Pinewood Design Team Takes Home the Gold!

Every year the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District [OAISD] hosts a project for students in Ottawa County called futureprep’d as a way to connect students with some of the world class companies that call West Michigan their home. Sarah Magro, Intervention teacher at Pinewood, applied for the program and was teamed with a teacher in the Grand Haven School District. Each teacher selected three fifth graders to make up the team from Ottawa County to take on the Michigan Design Challenge.

Sponsored by the Michigan Design Council, the Michigan Design Challenge is a statewide competition  for educators to work with students to solve an existing problem. Students accomplished this challenge by using Project-Based Learning which is to start with a problem and find the solution through the creative sequence [seen in the photo above].

The challenge this year was to create a device or object to help make MI winters more safe or more fun. But as Ms Magro and her fellow teacher, TJ Klumpel, quickly learned, students have very different ideas for making winter more safe and fun than adults!

The team created a series of Smart Sleds which are built by the customer through a kit of their choosing – based on their interests. For example, they created a racing sled for the daredevil, a safety kit with a helmet and bumper pads for the cautious consumer, and even a “Lazy Joe” kit with a towing feature for those of us who prefer to sled less proactively.  What the students created was a solution to both problems – winter would be BOTH more fun and ore safe!

The team’s ideas were submitted to the Michigan Design Challenge in June as well as presented to a crowd of parents and family members at the OAISD for futureprep’d. Then, during Professional Development week in August, Ms Magro got the news that the Ottawa Country team had been selected for the Top 3 statewide in their age bracket! At that point, the team was paired with Stryker to brainstorm their ideas with staff from their industrial design division. The team drew up the kids ideas and the students were also exposed to important careers that are a little outside the box. Every team in Top 3 worked with a different company who, with help from the students, created posters with with their ideas and these posters were brought to the University of Michigan last week for the awards ceremony.

After the judges assessed all the Top 3 entries, Jenison and Grand Haven won the GOLD!

Ms Magro is not only proud of their win, but their hard work along the way as well. “It’s very cool that kids get to work through the creative sequence alongside kids from a another school, another teacher you don’t know, learning about collaboration, teamwork, and finding a solution to a problem – these are all important skills for kids to learn.”

Students take full ownership of the project, receiving only consultation and support from their teachers. Ms Magro is also excited that her students were able to see that there are careers out there that aren’t “cookie cutter” and, for the kid who may have a hard time finding their place, they learn in this process that they will have options.

“I’m very proud of the students for stepping outside the box. We had our own vision of how to make Michigan winters safer, but from a kids perspective, it’s so different. What they came up with was above and beyond what TJ and I thought of. Seeing what students are capable of and the higher level thinking that they’re capable of is incredible.”

Congratulations to the entire Ottawa County team, but especially to our Pinewood Champions: Luke Cousino, Selena Keller, and Meredith Bolhuis! We’re so proud of you and your accomplishments!

*Photo courtesy of the GH Tribune

Pinewood is a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School!

Last fall, students all across the state of Michigan – including Jenison, of course, took part in state exams. Our kids did their best and little did the Pinewood students know that their amazing scores would automatically nominate them for the US Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School award!

Once the nomination was announced, members of the Pinewood School Improvement Team went to work on the lengthy application! Jane Miles [2nd grade], Sara Brower [4th grade], Michelle U’Ren [5th grade], Marie Doerr [School Psychologist] and Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown completed the application that included information on school demographics, attendance, the school mission and how it’s accomplished. The application was 25 pages by the time this phenomenal team was done!

The application was sent off to Washington DC where it was conditionally accepted, depending on the next set of test scores. And those scores meant Pinewood met the qualifications for being named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School!

Only 340 schools across the country were awarded this prestigious title and only thirteen in Michigan. Pinewood was chosen based on their exceptional level of social, emotional, and behavioral supports offered to children including Social Thinking Curriculum, Whole Brain Teaching, Mindfulness, Teach Like a Pirate, and Trauma-Informed Schools.

Because of these amazing supports and the teachers and students using them every day, the Department of Education has selected Pinewood to be featured alongside 4 – 7 other nationwide schools at the award ceremony in Washington DC next month. A camera crew will be coming to Pinewood to film “A Day in the Life of Pinewood” and all school representatives attending the ceremony from across the country will see the great things happening at Pinewood and Jenison!

