on Jenison as a former student, a current parent, and a current teacher.

Mr. Dustin Morley, 8th grade Language Arts teacher, is excited for this new kind of learning experience, citing that this is pushing kids into an area they may not be overly comfortable with, but gives them valuable practice for these crucial skills. Students rotated stations in the media center conducting multiple interviews. After the class hour concluded, the students worked to complete the project with a feature story about one of their special guests.

I was honored to be among the group sharing my experiences through natural conversation. The students asked some really great questions, taking the discussion in interesting directions. I’m glad our teachers are always looking for creative ways to provide authentic learning experiences. And I’m very encouraged to see the next generation embracing face to face interaction and learning to be active listeners, critical thinkers and contributing citizens of the future.

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Matt Kroon graduated from JHS in 2000; he shares about how the area has changed, including the addition of Rivertown Mall.

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Jamie Scholten discusses how the cost of things such as gas has changed drastically. 

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Doug Smith, a retired JJHS social studies teacher, uses sports props to engage students and talk about his experiences. 

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Kara VandenBerg shares about her work with dogs, including Bernie the golden retriever. 

 

 

Performance Honors ‘Band Mom’

This past weekend, McKenzie Stadium came alive with the annual Jenison Marching Band Invitational. The Jenison Band community is something special. Hosting 42 guest marching bands requires an enormous amount of planning and organizing. Much of the effort comes from parent volunteers! I’m always so proud when I see our leadership, parents and students working together to make magic happen.

The Jenison Marching Band, led by Dave Zamborsky, performed their show titled “Urban Canvas” and it was easily one of the best I’ve seen them perform. This year’s invitational was also special as we were able to honor, Sue Jonker. Sue is a loyal and dedicated JPS employee, whose behind the scenes work with the Marching Band over the years has been the glue that’s held everything together!

Sue signed up for a volunteer role with the Jenison bands in 1991 when her daughter, Carie, was a freshman. She began organizing and maintaining uniforms and chaperoning. When she started, Sue had no idea how suited she was for the ‘band parent’ life. She eventually stayed through her daughter Katie’s graduation in 2000, and by that time she was hooked.

IMG_9789Band parents are special people, they become a community together; looking out for each other and each and every kid. Sue is a rare gem, she loves our teens and embraces them fully as her own – her smile, great sense of humor, compassionate ear and helpful attitude quickly earned her the title ‘Band Mom’ who would do anything for her ‘kids’. For the past 20 years, Sue worked in the band office as the administrative assistant in addition to her many hours of volunteering each year.

Throughout her time, Sue helped organize band camp, was head chaperone for many years and trip chair. She was trustworthy and allowed the staff to focus on their jobs, and was trusting when it came to leading other volunteers as well. Sue played an integral role in helping to create rules and regulations for chaperones and equipment people, and worked with band director, Ted Bazany, to review and develop forms for scoring Scholastic band competitions (that are still used today). IMG_9791As the band traveled, Sue was responsible for the planning and coordination of out-of-state trips, including to Arizona and Indianapolis. Behind the scenes, Sue held up her title of ‘Band Mom’ by helping in anyway that she could.

I join the band staff and members in expressing immense gratitude for Sue and for the dedication and love that she has shown to all for so many years. She is a beloved member of the Jenison family!

Unfortunately, Sue has been unable to continue in her role this past year due to her fight with cancer, but she fondly reflects on the ‘too many great memories to list’. Some of her highlights include: being able to be there for the kids and staff, making long lasting friendships, working with a great program with some amazing students, having the privilege to travel with the band, and helping make sure they had what they needed.

After the invitational performance, the kids had the chance to say hello and give an impromptu performance of the band’s anthem “Lob Den Herren” as a token of gratitude. This song is a special tradition for the band and one of her favorites!

Thank you Sue, you have impacted so many with your relentless commitment to the Jenison family! 

