High School Students Accept the Student Leadership Challenge

miii0113This fall, 40 Jenison High School students were invited to join a group of their peers known as the Student Leadership Challenge. Based on the book by Barry Posner and James M. Kouzes, students are encouraged to examine their own leadership actions and aspirations. They were nominated by the students who make up the Principal Advisory Board and the group meets once a month before the school day even begins – at 7am!

captureHigh School Principal, Dr Brandon Graham, sees the group as a way to develop leaders at the school and give a voice to those demonstrating leadership skills.  “We’re reading through the book, identifying ways they can improve their own personal leadership skills and the ultimate goal is to develop kids as leaders and bring that leadership into the school.”  As students are examining themselves, Dr Graham wants them to ask themselves about their every day choices and decisions. “Everything matters. How do you hold yourself to a higher standard?”

Throughout the year, the group would like to have members of the community who are successful in their positions visit the group and share what it takes to get there. By hearing from outside voices, Dr Graham hopes to inspire students to develop goals and find ways to work towards them, even now. “We look forward to continuing to elevate the leadership skills found in the kids at Jenison.”

Principal Advisory Board member and 12th grader, Ayesha Kothari, believes there is value in meeting and encouraging students to consider their role as a leader. From her personal experience of feeling anxious speaking in front of groups and now, finding it easier to manage, she wanted to be able to help others find ways to grow. “I think it’s important to foster leadership talents in kids that may not find a way to access it otherwise.” When the students were selected by the Advisory Board, Ayesha says “we saw ourselves  in those students and we wanted to reach out to them and access those leadership qualities.” They are studying the book by focusing on each of the five segments of the book and doing short, visual presentations on each portion and leading activities based on the reading.

miii0062Although 40 students were invited in October, Dr Graham says there is room for more. If you’re a high school student with interest in joining the Student Leadership Challenge, please talk to Dr Graham or any member of the Principal Advisory Board [Jafet Cruz, Alex Bennink, Ayesha Kothari, Tristan Milarch, Tabitha Hill].

Congratulations to the students rising to the Student Leadership Challenge! We believe and in all of your leadership skills and think it’s incredibly valuable that you continue to find ways to share them with us and your fellow students!

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Pinewood Moms Serve Up Healthy Snacks!

img_8641Pinewood moms, Tanya Hawley and Emily Larsen, have set out to expand the snack horizons of our young students! After working with their child’s classroom teacher last year they sought and received a grant, along with enthusiastic permission from Pinewood principal, Rachael Postle-Brown, and are now serving healthy snacks once a month to the entire school!

Each month there is a featured vegetable that may not be very familiar to students but Tanya and Emily see serving these snacks as a way to help kids see that vegetables can taste good and be fun to try! In October they introduced pink and purple radishes and November’s snack was spaghetti squash served with marinara sauce.

img_8634Taking on a project of these size has not been easy but both Tanya and Emily bring valuable experience and passion to the program. Emily is a registered dietitian and Tanya say, “Emily has been able to add a ton of nutritional facts and information to our program. My focus is on connecting MI farms to families, and connecting kids to real food and farms, and where the food comes from. Emily’s focus on nutritional impact.  Together we make a good team, and we are passionate about helping our community make healthier snack and food decisions in their everyday lives.”

Tanya says that she notices that when some students are willing to try something new, their friends will try it too. Their goal is for kids to be exposed to new foods, broadening their horizons and helping them learn about healthy options. This is also an opportunity for kids to learn about local farms and where our food comes from. Parents are encouraged to participate at home and a handout is provided each month for the “healthy snack” lesson to continue. Kids are also asked to participate in a brief quiz that allows Tanya and Emily to track students interest in the food prior to trying it as well as afterwards. Tanya says that she is pleasantly surprised by the number of kids who are willing to try a new food (parent: take note!).

Teachers have been welcoming of the addition to their school day once a month and these moms hope that parents are taking advantage of the interest as well. Kids who insisted they didn’t want to try “something green” ended up liking kale chips and even last month’s radishes!