Mrs Brown believes Pinewood is a special place because of the way teachers feel about each student there. “Pinewood stands out because teachers embrace every student as their own. Regardless of academic need, social or emotional needs – they are taken care of.” She also wants to thank the Pinewood community saying, “I want to thank the families, who are also part of this award. Thank you for sending your kids here, participating when needed, and being part of the community.”

We are so incredibly proud of the work being done at Pinewood to support ALL students! Our teachers and staff work so hard to make sure students have everything they need to be successful in school and we’re thrilled that the whole country will get to see why! Way to go, Pinewood!

Star Student Spotlight: Peyton Benac!

If you’re a regular reader of the Jenison Blog, you have already met our high school star student, Peyton Benac. Last winter, she impressed us with her story of starting the Girls in STEM Club for elementary students, and now she is principal, Dr. Brandon Graham’s choice to round out our special series of awesome Jenison students!

Peyton’s list of accomplishments in a long one but her humility, gentle spirit, and desire to enrich and encourage younger girls is nothing short of inspiring!

Last year, Peyton shared with us that she felt motivated to begin the Girls in STEM Club because of her own experiences on the junior high Science Olympiad team. During her time on the team she heard inappropriate comments from fellow 7th, 8th and 9th grade students about the presence of girls on the team. Peyton was keenly aware of the lack of female leadership in the group and was seeing its impact. “If we had another woman in the room –  a high school girl or a female teacher – this would be such a different environment. I noticed that a lot of junior high girls were quitting Science Olympiad, and I was getting pretty frustrated by it even as a junior high student”.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, Peyton began serving as a Science Olympiad coach. “I started coaching sophomore year and I tried to “fill the space” and be that person that wasn’t there when I was a junior high student.” It was at this same time that she approached Mrs. Putti about starting the Girls in STEM Club for elementary students.

This winter Peyton won a National Merit Scholar award which is based on the PSAT which she took during the fall of her junior year. Based on scores, they choose 16,000 students nationwide. These 16,000 students are asked to write an essay, submit their transcript, and a letter of recommendation and the organization chooses 14,000 finalists. With this prestigious award comes varying amounts of scholarships from schools around the country. Financial awards range from a one-time $2500 gift to full ride scholarships depending on the school.

Peyton applied to fourteen schools to “see what happens”. Her schools of choice include Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Boston University, and Harvey Mudd College [a small, prestigous STEM college in Southern CA]. She adds, “I kind of want to go out of state if I can. There’s so much to see.”

Peyton plans to pursue degrees in astronomy and physics. When she is done, she’d like to explore the passion she discovered while working with the elementary students in the STEM program. “I think I want to work more on the outreach side. Teaching college kids is obviously rewarding with high-level material and research – that’s all fun, but there’s nothing that really rivals a seven-year old who’s excited about building the fastest sled or the strongest boat. That’s so unique and important and I think there’s really a need for that encouragement for boys and girls, but especially for girls at those young ages.”

Payton’s aspirations go beyond encouragement. “I would like to teach at the university level and do research but hopefully, from whatever university I’m teaching at, be able to be in charge of whatever they do with younger kids: summer camps, after school programs, inviting kids to campus.”

Peyton sees her role with younger students as one of influence, which she values and appreciates in her own life. “Years ago I liked education, but I didn’t see it on a personal level.” She listened to science podcasts and saw herself in that role or on TV, but once she began working one-on-one and in groups she saw the impact she could have with students in person. “It’s fun to be on TV but way more fun to physically be in the room and there’s a bigger impact to be there.”

Mrs. Putti, Alice’s high school physics teacher, as well as Mr Kunzi and Mrs Sager have been “very instrumental in fostering my love of the STEM subjects. When you think about what it means for girls to not be afraid of that interest, I think it’s so much the personal relationships, having someone TV who is a woman and in STEM is one thing, but having someone who is going to remember your name, and work with you and remember your project, and show you how to do a problem is a totally different thing. The number of people you reach in a career like this is much less but the impact you have on each person is much more.”

So where did Peyton decide to take her talents? She’s headed to Cambridge and the mighty Crimson of Harvard University!

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, Peyton! We are so proud of you and know you will continue to make us proud as you head East and continue to conquer the STEM world! We love being able to call you a Wildcat!


Emma Scott is 2016 Future Leader in the Making!

IMG_5113Earlier this month Jenison 8th grader, Emma Scott, was honored at GlenEagle Golf Club as the winner of the 2016 Future Leader in the Making Award! This is the first year for the award which was offered and presented by the Grandville-Jenison Chamber of Commerce.