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Front row: Anne Gembis (JJHS Band Director), Sue Jonker, Dave Zamborsky (JHS Band Director),  and Mary Uzarski. Second row: Bill Waalkes, Mary Bennink and Dara Westhouse

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Anne Gembis, Sue Jonker and Dave Zamborsky joined by Ted Bazany, former JHS Band Director. Mr. Bazany was also recognized for his many years of service to JPS.

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The Jenison Band members are proud to honor Sue Jonker with a ribbon tastefully incorporated into the design of their show shirt and performance uniforms.  

Check out the full photo gallery of the 2019 Jenison Marching Band Invitational

JPS Wildcat PrinciPALS

The month of October is National Principals Month and I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the hardworking JPS principals – and to thank them for their RELENTLESS work, day in and day out.

Webster’s definition of “principal” gives a rigid feeling of dominant control and authority. While the professionals in this role are definitely in an ‘authoritative’ position; ‘rigid’ and ‘dominate’ are absolutely not words that I would use to describe our Principals.

JPS Principals are true servant leaders setting the pace for our schools, as we seek to engage each and every child in our rigorous and comprehensive educational programming. Our principals are leading by example as we are eager to build meaningful and lasting relationships with the students we are privileged to serve. Most importantly, our principals hold firm to our core value that is to provide a safe, caring, nurturing, dynamic, and engaging learning environment in which every child can thrive. Our principals, and the staff they lead, provide a distinct difference and help Jenison stand out among other local districts.

Meet Jon Mroz, the new Sandy Hill principal – for the second time. Growing up in Jenison, he never fathomed he would find a teaching job in West Michigan, much less at his alma mater. 

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Jon Mroz, Sandy Hill Principal

Jon joined the JPS staff as a 6th grade Science teacher at Sandy Hill following graduation from Grand Valley State University. After 6 years of teaching, he stepped into the role of Principal at Sandy Hill. He loved working with the wide variety of kids in this different role, however he stepped away for a job in the private sector after two years. Two years later, Jon was missing the people focused profession of being a principal and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to invite him back. Jon lives in Jenison with his wife and their three young daughters. He looks forward to a new challenge every day and is grateful to be surrounded by people that want the best for each and every kid they meet. One of his favorite perks of the job this year is riding to school with his favorite kindergartner, his oldest daughter.

Read more about the other amazing Jenison Public Schools Principals below:


 

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Dr. Brandon Graham, JHS Principal, is celebrating 20 years with JPS – the last 16 as principal. Brandon counts himself lucky to work with a highly dedicated and focused group of individuals at the high school. High school is a great time to watch the students grow into caring and compassionate young people who are dedicated to serving those around them. He is an appreciative leader who joins the team and is dedicated to meeting the needs of the entire student body.

 

 


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Brett Cataldo, JJHS Principal, brought his teaching and administration experience to the district 10 years ago. He loves being at Jenison and being a part of an “unbelievably supportive” team that gives 100% to keep the students the priority. The highlight of his day is centered around connection; with students, staff, and family.

“Everyone works so hard but we have so much fun learning together!”

 

 


38d1e0efa4c34d49965d3702bb5c175dCrystal Morse, Bauerwood Elementary Principal is very driven and loves to take advantage of creative problem solving and  forward thinking. After 8 years of teaching at JPS, she found herself packing up her classroom and moving to the Principal’s office. And for 15 years, she has been making decisions for the benefit of the kids. She continues to look for unique ways to show up daily for her students and demonstrate that they are loved and supported, no matter what. She and her staff work tirelessly to build relationships with students with the belief – and experience – that the academics will eventually fall into place.

“Each student is so important to me that the time, energy, tears, and each baby step to success is SOOOO worth it.” 