Thank you to these moms and the local farms helping supply the new foods! We hope the Pinewood students will continue to try new things and teach us all about what they’re learning!

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Bus Driver is Humble Hero: A Story to be Thankful For

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Joey, Miss Kristin + Ethan

Halloween is never a typical day on a bus to begin with but for one bus driver and her students, it’s a day they’ll never forget.

It was early on in Kristin Bredeweg’s usual Friday afternoon bus drop off routine when she was approached by fifth grader, Joey Bonacci, who calmly reported that his friend, Ethan Dahl, was choking and he couldn’t breathe.

Leaving her red lights on, Kristin ran to the back and saw that Ethan was indeed, unable to breathe. She grabbed him into the aisle, wrapped her arms around him and performed the Heimlich maneuver.  Nothing happened. Ethan still wasn’t breathing. Kristin lost her mom earlier this year and in a brief moment of desperation she asked her mom for help and gave Ethan one more push. Air rushed into his lungs and he fell back in her arms. He was going to be ok.

miii9093Ethan says that he had been enjoying a hard candy before getting on the bus and he thinks a shard of it was what got caught in his throat. Joey knew he was choking, rather than goofing around, because Ethan had been laughing and all of a sudden, he wasn’t making any noise. Ethan and Joey have been friends since third grade and, along with their friend, Isaac England, they are always together on the bus and acknowledge they are good friends.

Kristin radioed into the Transportation office letting them know that Ethan was ok but there had been a medical emergency and asked them to please contact his mom. She told Ethan she wouldn’t leave until he waved at her from the front window before she shakily pulled away.

Kristin had never performed the Heimlich Maneuver and wasn’t sure she was even doing it correctly but she did what she says, any of the JPS bus driver would’ve done. “You love them like they’re your own kids. They’re not just your bus kids. When they’re in my care, they’re my kids. I just did what his mom would’ve done.” 

“I’m driving that bus, not because it’s a job, but because I love my job. I stay on my route because I know my families, because it’s relationships built in the community. There’s communication and relationships built between [yourself] and the families you drive for that make it worth sitting in the seat. They know I love their kids like my own.”

Kristin and Joey, there aren’t enough “thank you’s” and hugs to express how grateful we are for you and your quick and selfless reactions. Ethan, we are so very thankful that you are ok and we trust that you’ll avoid hard candy from now on!

History Comes Alive for 8th Graders!

img_4675If you’ve ever tuned out your parents or an older adult when they started to say, “When I was your age…” you’re not alone and you’re probably in the good company of many of our eighth grade students.

This year, Jenison Junior High Language Arts teachers wanted to not only allow students the opportunity to embrace their curriculum unit on historical fiction but to do it by getting to know some older adults in our community who have their own history to tell.

img_4646English teacher, Jane Brown, wanted students to learn new ways to value history and personal experiences. “We are always looking for ways to make our curriculum real to our students. In eighth grade, we study historical fiction and – unfortunately – sometimes just that genre alone turns people off even though it can be fascinating. We wanted to help our students to see that the things that happened before their lifetimes matter.”

As part of the event held earlier this month, senior citizens were invited to participate by being interviewed in person by our junior high students. The students are also charged with writing historical fiction of their own and the real-life experiences they heard about will add depth to their writing.

img_4685“Students asked a variety of questions. The goal was for them was to find out what life was like in the past and also to hear the interesting stories that people had to share. The students were very excited to share what they had learned from the people they interviewed. They are looking forward to writing historical fiction short stories set in the time periods that they learned about.
Kids loved learning what people wore to the beach in the 1930s [suits and ties], how they talked on the telephone in the 1960s [party lines], and about the beginnings of Jenison Public Schools.”

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55 older adults between the ages of 50 – 90 participated in the event and were eager to share their experiences with the students. They also reported being impressed by their questions!

“We really liked that this event allowed students to learn about history in a non-traditional way from a first-hand perspective, while at the same time, practicing communication skills. The students came away from their hour disappointed that they didn’t have more time with the people they interviewed. Bridging the generations is such a wonderful experience for everyone involved!

Thank you to our community partners for being willing to participate in our students’ education! Your voices are invaluable to us!