Junior High Principal, Brett Cataldo [pictured below], attended the event but was also Emma’s nominator. “Emma is a positive, smart, compassionate young lady.  Emma is a leader by example in all of her classes.  She is a positive peer for students in her classes.  Emma sets an example of being a team player, respectful and exhibits the Cat Character Traits from JJHS – Caring, Integrity, Citizenship, and Self Discipline.”

Emma has taken full advantage of the opportunities at Jenison Junior High by participating in Choir, Orchestra, and advanced classes such as Challenge American History, and Advanced Math.  “She works extremely hard academically and brings the thinking in her classes to a higher level.  In addition is a talented singer and had a lead role last winter in our Junior High musical Once Upon A Mattress.  Emma also participated in softball.”IMG_4435

The idea for the award was prompted a few years ago after the community experienced the flooding and the eight year old son of a Chamber member took a leadership role with a weekend of cleanup. When the Chamber decided to move forward with the idea the age range of 13 – 17 year olds was established and the criteria for nomination were “for activities or significant contributions that resulted in the improvement and quality of life for the residents and or businesses of the Grandville/Jenison/GTWP Communities.”

Sandy LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Grandville-Jenison Chamber of Commerce had the difficult task of deciding between the eight candidates but says that Emma stood out because she “is a very well rounded student who excels not only academically but also in the arts, sports, and shares her talents singing to the elderly.  She sets the bar high for fellow students and is definitely a “Future Leader in the Making”.”

Emma, ‘congratulations’ from the entire JPS family! We are so proud of your hard work, talents and spirit of giving back. You exemplify what it means to be a Jenison Wildcat!

Bursley Elementary is a National Blue Ribbon School!

2000px-National_Blue_Ribbon_Schools_seal.svgWe are extremely proud to announce that the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has designated Bursley Elementary School a National Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence!  

Bursley Principal, Wayne Brown, says, “This fantastic honor validates the collective efforts of the motivated students, the devoted teachers, and the supportive parents of Bursley.”  

On September 29th, 2015, it was announced that Bursley Elementary was selected to receive the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award from the United States Department of Education. They are one of only thirteen schools in Michigan to receive the Blue Ribbon award for 2015 and one of only 500 schools in the entire nation. Bursley Elementary qualified for this special recognition based on their overall academic excellence as well as their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Bursley Elementary will be honored at a ceremony November 9th and 10th in Washington, D.C. and will receive a plaque and flag signifying the “National Blue Ribbon” status. The award plaque affirms the work of students, educators, and parents in creating a safe and welcoming school where students master challenging content.

MIII4717 copyBursley Elementary School serves 492 students in grades K-6 as part of the Jenison Public School District.  The school takes pride in its focus on excellence and educating every student who is a part of our school community. Their journey is contingent on collaboration, intentional instruction, and strong relationships in the school and with the community.

Bursley teachers are proud of this achievement and the work that students and staff do every day:

MIII4726 copy3rd grade teacher, Ric Blank: “I have had the privilege to work with many schools and staffs over the past few years and am very lucky to have had Bursley as one of them.  It is very exciting for our school to be recognized this way and I know that we will continue the high standards we have set here!”

MIII4747 copyRebecca Chicklon, 5th grade Spanish Immersion:  “I am thrilled to be celebrating with the Burlsey students and staff who have received this prestigious title. Being a Blue Ribbon school means teachers and staff have worked tirelessly to serve a diverse group of students, their needs, and their interests. They have met students where they were at, and students have responded with equal dedication and effort to make great gains in closing the achievement gap. I look forward to upholding myself and my students to this standard of excellence.”

“Our staff at Bursley works really hard to make sure that all kids are successful.  They care about the whole child and do all that they can to help them achieve.  I know that we have teachers across the district that do the same thing, but it was great to be recognized for making a difference for many of our kids here at Bursley.  Our staff, students and families work really hard and are excited to be awarded a National Blue Ribbon”, says Amy Hage, 1st grade teacher

“This is an incredible honor and one of the highest levels of recognition that an individual school can receive. The effort that the entire Bursley staff poured into each and every student day in and day out over the years has paid huge dividends in terms of their overall student achievement. They have beaten the odds and out performed schools throughout the nation in closing the achievement gap among their subgroups. We all should be very proud that they are being recognized for the work that they have done to insure that each and every student is successful in their learning and achieving at a high level.” – Tom TenBrink, Superintendent

Please join with me in CONGRATULATING the staff and students of Bursley elementary for all of their efforts in being awarded the National Blue Ribbon School award!