 


75c0d230c8894edc8c8bcaf80e3961afBrent Huck, Bursley Elementary Principal has been at JPS for 7 years, this is his 4th year as principal. One of Brent’s favorite parts of the job is socializing with the students. Chatting with them in the hallways, classrooms and playground is a highlight. He also feels blessed to work with such a tremendous group of hardworking and passionate educators. The genuine compassion they have for their students, their creative lesson planning, and unwavering commitment to student success are unparalleled. They never cease to amaze me.

“JPS students are the best! I love getting to know each one of them!”

 


3388d636734a455695d334a16d5cef8cRachael Postle-Brown, Pinewood Elementary Principal has been in education for nearly 20 years. Her roles of teaching high school and assistant administration have prepared her for the excitement of leadership in the elementary world. For 8 years, she has embraced the unpredictability and seized every opportunity to help a student with a new discovery, try a new way to encourage someone or just share a laugh with students and staff.

 “I am inspired by my staff every day, they don’t just work a job – they are on a mission to serve our students and our community.”

 


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Luke Verbeek, Rosewood Principal has been with JPS for 7 years; teaching 6th grade for 5 years and currently in his second year as principal. He loves being a principal in the Jenison district because he gets the opportunity to work with amazing students, parents, and staff members every day. Starting out as a teacher, Luke loves the opportunity to get back in the classroom and seeing what the students are accomplishing. Coming to work everyday puts a smile on his face because he loves greeting the members of his Rosewood village – students, parents, or the awesome staff he partners with daily. Words cannot express his appreciation for his colleagues and the commitment they share for the students at Rosewood.

“It truly takes a village to raise a child and I am proud to be part of the Rosewood/Jenison village.” 

 


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Lloyd Gingerich, Principal at El Puente has worked in education as a teacher and administrator for over 20 years. This is his 12th year in Jenison. For two years, he lived and taught in Costa Rica and was immersed in the Spanish language. He became a fluent speaker and gained a broader view of the world – outside of west Michigan. Daily, he takes those experiences and partners with his staff to challenge the students to grow and reach their potential. He was a key participant in the growth of the JPS Spanish Immersion program. He loves being a principal in Jenison because he feels that the whole community truly cares about education and they show that with their actions as much as with their words.

“The strong culture of teamwork in service of the children in our community is why I brought my own children to Jenison.” 

 


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Lee Westervelt, ECC Principal has spent his entire career in administration – 25 years with JPS. Being constantly surrounded by curiosity and wonderment is something that excites him on a daily basis. Lee sees his daily playground duty as his classroom where he can guide the children in ‘Being a Good Friend – 101’. Watching them cooperate and play inclusively is a highlight which extends to the classroom and home. 

“I get to be a part of students’ lives and help shape them for a better future. How cool is that! I love what I do.”

 


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Matthew Baughman, Jenison International Academy – Elementary Principal is in his second year in the district. He loves putting his passion to work at JPS because there is an openness to rethink components of traditional education. Conversations and programs are clearly about helping kids and supporting teachers. Families value education and are engaged in the path to success. He feels the program is validated in the support JIA receives from the Central Office provides time, resources, and support for new initiatives. Greeting in a student-led way each morning is the highlight of his day. Matthew also has the opportunity to teach PE every Tuesday and Kindergarten Coding every Wednesday.  

“The JIA staff are committed not only to seeing that students learn important skills and information, but also how to apply that learning to the real world.”


osterberg_k_2019.jpgKrista Osterberg, Jenison International Academy – Junior/High School Principal has been part of JPS for 14 years. While teaching, she has been integral in the formation and progression of the JIA; participating in the development and guidance of each program over the past 10 years. Now, her 14th year marks the beginning of a totally new adventure, as we divide the oversight of the Jenison International Academy and she takes the appointment to Principal of the secondary programs for the JIA. She is thankful for the opportunity to work with amazing students, families, and educators – to be creative in providing optimal, personalized learning opportunities and pathways for our students in both virtual and blended settings. 

