Sandy Hill Third Grader and His Class Teach the World About Love and Laundry

miii3995At elementary schools all around the country there are kids earning points and rewards for trying to improve their behavior or work on particular skills. The rewards are usually specific to the student’s interests such as additional technology time, reading with a friend, eating lunch with their teacher, etc. but these average rewards were not enough for one Sandy Hill third grader. Kamden VanMaanen wanted more. Kamden has a unique interest in laundry detergent and one of his teachers, Olivia Kool, found a way to capitalize on that passion and make life a little easier at home too.

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Mrs. Kool, Kamden & his rewards

“Kamden started off by earning ipad time which did not seem to be a big enough incentive for him. As his classroom teacher Mrs. Ryan and I got to know Kamden better, we quickly learned about his love for Gain laundry detergent. Students with autism often have high interest areas and Gain detergent is something that Kamden is passionate about and talks about on a daily basis. He has even gotten many teachers and students to switch to using Gain for their laundry. He can tell you everything you would ever need to know about laundry detergent and the different scents. When I noticed that the ipad time was not really an incentive for him, I started thinking about what could we do differently to help him have good days at school. One day, I asked him if he had a good day would he like to earn some Gain laundry detergent. His face lit up when I asked him this. The first couple of days I went out and img_3509-1bought laundry detergent and he was highly motivated to earn that reward. Mrs. Ryan and I definitely noticed a difference with Kamden when he was earning the laundry detergent.”

Kamden’s mom, Amanda, decided to continue the reward at home and was also buying Gain for Kamden, which was adding up for both mom and teacher! This fall Mrs. Kool got an idea: “I wrote a letter to Meijer and Procter & Gamble. In the letter, I told them that I was a special education teacher who had a 3rd grade student who was obsessed with Gain laundry detergent. I told them how he tells everyone that Gain is the best detergent because it “has a wonderful scent and makes you open the world of fragrance.” Mrs. Kool told the companies in her letter that Kamden earns ipad time to watch Gain commercials on YouTube and asked if they’d be willing to send detergent samples as his rewards.

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Kamden dressed as a washing machine for Halloween!

“About a month later I got an email from Michael Kadzban the Buyer for Laundry and Cleaning Supplies for Meijer. He told me that he and Todd Vishnauski from Procter and Gamble secured some Gain supplies for Kamden along with some other things for him. They personally wanted to come meet Kamden and drop off the goodies they got for him. Michael and Todd were amazing! They brought tons of Gain samples for Kamden as well as Gain t-shirts, notepads, water bottles, and an official certificate from the Gain team.”

img_3503Michael and Todd “were amazed at how well the students in Kamden’s class embraced Kamden’s passion for Gain detergent and how happy the students were to see the excitement in Kamden’s face when they came to their class.  Todd from P&G said it best when he told the class that the makers of Gain have a term for people who love their product. These people are called Gainiacs. That is what Kamden is, a true Gainiac.”

img_3507Amanda VanMaanen, Kamden’s mom is grateful for the support of the teachers and staff at Sandy Hill for their love and care for their family. “Kamden was thrilled to have Todd and Michael visit him in the classroom. He couldn’t stop grinning and talking about it constantly for a long time. He told every person he knew about it. I think it was wonderful to get his class involved. They were all so excited for Kamden and it made his love of detergents a little more relatable.  I think Kamden felt so proud and excited to spend a little part of the day sharing his favorite topic with everyone. The staff has been so supportive of his fixation, even sending pics of their detergent purchases.  Mrs. Kool went above and beyond to send out the request and to set this up for him! It certainly helped with our budget for supplying laundry detergent incentives for Kamden too. We are so proud to be a part of a school that truly cares for and supports our son!”

Kamden loves his teachers and friends and he really likes science. He says he loves all the subjects in school except math, which many of us can relate to. He thinks that Mrs. Kool is a good teacher because “she’s really nice and she does nice things for me like asking the guys [from P & G and Meijer] to come to school.  She’s a good listener and she likes laundry detergent too. She has a cool down corner that I really like.”

img_3493Sandy Hill principal, Jon Mroz, knows that Kamden’s story has already impacted the students in Kamden’s class and the entire school. “This story is important to share because Kamden is an amazing young guy, with a one-of-a-kind personality.  With the help and support of the Sandy Hill teachers, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth with Kamden in many areas over the years.  Kamden’s story has allowed other students an opportunity to understand that everyone has differences, and that we can accept those differences with an open mind and open heart.”  

Thank you Mrs Kool, Mrs Ryan, Mr Mroz and the many other teachers, staff members, and students that have gotten to know Kamden and supported him. Your love and encouragement of Kamden has made a huge difference for this amazing student and his family!

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A Semester of Celebration

As you dust off the glitter and confetti from your New Year’s reveling, it’s always a good idea to reflect on the past few months and remember where we’ve been. Please enjoy this “semester in review” and your chance to catch up on the excitement and happenings of Jenison Public Schools!