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ACT Teacher Julie Clark on The Today Show!


Julie Clark brings Wildcat Pride to New York’s Rockefeller Center!

It all began when Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown nominated Julie Clark and the ACT program for The Today’s Show’s “Cool School” feature.  Ms. Postle-Brown knew she was an ideal candidate for a story because “Julie is very creative when it comes to her lesson planning. She is always looking for new and exciting ways to get the students engaged.  Julie also is very focused on teaching content standards and challenging the students. This combination ensures her lessons are covering necessary content while keeping students excited and connected to the experiences.”

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Julie Clark introducing a new lesson in her classroom.

The ACT program, or ACademically Talented, is housed at Pinewood Elementary and Ms. Clark works with just over 200 Jenison students in third through sixth grades.  “The program gives a chance for our students to challenge themselves and push beyond the traditional classroom limits.  It is an opportunity for them to bond with students from other buildings and build a community based on loving learning and academic excellence.  We provide an array of supports and interventions for students who are struggling and we want to be sure we are offering the same supports to students who are excelling. Our job as educators is to meet every student where they are at and to help them grow and go further. ACT let us do that for our gifted learners.” – Ms Postle-Brown

Mrs. Clark’s visit to NBC’s The Today Show featured her and current ACT third grader, Morri McCluggage, as well!  They featured her lesson on using carnival games to to teach probability and had constructed Morri’s game to be played on the show.  In the classroom, students played “various games [such as dice games, board games, card games, etc.] in which we explored data collection, measures of central tendency, theoretical and experimental probabilities of the games, the likelihood of winning, fractions, and percents. The students were asked to show what they learned by developing their own carnival games and rules.”

As part of this culminating activity, we invited parents and other classrooms to play our games. The ACT students put on their “teacher hats” by asking players to make predictions about the likelihood of winning their games, teaching the mathematics involved, and explaining whether or not their game was “fair.” In the end, the students were able to showcase their learning through a hands-on, team, or self-led project.”

When Morri was asked to join her beloved teacher on the show her response she couldn’t believe it.  “When Mom asked me in my head I said,”WAAAAAAAAA, this is just a dream. I will wake up now.” Then I pinched myself on the face hard.Neutral FaceSmiling face with open mouth Turns out it was real. It felt awesome.Thumbs up signSmiling face with smiling eyes”  [Emoji’s her own.]

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Proud ACT Students!

Morri was joined by her dad in NYC and Mrs Clark by her husband.  They didn’t get a lot of time to sight see but did have the opportunity to experience the behind-the scenes action of TV!  “[Last Wednesday morning we] headed over to the “green room” for hair and make-up. Imagine our delight when Tom Brokaw and John Cena sat right between us! To top that off, Lionel Richie was warming up in a room behind our chairs. Carson Daly, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford also passed by and gave us a big thumbs ups! As we were waiting to go on-air, we were excited to have the opportunity to see Wrangler [the Today Show’s service dog]. Of course, we wanted to get a picture with him [let me tell you, puppy kisses before going “on-air” are fantastic!].

Once we got on set, Natalie Morales greeted us as we prepared for our segment. Our three minutes on-air flew by! Afterwards, we had an opportunity to chat briefly with Natalie, John, and Willie Geist. It was clear that the hosts, producers, and crew members were excited about our segment and really interested in featuring our nation’s “Cool Schools” in such a positive light.”


Julie Clark + Morri McCluggage in NYC with their Today Show Probability Plinko souvenirs!

Mrs Clark is a JPS graduate and has been working in the district for nine years.  She is challenged by her students and loves to design learning experiences that are hands-on and challenging. “Fun is a passion of mine. As an educator, it is important to me to open the minds of my students to an array of learning possibilities while helping them to grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Above all, I want my students to know how special they are as unique individuals.”  She also acknowledges that working with this group is not without it’s [good] challenges.  “My students are able to manipulate ideas and draw generalizations. I appreciate when they are excited to teach me and share their personal problem solving strategies — it certainly keeps me on my toes!”

MIII8299 copyMorri is certainly thankful for Mrs. Clark’s hard work:  “ACT is a challenging, but it is fun! Mrs. Clark is the best teacher ever!!Pencil”  Mrs. Postle-Brown agrees, “Julie builds great relationships with her students and there families.  Students and parents love her for her welcoming and kind nature.”