“I appreciate, and am proud of the numerous unique opportunities that JIA Junior/Senior High offers to JPS families”

JHS Recognized with Michigan Exemplary Athletic Program award

The honor and privilege of serving as the Superintendent of Jenison Public Schools is a humbling, yet greatly rewarding experience. As a destination school for many families, it’s no secret just how amazing this place is.

It is well deserved when our staff and programs are recognized for their excellence. JHS has been honored by Newsweek Magazine multiple times as the Best High Schools in America, the Washington Post’s most challenging high school as well as a GRAMMY Foundation Signature School. Also, receiving recognition as one of the best 100 communities in the nation for music education nine times.

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Cody Inglis – MHSAA Director, Tim Ritsema – JHS Athletic Director, Brandon Graham – JHS Principal, Emily Siler – Student Athlete and Tom TenBrink – JPS Superintendent. Banner held by Athletic Booster representatives, Erich Stoezner and Jason Kyle.

Not only do we have an outstanding music and fine arts program, but a successful athletic program as well. Established in 1971, Jenison has a short but rich history of athletics and hard working supporters. At Jenison, we believe in the value and benefits of dedication, motivation, and perseverance. We see our athletic program as a vital part of our total educational program and take pride in its achievements. 

At our Homecoming football game on September 20, Jenison was officially recognized as an Exemplary Athletic Program by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s (MIAAA). We are one of 25 schools that have received this award – and only a handful of them are in the West Michigan area. This is the result of many years of hard work to create a quality infrastructure and a reputable athletic experience; one that functions as an extension to our fantastic educational and fine arts programs.

Former Athletic Director, Kevin Van Duyn (also 1983 Jenison student athlete/graduate and coach), was instrumental in laying the groundwork to bring our program to this point. After his nearly 20 year career at JPS concluded, it was an honor to see him inducted into the Jenison Athletic Hall of Fame in March of 2019. He embodies a core belief that good sportsmanship and personal integrity are the foundation of what defines success in both winning and losing situations.

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Tim Ritsema, Jenison High School Athletic director is happy to carry the torch and keep our athletic program operating at Exemplary status:

“We’re not perfect but it’s exciting to receive recognition for the hard work that’s taken place. We have some state of the art facilities and the Jenison athletic department strives to share the District’s vision, mission, and core values by stressing Community, Achievement, Tradition, and Service – CATS. When everybody rows together in this endeavor, everyone wins – regardless of the trophies and banners that are on display.” 

Recipient schools experience rigorous screening including an application process, written documentation of the program’s strengths and a two-day visit by an MIAAA evaluation team. Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) states that this award honors programs that model excellence and equity. Schools that are providing for what is best in educationally sound high school athletics.  

Our teachers are relentless in the classroom and many of them continue that effort on the fields after school – 56 of our staff are in assistant or head coach positions at JHS. Our district-wide commitment to the advancement of the emotional, social, moral and physical growth of all of our participants remains strong and is a key component to this recognition. 

I’m beyond grateful for the work of all members of our athletic department to support our “blue ribbon” level program. Our students benefit immensely from relationships built with coaches, the challenge of competition and lessons of teamwork. Go Wildcats!

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Cody Inglis – MHSAA Director presenting the award to Tim Ritsema – JHS Athletic Director

Check out this video footage of the beautiful outdoor Jenison Athletic Campus:

 

Make Your Mark!

“Make your mark and see where it takes you.” That’s the sentiment behind International Dot Day, a worldwide celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration. This holiday started just 10 years ago and has grown from a single classroom to thousands of schools across the globe. All because of a book with an inspiring message.

Dot Day is inspired by the Peter H. Reynolds book, “The Dot.” The book depicts the story of a little girl who is shy about expressing her artistic abilities. Following some encouragement from an art teacher, she begins with a tiny dot she put on a piece of paper and from that dot creates multiple works of art.