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Peter Pan Has a Prequel? Of Course it Does!

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Before you see Jenison theatre perform “Peter Pan” this winter, you’ll want to know the back story, of course!

Director and theatre teacher, Todd Avery, has been waiting to perform “Peter and the Star Catcher” for three years, ever since he saw it performed in Chicago and watched it win five Tony Awards in 2012. He was drawn to the unique qualities of the show including wonderful opportunities for an ensemble cast, creative scenery and the need for the audience to participate through their imagination. “Everything is very suggested. For example, we don’t have swords that we fight with, we fight with plungers. The actors create a ship with just a big piece of rope and their bodies and a couple crates, so the concept is just really interesting. It’s a unique way of storytelling and it’s a style called Story Telling Theatre.”

miii4226It’s not a traditional show where the actors play a single role. In this show, the actors are playing multiple roles, keeping track of where they need to be at all times and even wearing multiple costumes on top of each other!

While the winter musical performances are stories told through music, this weekend’s show is a “play with music” and students filling this role had very challenging music to master. All of the music is performed by a pianist and percussionist providing exciting sounds that take on a character of its own.

Sophomores Emma Byerwalter and Caden Hembrough play the leading roles of Molly and Peter respectively and are both alums of the theatre program beginning in junior high and taking on their biggest roles to date with this show. Emma loves her character and says it’s her favorite of her theatre career, so far. “Molly is confident, strong-willed and down to earth.” Caden says that he enjoys playing Peter who starts off being quiet and mad at the world and builds confidence and leadership skills throughout the show.

miii4287As so many other theatre students have said in the past, the Jenison theatre community has meant “everything” to Emma and Caden. “You make friends with everyone and they all count on each other. There’s no exclusion.” says Caden. Emma adds, “It’s a really open community. No matter who you are, you are welcome here.”

Mr Avery knows that this group of students is ready and well prepared to tackle this challenging and entertaining show. “I knew this was going to be a particularly challenging show and I saw some great things in [these students] the last couple of years, even back in junior high, and I knew they could do it. And they’ve risen to the challenge and it’s like nothing they’ve ever done before.”

If you’d like to spend some time this weekend getting to know the beginning stories of Peter Pan, Wendy and the rest of the Peter and the Star Catcher crew, check ticket availability and purchase them here.

Break a leg, Jenison Thespians! We can’t wait to see you shine!

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Bauerwood Goes Boo!

miii0192This Halloween, once again, our Jenison schools were filled to the brim with examples of creativity, personality and fun! The teachers and students at Bauerwood got to strut their stuff for parents and family members on their annual parade and celebrate with classroom parties.

Kylo Ren was a popular guest as were the princesses of Frozen. Mario and Luigi showed up and so did a few Transformers and other super heroes. Of course, a few scary characters were there too but thankfully, we had enough police officers, fire fighters and Ghostbusters to keep the peace!

Enjoy the many costumes and personalities of our Bauerwood kids and teachers! Thank you to everyone who contributed treats, party assistance and, of course, our audience members!

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Bank Tellers by Day, School Volunteers by Holiday!

miii0180Earlier this month, the staff at Rosewood was treated to a team of twelve volunteers from Chemical Bank who used their bank holiday to serve their community.

miii0191According to Matthew Kroon, Customer Service Rep at the Byron Center branch and point person for the Jenison project, “The twelve employees came from various locations in the area, and from many different areas of the bank such as retail, Mortgage Sales Manager, Collections, Wealth Management, and Commercial Lending.  Many are based in Byron Center, Cascade, Holland, and Hudsonville.” Seven out of the twelve have children at Rosewood, Sandy Hill, Bursley and Pinewood.