“Unfortunately in today’s media a positive story on education is not always easy to find.  I really appreciate the Today Show and NBC doing a series that shows all of the amazing things that happen in public education across the country.  Julie was the perfect representative for all of the great things that happen at Pinewood and throughout Jenison.  Julie is one of many awesome teachers we have and when I walk into classrooms throughout my building every day I am impressed with passion and enthusiasm every Jenison teacher has for their students.” – Ms. Postle-Brown

Of course, you can see Mrs. Clark and Morri rock national TV by clicking here.

Congratulations to Julie, Morri and all of the ACT students who were represented!  We are so proud of you and thrilled you got to show the whole country how awesome things are happening every day at JPS!

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DECA Students Bring Home a Win!

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L to R in front: Maguire Smith, Sydney Swenson, Hannah Huizen, Abbie Davis, Madison O’Dell L to R in back: Austin Gardner, Monique Viau [Not pictured Heather Garvelink & Shayley Unger]

Earlier this month Jenison High School was represented at the International competition for DECA and proudly won a spot in the Top Ten for their School-Based Enterprise program:  The Green Bean Cafe!  DECA is a student organization at Jenison High School, preparing students for careers in business, finance, hospitality and entrepreneurship.

There are four components to DECA involvement:  Leadership, Community Service, Career Exploration and Competition.  In the Competitive component, Faculty Adviser, Brenda Clark, says that students first compete in Districts, which takes place locally, and if they qualify they move on to State and then to Internationals.  “There are lots of different competitive events but the main types are:  Series Event [students compete as individuals], Management [compete as a team] and the School-Based Enterprise Competition which is where these students made it into the Top 10.  It’s about documenting all the processes, and policies of the School-Based Initiative”  Students work in a team of three and are required to write an initial paper that is 60 – 80 pages in length and is written and revised over the course of five years as different students rotate in and out of the team.  The students must include documentation on all processes, forms used in the store, accounting and Human Resource practices, pictures, marketing practices and product service.

If they achieved the highest level of certification, which is Gold Certification, they were invited to compete at the international level where they are asked to present on one element of the business.  This year the team was required to focus their work on HR practices and include, a 15 minute presentation that won this team first place in the category and helped them reach the Top Ten overall.  They beat out 200 teams in the preliminaries, only 20 teams are invited to the finals and ten teams are honored at the Grand Awards Session.

Dr Clark wants to recognize that these students [demonstrate] “a level of professionalism, critical thinking and problem solving skills that you don’t see often in college graduates.  The one thing that DECA does is bring real life experiences to theoretical learning.”  The three students involved in the School-Based Enterprise [Senior, Abbie Davis and Sophomores Austin Gardner and Sydney Swenson] wanted to “wow” the judges with much more than the average slides and boards so they asked the judges to play the role of their employees at The Green Bean and participate in an abbreviated version of training and a brief quiz on what they learned.  The judges were clearly pleased and the students left the presentation feeling confident.

“We wanted to make ourselves stand out; be really unique.”  says team member, Abbie Davis.   Abbie will be using the skills she acquired with DECA this summer as she works in a full-time internship at a recruiting firm.  “They were incredibly impressed with the fact that I could prepare a resume and cover letter and follow up with thank you notes in the mail.  The woman that hired me said that I was competing against people that have been in college for two or three years and they turned down every single person because they did not have the professional skill set I had.  DECA gives you real life, hands on experience that you can’t get from a book.”

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DECA students joined by Advisers Jordan Malone and Brenda Clark [back 2 right]

Senior, Monique Viau, spent her third year in DECA serving as the elected State Officer. She joined the group to further her career and “DECA is an organization that can help you see different career paths and see what will work well for you”.  Monique also used her DECA-acquired skills to beat out college-age students for a full time internship in Ann Arbor this summer at a digital marketing firm.

Senior, Madison O’Dell plans to use what she learned with DECA to follow in her mom’s footsteps as an entrepreneur and business woman.  Madison wants to open her own wedding planning business one day and is thankful for her two years with DECA as she looks forward to her future.  “Competition really prepares you for the skills you’ll need and it teaches you how to present yourself well .”

“I didn’t really think about business as a job for me but now that I’ve been taking so many business classes it gives me a wider range of experiences and what I can do in the future.  I will probably get a minor in business.” says junior, Hannah Huizen and DECA member for the last two years.  DECA is open to any high school student at Jenison who is currently or was previously enrolled in a business class.  Everything they are learning in the classroom, they can apply to competition.