IMG_8926The concept of this book and the participation in International Dot Day both encourage a ‘growth mindset’ and helps students believe in themselves – something we feel strongly about at Jenison Public Schools. Throughout the day, the students created projects that emphasized the importance of embracing individuality. I love that the Pinewood students joined the celebration again this year and are reminded – that as unique individuals, they can grow and learn and be successful.

I’m grateful for teachers that believe in our students and want them to believe in themselves. These may seem like easy art lessons to some but if our students can learn like the character in the story, Vashti, to be brave and help others, they will eventually believe they can really “make a mark” on the world.

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The Pinewood students crafted unique dot-inspired drawings on a paper plate, cutting them in half and then combining them with a partner’s to form a whole circle.

“I think the message behind Dot Day is so important for students of all ages, it reminds them that they are unique and have something special to share with the world. Dot Day is a celebration of this but we try to help our students see this every day. We feel passionately about giving students opportunities for leadership, and to recognize their gifts and share them. At Pinewood Elementary, all of our staff believes that each child is special and unique and has something they can contribute to our community.”
Rachel Postle-Brown, principal of Pinewood Elementary School.

 

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Wildcat Homecoming 2019

Spirit week activities, tailgates, assemblies, parade, football game, dance and welcoming old friends back home; there is so much about the tradition of Homecoming that I look forward to each year. I enjoy every aspect of seeing our friends, families, students and community members coming together to celebrate.

For me, the high school pep assembly represents the official kick off to homecoming and it is something I love to attend. It is full of excitement and high energy as the marching band sets the tone. The students and staff unite in their pride and have a fun time pumping each other up.

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The pep assembly is also the first official presentation of the Homecoming court. A simple but very special tradition surrounding this presentation is one that many may not know about. The homecoming court representatives choose a teacher to escort them during the pep assembly. This has been a Jenison tradition for as long as I can remember.

I love seeing the teachers that have been selected; more than that, I love hearing the reasons behind a student’s choice for their teacher escort.

Year after year, students are honoring their teachers by using words like ‘admire’, ‘role model’, ‘mentor’, ‘passion’, ‘genuine’, and ‘contagious positive attitude’. Sharing these moments with our students and their teacher escorts is such a highlight of my homecoming pep assembly. It is a very cool experience to see the positive and lifelong connections that are made between our students and their committed teachers. Read some more awesome student quotes below and keep going for more great Homecoming 2019 moments! Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

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Sophomore, Lizzy Lee and Mrs. White 

Sophomore, Lizzy Lee – I chose Mrs. White as my escort because not only did I have fun in her class last year, we got to hang out outside of school through YoungLife and build friendship.

Senior, Sydney Addington – I chose Mr. Zamborsky because he has been apart of all of my musical career, which has been a large part of my life, and has always been someone I’ve looked up to. I amire how much he has done for his students, our band program and for our school in general. He is always very positive and knows how to cheer people up. He has also always been someone I can joke around with and just laugh at each other. Again, I chose Mr. Z because he is a very good role model and someone I hope to be like when I am older.

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Mr. Carmichael and Junior, Bella Van Slyke 

Junior, Bella Van Slyke – I chose Mr. Carmichael to be my escort because not only is he an amazing teacher, but an amazing person. He has such a big heart and is always making sure that each and every one of his students are doing well. He always welcomes people to class with a big smile. I aspire to be as positive as him every day.

Senior, Kassidi Hill – I chose Mrs. Borst as my teacher due to her contagious positive attitude and good vibes! This lady radiates positivity and we all need a little reminder of the good things once in awhile. I was only able to have Mrs. Borst for one class, American Lit, sophomore year. Even with a class that you would expect to be dull, Mrs. Borst was able to make it a fun experience. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever boring when it comes to Mrs. Borst. She’s constantly smiling and whenever you ask her how she is doing, she’ll say, “Better now that I’ve seen your smile!” Which, truthfully, only ever makes my smile bigger. I look forward to passing her classroom every day just for a quick little chat because we joke around and then get on with our day, but even those quick couple of minutes flips my day around after talking with her. I wish a lot more people made me feel the way Mrs. Borst does because those are the kind of people I want to surround myself with! 

