It may be the beginning of the school year but our teachers are always operating with the end in mind. This is Brad VanTimmeren’s 8th year teaching within the M.E.R.I.T program at Jenison High School. He uses projects like build-your-own bottle rockets to daily instill the knowledge and confidence his students need to carry them forward.
M.E.R.I.T (Meaningful Education Rooted In Transition) is a program designed for juniors and seniors who are looking for an opportunity to get prepared for life outside of high school. Our high school staff has been focusing on teaching students life skills and exploring post-high school options through this unique program for nearly 14 years. Karen Dame is also a member of the M.E.R.I.T. team. She has been with JPS for 6 years. and offers guidance in language arts, employability and work readiness skills.
The students must prepare, do their due diligence, be patient, listen carefully to instructions and work together to build their rocket. Launch day was delayed due to some weather but overall it went well this year. Van Timmeren shares that his students “enjoy being hands-on and learning visually. Building something engages a different skill set and thinking outside the norm of text books/tests sets up a great conversation about overall real life perspective.” Every year, students see success and failures within this project, and can evaluate what went well and glean applicable life lessons from it.
One of the best things about our district is our teachers and staff who daily come prepared and committed to meet the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs of each and every student. While this is obviously a key focus during their time under our care and guidance, the importance of seeing this extend beyond graduation means embracing individual success as we launch each student. I believe it does our students a disservice to make them fit a mold they were not made for. Other learning take aways for M.E.R.I.T. students in the coming year will center around career building and planning, gaining exposure to multiple skill building opportunities and considering options. The program also includes a t-shirt business and partnering with the school store to teach practical skills.
Van Timmeren has embodied the “Be Relentless” theme for nearly a decade with his students. I am excited to see him engaging our students in genuine relationships and getting them ready to launch into the world beyond high school, their world.
“No matter where kids come from or where they’re headed, they first need to know their strengths; then we want to work together to maximize their abilities. Helping them find their passion and build their confidence is key in preparing them for the path ahead – that may be college, trade education or the workforce as well as valuable community member.”
Brad Van Timmeren