“We did many things such as repairing blocks in the courtyard that were damaged, stuffed folders for Mrs. Ambs, helped count money for the 5th grade pizza kit fundraiser, and even formed a “Sani-Squad” that sanitized entire classrooms while the kids were at recess, or on their special.  We had a helper in the STEM classroom, a helper in each of the English speaking Kindergarten classrooms, and we helped pick up trash and sticks on the playground.  We even had a short time to play with kids out on the playground, as well.”

miii0212As you can imagine, the volunteers were very well received. “The staff LOVED it!  Not only were they treated to Post Family Farms Donuts and On the Border Fajitas, but they had help when they asked, and MANY appreciated having a clean, sanitized classroom with all the germs and illness going around. ”

Thank you, Chemical Bank, for choosing Jenison and Rosewood to give of your extra time and energy. Our schools and teachers are better with our volunteers!  “Chemical Bank is all about giving back.  We are determined to promote a “Chemical Reaction” through Strengthening our CHEMunity.”

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#JPSReads!

1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsWhen Junior High theatre director, Holly Florian, chose James and the Giant Peach for this year’s winter performance fifth grade teachers, Michelle U’Ren knew that she wanted to read the classic story aloud to her class. She knew it would help them appreciate the show even more to be familiar with the story.

But it didn’t stay specific to Ms U’Ren’s class! It didn’t take long before a district-wide project was born! Other teachers were interested in reading the story to their classes as well and and soon, Holly, Michelle, and Jan Staley, media specialist, were organizing the first ever district-wide read aloud, which came to be known as JPS Reads!

All of the teachers are encouraged by the response so far. “The feedback from teachers, students, and parents has been really positive.  Perhaps the most exciting part is hearing the connections being made at home!  There are many stories of families discussing James and the Giant Peach during dinner and younger kids begging older siblings to tell them what happens next in the story.

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Story brainstorming in Mary Veldink’s 3rd grade Pinewood classroom

When Ms Florian was considering scripts for the junior high performance she was excited about the visual and production challenges posed by James and the Giant Peach. “[It] stood out to me right away as being a fantastic option – the story is so wonderful, and the stage version has many featured roles, which gives lots of students a chance to show off their performing skills. It will also be a technical challenge! Figuring out how to create a giant peach that rolls off the cliffs of Dover and into the Atlantic ocean is going to be a creative challenge for the entire production team.”

Not all teachers had a copy of the book but thanks to a grant from the Jenison Public Education Foundation, those teachers were provided a copy. Even our Spanish Immersion classrooms are reading the story in Spanish! In order to empower teachers, weekly emails are sent to participants offering suggestions for activities and ways to connect with other teachers in the project.  Each individual teacher can choose which activities they would like to implement within their own classroom. Lori Barr, Pinewood 6th grade teacher, is engaging students’ writing skills by having them write blog posts with their thoughts and questions. Check out their Letters to Ms Florian here

If you have ever wondered if reading at home matters, it does! “Statistics have shown that a powerful predictor of reading success is having a parent who personally reads aloud to their child 5–7 days a week. Our community read aloud, JPS Reads, will hopefully ignite the joy of reading and the community bond it builds within the classroom family…the hope is that this will then be talked about and become part of our individual family habits also.”

Congratulations to all the teachers, students and families who participated in the first JPS Read Aloud! We can’t wait for the play this January!

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*Photo courtesy of goldstar.com

Homecoming 2016

miii7641The weather may have had us all bundled up in scarves and blankets this Homecoming weekend but it didn’t stop our Wildcat pride! We hope you enjoy this post – a journey through Homecoming through pictures and take a minute to congratulate our Jenison football team on a winning season and record so far of 5 – 2!

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Homecoming King Tom Docsa and Queen Brianne VanDyke

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Say “Hi” to New Teachers!

This year we welcomed 23 new staff members to the Jenison family! Here you can meet some of them and feel free to say “hi” in person when you cross paths!

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Anna Flood  |  Burlsey, 6th Grade

“I grew up in the area and have always heard amazing things about Jenison. As a new teacher to the district, I have noticed the strong community and support that surrounds education. I am excited to grow with my group of 6th grade students, and watch them use their abilities to be successful.”