Congratulations to all of the hard working and dedicated students of DECA!  Your forward-thinking and professionalism is inspiring and encouraging to all who meet you!  Good luck to our seniors as they use their skills in the “real world” and we know we’ll be hearing more from our sophomores and juniors in the coming year!

Jenison Athletic Hall of Fame Inducts First Class!

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Last Saturday evening almost 200 people filled the Grandville Banquet Center to celebrate and honor the inaugural class of the Jenison Athletic Hall of Fame!  According to Booster President, Dave Krombeen, they have been talking about the Hall of Fame for fifteen years and two years ago the volunteer committees finally started coming together to make a memorable evening for all involved. “[The inductees] are all keystones to the success of Jenison athletics.  Everybody was part of building that sport for us and I can’t wait to hear them speak and share their thoughts on what Jenison meant to them.”

The event had a two-fold purpose:  recognize outstanding athletes but also to raise funds on behalf of the Boosters.  Guests were treated to a large silent auction during cocktail hour that included a variety of locally donated items and gift baskets.  The auction included an autographed Red Wings jersey, Tigers tickets and much more! By the end of the evening the auction alone had raised $8000!

Six former Jenison athletes and two former members of the Jenison coaching and administration staff were inducted as the first class and nearly all of them were present and humbled by the honor.

Jennifer Crisman-Coffey [center] with friends

Jennifer Crisman-Coffey [center] with friends

Jennifer Crisman-Coffey (1997)
Swimming/Water Polo
“It’s a really great honor to be recognized with some of the greatest athletes at Jenison; it’s exciting!”  Jenny starred at Jenison in swimming and water polo before continuing her career in both sports at the University of Michigan. She later competed in two United States Swim Trials and was a member of the USA National Swim and Water Polo teams.  As the current Jenison Aquatics Director, swimming and water polo coach, “I really try to instill a love of the sport and it’s really fun to give back to a sport and the community that I love so much.”

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Curt Pals and Sara Dyksterhouse-VanZyll

Sara Dyksterhouse-VanZyll (1986)
“Athletics make you who you are.” Sara was Jenison’s first All-State and Division I softball player for the Wildcats. She starred at the University of Michigan for four years and was a member of the 1992 USA national softball team before returning to assist her high school coach, Jerry Hoag, and help guide the Wildcats to three state titles.  Sara is especially passionate about opportunities and encouragement for female athletes.

Curt Pals
Athletic Director
Curt served as Jenison’s athletic director from 1976-1999, and during those years, the school added volleyball, softball, girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, water polo and hockey. Those teams have combined to win nine state titles.  When Curt was serving as Athletic Director he thought about starting a Hall of Fame so he is especially thankful for all the hard work that went into launching it this year.  He enjoys hearing the sportsmanship announcement at the beginning of games noting that he wrote it during his tenure.  He was proud to be recognized and added, “It’s a nice honor and I hope we set a good example” for current students.

Dave VanSurksum & his wife Jennifer [& a grandchild!]

Dave VanSurksum & his wife Jennifer [& a grandchild!]

Dave VanSurksum (1976)
Dave, who is still Jenison’s all-time scoring leader, led the Wildcats to their first district championships in 1974 and 1976. He later played for Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University.  “This is the culmination of something that is close and dear to me.”  His wife, Jennifer, adds that being inducted means “everything” to Dave.  He believes that Jenison prepared him for his success by giving him a “ton of confidence, direction in terms of knowing that athletics will always be part of my life; I’m competitive because of it and I try to use that in my every day tasks.”

Jerry Hoag, busy with his fans

Jerry Hoag
Jerry coached Jenison’s softball team for 19 years, guiding the Wildcats to six state championships and 14 OK Red Conference titles. He completed his career with an overall record of 529-95.  “You can’t put this kind of thing into words.”  “I hope [current students] can take a look at the history of athletics at Jenison High School and say, “I want to be part of that” and then they’ll start working for it.  It doesn’t come easy.”


Jennifer Whitehead-Robinson with friends

Jennifer Whitehead-Robinson [far right] with friends

Jennifer Whitehead-Robinson (1995)
Jenny is Jenison’s only athlete to earn all-state honors in three different sports. She went on to play volleyball at Michigan State University and later competed for the USA National Volleyball Team and professionally in the United States and Greece.  Jenny says that her preparation at Jenison is “beyond words” and her coaches [especially basketball and volleyball] were mentors to her. She adds that her volleyball coach really prepared her “to be a great Division I volleyball player” and now that has Jenny has become a coach, she continues to be mentored in that role as well.