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Mrs. Elsie and Freshman, Rosie Nobel

Freshman, Rosie Nobel – I chose Mrs. Elsie because she is very caring not about just school but more importantly her students wellbeing. Immediately when I walked in to class the first day she made me feel welcome and comfortable especially for my first time in the high school. I am so lucky to have her as a teacher! 

Senior, Matt Huizenga – I chose Mr. Brosseit because to me he was more than a teacher. He was a mentor to me. He made me happy when days were bad. He is a great man!

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Sophomore, Teague Stephens and Mrs. Brown

Sophomore, Teague Stephens – I chose Mrs. Brown as my teacher. As I have grown up, we moved into a house right by Mrs. Brown; I have gotten very close to her even though I’ve never had her for a class. When I was told to pick a teacher I immediately thought of her. I’m so glad that she accepted and I look forward to her walking with me.


WILDCAT HOMECOMING 2019

It was a gorgeous day to welcome recently retired, Mr. Waters as our homecoming parade marshall. The “Game Show” theme brought the creativity of the classes. The Freshman class walked away as the float champions for this year with their “The Price is Right” float. The Junior class took their “Supermarket Sweep” one step further with a shopping cart – parade route collection of food items for Hand 2 Hand ministries. They collected almost 100 items from the community! The football game against Reeths-Puffer was a thriller with an action packed second half. An exciting touchdown with just minutes left in the game paved the way for a big win! It was a great day of celebrating with our community – it was a great day to be a Wildcat!

Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

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Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

JPS Partnering with Parents

Our district’s highest priority is the care and education of the children in our community. Everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by staff that is committed to fulfilling the district’s mission which is, “to ensure that each and every student grows intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially in a safe and caring environment.” Not only do we have the best-of-the-best taking great pride in the curriculum, quality of instruction, extra-curricular activities, and beautiful facilities that are available to support our students; my colleagues are consistently collaborating with each other, and engaging with parents to help children find success now and in the future.

1254344780175e62ac9fd57a668510fa5024ca78Those collaborations can happen by focusing on the school work at hand and beyond. The Jenison Parent Liaison program has provided family unit support for students with a steadfast commitment over the last few years. I’m so excited to see it continue full steam ahead with some very compassionate and enthusiastic people leading the way. As Parent Liaisons representing the Family Resource Center, it is their mission to help families be successful at home so that students can be successful at school.

The Family Resource Center can be of assistance with mental health support, food insecurity and clothing, navigating insurance processes, as well as supporting teachers and families through crisis (death, grief, loss). They also offer programs for homework assistance, leadership and character development. 

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Mary Veldink (left) has been a 3rd grade teacher for 23 years but has been involved with the Jenison Parent Liaison program since its inception. Mary is now a full time Parent Liaison and assists Pinewood Elementary, Sandy Hill Elementary, El Puente, Jenison Junior High, and the JIA. Beth Morey (right) has been with the district for 11 years as a speech pathologist in the ASD program. She is also a fully dedicated Parent Liaison and will now support Bauerwood Elementary, Rosewood Elementary, Bursley Elementary, Jenison High School, and Steam Tech families in her new role. They both support ECC families.

They are so pleased to be able to connect so many families with the resources they need to make life a little smoother. Recently, they saw many community families join for the 7 week ‘Meet up and Eat up’ summer food service program. It was exciting to have numerous high school sports teams also come alongside them and serve food and play with the kids during that time. 

The Family Resource Center was also able to assist with family scholarships for camping vacations at Spring Hill. And when the summer was winding down, they were handing out backpacks and supplies where needed.

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Sue Hetfield and Jodi Huyser, Jenison ECC PreK teachers and ECC Family Outreach leaders were given a match-making vision to change the lives of preschoolers and their families.

