We Choose Jenison: The Van Dyke Family

JPS summer, Jenison Public Schools
This week we are pleased to hear from Mike and Beth Van Dyke. Their son Caleb graduated in 2010; daughter Emma will be a sophomore this year. Here is their story:

“I wish we had a more compelling story as to why we chose Jenison schools, but what it came down to for us was that we got so much more for our money as far as house and property and we heard the schools were good as well.

We had moved Caleb a lot throughout elementary while my husband Mike finished college and got established in his career, so I was so worried about him moving yet again (we’ve lived here since 2004).

When we moved, Caleb was going into 7th grade and Emma was going into 1st grade.  I was originally concerned for Caleb because of the thought of him being the “new kid” (I didn’t realize junior high didn’t start until 7th grade) and for Emma because the other kids will have already gone through Kindergarten together, but it worked out well for both of them.  That year was the first year that Maplewood was not open for elementary anymore, so those kids were disbursed throughout the district. While sad for many, this worked in our favor so Emma wouldn’t be the only new kid in first grade.  We also found out that many kids from 6 different elementary schools were all going into one school for 7th grade, so that helped Caleb’s adjustment.  It was great for both of them.  They fit in perfectly.

Both of our kids have very good friends, and actually, Emma and her friends from 1st grade are still very close.  There have been additions to that group, certainly, but it’s nice to see this core group is still together.

As I reflect on the years we’ve been here, what has most impressed me about Jenison is that the district is very successful at preparing kids for after graduation.  The teachers are phenomenal!!  Caleb really connected with many of his teachers.  They would get into deep discussions that would really challenge him.  I remember Caleb telling me that VP would really critique his work in a positive, helpful way that would make him become a better artist and he welcomed it immensely. He is in his last year at Kendall and has had many offers for internships as a Graphic Designer.

Both of my kids are very good students — however, science was the one class that really didn’t interest them in the least bit.  But, last year, Emma had Mr. Zuber for the first semester.  He has a way with the students that made her so excited for that particular science class.  He truly knows how to share his passion.  She liked that class so much, she chose to take Zoology in her sophomore year because he teaches it.  Also, Mr. Diekman was a life changer for Emma.

I have seen Caleb grow, learn to think on his own, and decide what he believes because that’s what he believes.  This happened in part, from his discussions he’d have with his teachers like Schuiteman, Veeneman, VP, AB, Hast, and the list goes on.  Emma is very serious about her grades and she wants to always do the best she can.  She thinks through things before she does them.  She is a risk-taker, but a wise risk taker.  I think Jenison has helped to shape this in her.

 I will never forget shortly after we moved here and we were coming back from visiting relatives from the Lansing area (where we moved from).  We rounded the corner on Main St. heading into Jenison and Caleb said, “Mom, this is home.” 

That was the best confirmation that we made the right decision.”

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