 

mcelweeAlexa McElwee  |  Bursley Interventionist
“I have grown up in this community.  Living in Hudsonville, attending GVSU and now working in Jenison, I have seen this community from so many sides.  From being a child, to a student, and now as a educator.  This community stands behind you and support you in every way.  When I graduated the one thing I knew I wanted in the school I worked for was a huge community involvement.  When I accepted my position in Jenison, I knew I was going more than a community, I was joining a family.  Jenison is such an amazing school district who wants the best for the students and their families.

On the first day of school I was feeling like most students do when they walk in the door, nervous, anxious and excited.  I definitely had first day jitters.  I was nervous for joining a new team and for meeting new students who have never seen me before.  By the end of they day I was getting high fives and lots of hugs from all the Kindergartners as they walked by my room to head to the bus.  To see their faces light up each morning when they see me in the hall or working with them makes me so excited to see the relationships that are being formed.  This is going to be a great year.”

vandebergJosh VandeBerg  |  Sandy Hill, 4th Grade

“My family and I are very excited to return to the area!  My wife Amanda and I are from the area, but moved to Florida 9 years ago. We have 4 children Ben (10), Abigail (9), Hannah (6), and Levi (3).  All of our extended family lives in the area and my children are thrilled to live by their cousins.

I am a big believer of living in the community that I teach in.  Jenison is an amazing place to live and raise a family.  The schools are top-notch and we can’t imagine a better place to be. I am so excited for this school year because everyone that I work with truly cares about each other.  The district leaders, the team at Sandy Hill, and everyone I meet throughout the district is amazing. Jenison has a lot to offer its students.  I am currently involved in the robotic’s program and we have a blast using what we’ve learned in the classroom to solve a problem.

willieMaura Willie  |  Elementary Music

“I was drawn to JPS because of their excellence in music. I love how the district and community supports the arts in their schools. So far, I’m most excited for the year because of all of the collaboration I’ve seen. Everyone I’ve come into contact with has been eager to help each other and work together. ”

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Jenny Huizenga  |  High School Math
“I was drawn to JPS because my children attend JPS and I love the schools and the community.  I am excited to be teaching in the community where I live.  The staff and students are amazing at Jenison and I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and get involved. “

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Bridget Ehlich  |  Bursley Elementary, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“I was drawn to JPS by the reputation it has in the Greater Grand Rapids area as forward educators. I am excited about the year because I have already felt welcomed by the community and can tell that this is a good place to be as an educator.”

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Dustin Morley  |  Junior High ELA
“I first heard about Jenison Public Schools while I attended Grand Valley State University ten years ago and heard nothing but good things about the district and community ever since. After moving from the Detroit area to West Michigan I was very excited when a long-term substitute position opened at Jenison Junior High. The building and district felt like home for me from the first interview for that position.  After being a long-term substitute for a year and a half, I couldn’t be happier to now be a full time teacher at Jenison Junior High School. I’m particularly looking forward to getting more involved with the school and community this year.”

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Rachel Nichols  |  ECC Special Education

“I was looking for a district that wanted to everything possible to benefit their students. I talked to some friends and they all were so pleased with Jenison and what they are doing.  So far it has been great everyone has been so friendly and welcoming it has been an amazing start to 2016/2017 school year and I am excited to continue!!!”
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Anna Siegel  |  Pinewood + Sandy Hill Special Education

“What drew me to JPS is the success of the district and the sense of community. I am in two different elementary buildings throughout the day this year, and so I am excited to interact with many different staff and students this year!”
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Kristen Dantonio  |  Pinewood, 5th Grade

“I was drawn to Jenison because I was told that it was a district that cared about people. It is a district that puts relationships first and I knew that I wanted to be part of that. I am most excited to get to know my students and coworkers at Pinewood. It has been a great year so far and I am excited to see how those relationships will grow.”

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Christina Salinas  |  Rosewood, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“The wonderful Jenison community and Spanish Immersion program drew me to JPS.  This year I am excited to see students continue to grow in their literacy skills in Spanish and English.  I am also excited to work with the supportive teachers and staff at Rosewood Elementary. I have learned so much from them already. Their dedication and passion for teaching is contagious!”

We’re so thankful for all of our teachers and all that they do for our students and families! Thank you to the new teachers for bringing your talents and passion to Jenison!