Please join me as I express my deep gratitude to these 6 teachers who have given so much to a diverse group of Jenison students. They represent the culture of Jenison of going above and beyond. If your students have had the privilege to study under these teachers, I encourage you to reach out, wish them well and thank them for their dedicated careers.
- Todd Avery
- Brett Dyke
- Jan Camilleri
- Rachel Elenbaas
- Stacey Harig
- Mary Muller
Todd Avery – Jenison High School
I leave you with a quote that has always meant a lot to me and guided my life, “If you give a little of yourself, you will get twice as much back. Try to help someone. Do your part. I promise it will come out twice as good.”
– Mrs. Helen Lemke, my grandmother
Todd recently completed his 26th year as teacher and director of the Theatre Arts program for Jenison High School. He spent these years investing into students on and behind the stage. Under Mr. Avery’s direction, the JHS Thespians have performed murder mystery productions, outdoor children’s shows, 24 Hour Play Festivals, an annual fall play and spring musical, as well as participating in theatre festivals across Michigan. The Jenison community is grateful for the Thespian program he spent his career building. We have been blessed with over 60 wonderful productions from our high school players during his time. Another proud accomplishment is developing one of his favorite projects: the annual JHS Thespians’ Santa Breakfast. For over ten years, he built a Jenison tradition as he played the cherished role of the man in the red suit!
In addition to teaching and directing, Todd spent time acting and directing for local theatre companies. He was also honored at the Michigan Thespian Festival by being inducted into the Michigan Educational Theatre Association Hall of Fame in 2013. In his “free” time, Todd also enjoys taking in as much live theatre as he can.
Todd sees this step of retirement as a transition into something new. Perhaps teaching or directing at a collegiate level, playwrighting, coaching younger actors or going after a major motion picture role for himself! One of the things he is looking forward to most is time with his loved ones and that may include a trip to New Zealand with his wife Penny, or the bucket list road trip of driving Route 66 in a fancy convertible!
Brett Dyke – Jenison High School
“Thank you Jenison for some amazing memories. Some of of the best came from classroom discussions and building relationships through athletics, leading some teams to conference, district and regional championships.“
Brett spent about half of his 33 year teaching career at Jenison High School. He most recently taught in the Family and Consumer Science Department with Health and Physical education classes. He also coached the Varsity Boys basketball team for 16 years.
In his time away from the classroom, Brett enjoys golf, travel and spending time with his family. He and his wife Julie are looking forward to more time for all of those plus some DIY projects during retirement.
Jan Camilleri – Sandy Hill Elementary
“Thank you to the wonderful staff that I have had the privilege to work with, the great Jenison administrators and their leadership, and especially to the Jenison community for the opportunity to work for 30 years with children from the community.”
Jan spent the last 30 years teaching in 3 different JPS buildings, working for 5 different principals, and teaching in both special education and general education classrooms. If she wasn’t the amazing special education teacher that she was, she would have probably put her tender heart and listening ear to work for the senior citizen population.
Jan’s passion for teaching doesn’t allow her to shy away from a challenge; she spent over a year teaching English as a second language to a group of Congolese adult refugees, without knowing any Swahili or French. No matter who her student is, she wanted them to go away feeling encouraged and believing in themselves.
Jan and her husband Joe, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this summer and they are looking forward to spending more time with their adult daughters, camping, hiking and exploring. They will also be re-planning her oldest daughter’s wedding
Rachel Elenbaas – Rosewood Elementary
“Teaching in Jension has given me some of the best years of my life. I will remember the great times teaching brilliant students alongside excellent teachers.”
Rachel Elenbaas has been pouring into little Wildcats at Jenison Public Schools since 1990. She began her career teaching in a resource room at Bursley Elementary. The following school year brought her to Pinewood Elementary where she taught in the program for the Emotionally Impaired students for 9 years. From there she moved to Rosewood and taught 3rd grade for 12 years. She has finished out her time with us in the resource room as an Interventions Specialist, and she will be very missed.
While she does enjoy gardening and sewing, she has additional exciting ideas for her upcoming retirement. Rachel and her husband (also a retired teacher) are planning some upcoming trips with their adult kids that include hiking, biking and skiing.
Rachel plans to take on a unique position of private teaching for a family during the Covid pandemic. I’m also thankful that Rachel will be sharing her knowledge and passion for these special students as she plans to mentor 1st year Special Education teachers who are in Grand Valley’s intern program.
Stacey Harig – Sandy Hill Elementary
“I am so thankful for my grade level teams, students, families, and all district staff who I have worked with over the years! It has been a fulfilling experience with many wonderful memories with all of you! I was very fortunate to be a part of Jenison Public Schools!”
Stacey began in Jenison with a student teacher position at Sandy Hill. Following graduation and a year of teaching in Ohio, she came back to stay. She taught first grade for the majority of her career because she loved seeing this unique phase of exponential growth in learning which happens at this grade level. Stacey was a very important part of a huge year of progression for many students. She considers herself a cheerleader for her students long after they have left her first grade classroom.
Stacey and her husband Ron (also a retired Jenison teacher) enjoy family time with their college age children and like to enjoy Michigan outdoor activities as much as possible. They are looking forward to fully retire by moving up north and making new family memories in northern Michigan.
Mary Muller – Rosewood Elementary
“Do what you love. Love what you do. I’ve been lucky enough to say that I’ve been able to do that in my 39 year teaching career. I’m going to miss my many students, the staff, and lifelong friends I’ve made along the way. Hopefully, I’m gone, but not forgotten.”
Mary calls her 40 years of teaching special education students her dream job. She can’t even imagine what she would be if she wasn’t a teacher – it was always her childhood wish. Her favorite moments during the last 4 decades was watching the progress of her students, seeing them as the capable, achieving students they were – who exceeded expectations time and again. One of her hopes as an educator was to instill a love of learning in her students, as she shared her own passion for learning with them.
During retirement, Mary plans to play lots of tennis, pickle ball, golf, and anything else she can do to be active. She’d also like to travel to see the world, and see her grown children more, who currently live out of state. She may even slow down enough to read a book or two in her spare time.