I would also like to introduce another program for the PreK families, The ECC Family Outreach. This program came from two very passionate preschool teachers who had a shared vision based on the needs they see everyday. They have worked tirelessly based on the belief that it is essential to make a home-to-school connection as soon as possible. Matching families with resources and making families successful at the beginning of a child’s school experience has the potential to change the trajectory of that child’s life. They are offering monthly sessions to engage with parents regarding topics such has healthy habits, budgeting, outdoor safety, healthy eating and literacy.

The problem solving passion that is behind both the ECC Family Outreach and the Family Resource Center is a strong characteristic of our #BeRelentless community.  I’m proud of the hard work that has transpired to bring our families support when needed. When we’re doing what’s best for our students and families, we can’t go wrong. Please check out some family resources below or ask your school principal to learn more about these programs.

If community members would like to help the Family Resource Center support other Jenison families, there are ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing MinistryOther donations of activity gift cards for families to spend time together on weekends or school holidays are very helpful as well (Rebounderz, Bowling, Movies, Zoo, etc.).

Great Start Parent Coalition Flyer

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NHA Parenting Class Advertisement

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Parenting class

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ECC Family Outreach

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The Gridiron Border Battle

You don’t usually need a passport for “AWAY” games, but last week the varsity players of St. Thomas More (STM) Catholic Secondary School of Hamilton, Ontario did, as they loaded up to drive 5.5 hours for a memorable international experience in Jenison.

The STM football program tries to come to the midwest for a game at least once per year. They are one of the most prominent and highly decorated football teams in Ontario and Canada. They are also repeat Provincial Bowl Champions from 2015-2018. JHS Athletic Director, Tim Ritsema knew they would be a good competitor for us to start the season with and it was exciting to get the chance to host them.

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The football players weren’t the only ones hard at work preparing to show our northern neighbors the spirit of west Michigan.

Leading up to the 7:00 kick off, the David McKenzie stadium took a moment to be silent in memory of Jenison student, Sydney Carfine who passed away following a car accident earlier this summer. She was a cheerful person and beloved friend who would have been a senior this year.

Jenison Boy Scout Troop 354 presented the flags as both countries were honored with their anthem. Karen Ambs, recently retired Jenison elementary choir and music teacher, pulled together a group of volunteer singers to welcome our guests with live vocals singing ‘O Canada’. This group, appropriately named the CatPack Chorale, was made up of Jenison Alums, parents, community members, current students and even included two of our own varsity football players!

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Game nights look a little different for them at home so we were honored to treat the STM players to a fabulous “Friday Night Lights” experience – great crowd, awesome atmosphere, and stellar performances by the marching band for our national anthem and their half time show. Jenison Varsity Coach Rob Zeitman and AD Tim Ritsema agreed – a win would have been nice but the exposure our students receive in welcoming this team is a valuable interaction. Following the game, the teams shared a pizza party and came together to share little bit about their high school and football experiences.

The stadium atmosphere wasn’t the only thing that was different about this game for our opponents. There are different game rules in the United States versus Canada. In Canada, it’s three downs to get a first down. They play with a longer and wider field; they also play with 12 players on the field at a time instead of 11. That obviously didn’t deter them, as they came away with the win that night!

The STM team was also given the opportunity to catch an exciting American collegiate contest on their way home – stopping by East Lansing to see Michigan State beat Western Michigan, 51-17.

STM Head coach Claudio Silvestri was super appreciative of the our community saying:
Thank you so much for everything you have done to make this experience happen. Our players and coaches raved about the “Jenison” experience.  Your program is “top notch” and your facilities were incredible. It was the warmest  hospitality we experienced in the 17 years of doing this trip! Our kids were also blown away by the Michigan State experience!

Despite a loss for us on the field Friday night, hosting our first international game was a heartwarming WIN and the Jenison community did not disappoint! It was a great experience all around. 

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STM Players at the MSU game Saturday, September 7.

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