Mark Dewey

Mark Dewey

Mark Dewey (1982)
“As far as accolades and honors, I’ve received as an athlete, this is the most special.”  Mark played a key role on Jenison’s first OK Red championship team in 1982 before going on to pitch at Grand Valley State University and in the Majors. He played 12 years professionally, including seven with the San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.  Mark knows that his preparation for becoming a successful athlete rests, first and foremost with his coaches and then with this teammates and opponents.  “They were good coaches and that was a tremendous benefit…and they were good athletes, good baseball players, in particular, and when you have good coaches and good competition that makes for becoming a good athlete.”

Paul Grasmanis (1992)
Mr. Grasmanis, an All-State and All-American lineman his senior year at Jenison, played four years at Notre Dame and 10 seasons in the NFL after being selected in the fourth round of the 1996 draft. He played defensive end for the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.  Paul was, unfortunately, unable to attend the event.

“This event is a way for us to celebrate the student athletes that have come through Jenison and the great contributions that they’ve made to our athletic program and our school.  I’m proud that our Athletic Boosters put this together and it’s a great way to honor the people that have built up our athletic program and competed at the highest levels.”  — High School Principal, Brandon Graham

Dave Krombeen welcomes guests

Dave Krombeen welcomes guests

Silent auction items were entirely donated by local businesses and community members!

Silent auction items were entirely donated by local businesses and community members!

A sampling of the commemorative plaques honoring the inductees

A sampling of the commemorative plaques honoring the inductees

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A great time was had by all!

Congratulations to all of the inductees and we can’t wait to see who, among our current students, will join your ranks in the future!

Michelle U’Ren Honored with the Excellence in Education Award!

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Michelle U’Ren, 5th grade teacher at Pinewood, was recently honored with the Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery!  The Excellence in Education awards were recently established to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.

Mrs. U’Ren has been a teacher for 13 years, the last 10 teaching fifth grade with the Jenison Public Schools.  She says, “I love seeing smiles on kids’ faces, seeing their eyes light up with excitement, hearing shouts of excitement when they are successful.  I go above and beyond to ensure my students have the very best experiences possible.”

MIII1907 copyWinners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district.  One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.  The nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:  Excellence, Dedication, Leadership, Inspiration and Effectiveness.  Michelle was highlighted on Fox 17 on February 17 and honored at the February School Board Meeting as well.

Mary Muller, Rosewood Intervention Specialist, saw all of this and more in Michelle and nominated her for the award.  Mary says that Michelle is, “one of those truly exceptional teachers who makes us all a little better for having just known her. Michelle U’Ren is someone who changes lives and inspires students and teachers to do great things. We’ve all had that one teacher who helped shape our lives and helped us believe that we could be something more. For many people that teacher is Michelle U’Ren.”

Michlle's husband, Ryan, Michelle and Tom Izzo

Michelle’s husband, Ryan, Michelle and Tom Izzo

The Excellence in Education awards program is a team effort between the Lottery, Fox 17 and Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.  Izzo met recently with Michelle [and the other nine award winners] at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.  All of the nominees also received a special, behind-the-scenes tour of the Breslin Center.

Mrs. U’Ren said that the opportunities to help students succeed attracted her to a career in education.  “I love the idea that I can play a role in shaping a student’s academic, personal and social life.  Knowing I can make a difference is empowering.”

One of the main ways that Michelle is empowering her students is through staying current with teaching techniques and the use of technology in the classroom.  Her students have their own blogs, use Twitter and many other websites and online tools.  “We use Skype, blogs, and social media in the classroom to connect globally, we use brain gym and movement breaks throughout the day to keep our minds active. Our classroom has several flexible seating options including balance balls, T stools and wobble chairs.  These enhance engagement by allowing movement, sensory input and energy burning!”

MIII1935 copyRachael Postle-Brown, Pinewood Principal, says that there are two aspects of Michelle’s teaching that make her unique:  “She does an amazing job of bringing the content to life for the kids, really working to make the experiences authentic for them and she works really hard to make the teachers around her better.  She’s always open to sharing techniques and collaborating with them and doesn’t hesitate if someone is asking questions or needs help.  So the amazing things that are happening in her room start happening in other rooms.

To keep the curriculum engaging for her students, Michelle has been “using a new social studies and writing curriculum written by Oakland County that incorporates the Michigan and Common Core State Standards. I’ve been incorporating document based questioning into units.  This  is where students are presented with a historical question and presented with several primary and secondary resources. Students use the documents to form an opinion about the question and then debate and defend their answers citing evidence. It is very higher level thinking! In math,  I incorporate manipulatives and hands on activities so students understand the process of math rather than strict memorization. There is also much research that says the best way to become a better reader is through reading, reading, reading. So my students are participating in a 40 book challenge this school year!

“[Michelle] is not loud or outspoken, but leads through quiet confidence.  The activities that she does with her class are new and innovative, but also demonstrate a high level of expectations and knowledge of the curriculum.  She really pushes students to their highest potential. She takes troubled students under her wing providing them with tough love,” says Mary Muller

“The relationships that I make are my favorite part about being an educator.  It’s wonderful to be able to create lasting relationships with students, collaborative relationships with parents, and partnerships with my colleagues,” she said, adding that her students motivate her to do her best every day in the classroom.

Congratulations Michelle!  We are so proud of you and thankful for your dedication to our students!  We love having you in the JPS family!

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Junior High Teacher Named Science Teacher of the Year!

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The entire district and especially Jenison Junior High is so proud to announce that Holly McGoran has been named by the Michigan Science Teachers Association as the 2015 Middle School Science Teacher of the Year!

Ms McGoran was selected after being nominated by Jenison Curriculum Director, Kristi Rogalla, and Junior High Principal, Brett Cataldo, “for using or modeling best practices, inspiring students, demonstrating innovative teaching strategies, being an excellent role model for students and other teachers, demonstrating leadership, and exhibiting a passion for science and for teaching.”   – MSTA

After the nomination was made Holly had to submit her resume and teaching philosophy, which she did somewhat reluctantly as is her humble nature.

8th grade students with their "earthquake proof" structures they made from straws, paper clips, string and masking tape in Ms McGoran's class.

8th grade students with their “earthquake proof” structures they made from straws, paper clips, string and masking tape in Ms McGoran’s class.

“When they did the surprise announcement it was nothing I had ever anticipated because there’s a lot of hard working teachers that do what’s right for kids.  It’s an honor to be part of this prestigious group of people.  They are all people who are so dedicated to kids first and then science and I think that’s what’s really cool about it.  The award wasn’t just focused on science content and curriculum it was focused on how you relate to the kids, how you work with your colleagues first and then science is the avenue to do so.  Knowing that all of those people are so wonderful with kids to begin with and then we work through science is really cool.”  — Holly McGoran

“I would put Holly up against any teacher in the nation because of the way she builds relationships with kids and she works tirelessly to have the best lessons out there.  She works with our highest achieving students and students that need that extra help along with her.  To watch her teach for an hour just gives you goosebumps.  She makes science fun and even our reluctant learners are motivated and having so much fun learning that they don’t even realize they’re learning.”  — Brett Cataldo

Mr Cataldo stresses that one of the reasons Holly is an exceptional teacher is her ability to connect with students, allowing them to explore a subject and by sharing the classroom with them which creates a safe environment for learning.  Holly has devoted her entire 16 year teaching career to Jenison Public Schools which she counts as a privilege.  “There’s so much support from administration and my colleagues and it’s such a great opportunity.  I feel so blessed to be able to learn alongside my students and my colleagues each and every day because that’s my inspiration.”

“The staff, the administration, the students, the parents, everybody really embraces education and all aspects of education.  It’s not just grades and report cards.  It’s before and after school, relationship building — everybody in the community really embraces that so it allows you to be able to innovate wildly. Without knowing that everybody around you is supporting education you could never innovate wildly.

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“It’s so fun to have them acting and thinking like scientists, that’s what really motivates me.”  

Superintendent Tom TenBrink agrees:  “Holly McGoran is a highly effective and exceptional science teacher. She is a master teacher who is skilled at getting her students engaged in the everyday learning that occurs in her classroom. Mrs. McGoran understands the importance of building meaningful and positive relationships with her students in order for them to be successful learners in her classroom. She is passionate about her subject matter and brings an enormous amount of energy to her classroom every single day. We are very excited for Mrs. McGoran that she was chosen as the State of Michigan’s Middle School Teacher of the year for 2015 by her peers. She definitely exemplifies the very best that the teaching profession has to offer.” — Tom TenBrink

Holly will be honored and officially awarded at a special ceremony at the 2015 MSTA Conference held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on Friday, February 27, 2015.  “We are proud to include Holly in the prestigious list of MSTA award winners.”

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Please join us in congratulating Holly for this incredible honor!