1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsIf you missed your chance to read “James and the Giant Peach” during #JPSReads this fall, don’t worry, there is another chance to celebrate and embrace reading coming up. [Psst! Check back next week for all of the exciting details!]

Our high school marching band wowed audiences all the way to Nationals at Ford Field and miii9593our choirs inspired a more local audience.

Once again, our high school thespians filled the auditorium for “Peter and the Star Catcher” in preparation for the spring musical, “Peter Pan”.

img_2278As always, our teachers brought immense creativity and passion to lessons in order to make learning engaging and exciting for students of all ages. Our Pinewood 6th graders are trying to make it possible for you and your families to swim at Maplewood Lake once again, our Spanish Immersion teachers are opening doors to culture and new opportunities, our 8th graders had history brought to life by community members who lived it and high school students were invited to take the Student Leadership Challenge.

Volunteers from Chemical Bank chipped in for a Day of Service at Rosewood and Pinewood moms served up healthy snacks!

Finally, not only did Bond dollars provide new buses but one of our bus drivers lived out her love for students by saving him from choking on Halloween. miii9753

It’s been an exciting semester and we look forward to continuing the celebration into 2017!

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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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Pink Out 2016: Count On Me

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Once again the Jenison community came out in droves to support those in our community surviving and thriving in the face of breast cancer. Eight Jenison women in different stages of their fight were honored in a gym that was filled to capacity with supporters and fellow fighters.

MIII6934The women’s basketball team kicked off the athletic festivities in what seemed like it would be a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Lowell. But, despite a win not being in the cards for the women, it was still a great day to be a Wildcat!

In between the basketball games the crowd was introduced to Sister Sue Tracy who is a five-time cancer survivor and she shared a special word of encouragement meant to remind each one of us to “Celebrate Life”! She had the entire gym cheering out the letters for her message including:

MIII6742Count your blessing, not your worries. Express your feelings honestly. Learn to laugh and laugh to learn. Endure what is necessary. Be open and flexible. Remain in charge, networking with family and doctors. Accept and face your own mortality. Treasure each day and each experience. Exercise your mind body and spirit as you are are able.

Sr. Sue has been fighting three different types of cancer over the last 30 years. She says that cancer has made her glad to be alive and sensitive to others. “We all belong to this club that no one would ever want to be part of but here we are. I have found cancer to be much more life-giving even in the midst of being life-threatening. There have been opportunities to deepen in wisdom and it helps us to focus our priorities, to be empathetic to others, a compassion that comes because we don’t have any certainty about a long, long life. I only have today and what can I be and do in that. An event like this calls us all together in support and the Jenison support of each other is remarkable and very special.”

MIII6510The honorees of this year’s Pink Out are: Sharon Aalderink, Karen Meyers, Paula Bowen, Kristin Millard, Shirley Kerkstra, April Spohn, Jill LaMaire and Brandi Tyler [not pictured in this order]

They were all introduced to the crowd and walked across the bridge with family members by their side. Some of them were very recently diagnosed and facing the journey ahead while other honorees are survivors with cancer in their rear view mirrors and words of encouragement for those around them. Their introductions also gave them the chance to say “thank you” to friends, coworkers and family members for their love, meals, fundraisers and prayers.

MIII7034Other highlights from the entire Pink Out event included: the Jenison JV and Varsity Dance Team performing to “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, pink ice at the varsity hockey game, a raucous high school assembly at the end of the school day and, of course, a sea of pink everywhere you looked throughout the district. A special “thank you” to the Lowell community as well for sharing in our special day and we tip our hats to your Pink Arrow event during football season!

Eleven year survivor, Shirley Kerkstra, says that if she could tell those with a new diagnosis anything it is, “You make it. It’s an emotional roller coaster but you make it.”

Thank you to all of our volunteers, sponsors, supporters and of course, our honorees, for making this event such a special day for the district. And remember, no matter where you are on the journey you can Count On Me. We Are Jenison!

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Junior High Goes Boo! For Halloween

MIII1548 copyThe rain may have been falling outside on Halloween this year but that was no obstacle for Jenison Junior High Student Congress and their Halloween festivities!
Student Congress faculty advisers Kevin Fales and Mallory DeFouw oversee the leadership of the students as they plan and execute a fun event for the entire school.  “The kids involved with Student Congress are in charge of planning games that get lots of kids involved. Our members pick up the materials needed for the assembly and during the assembly they are in charge of running each event. They make sure each event goes smoothly and we have some students help explain the events with the microphone while others demonstrate how the game works.” says Mr Fales.

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“As advisers we help guide the kids to what games have worked in the past. We help the kids realize what materials are needed to run each event. During the assembly we guide the kids so it runs smoothly.”

 There are a lot of activities throughout the day including the opportunity for students to express themselves with their favorite costumes!  Mr Fales adds,  “We encourage our kids to dress up and have lots of fun celebrating such a fun day. During both lunches the teachers judge costumes. The categories range from cutest to scariest. The last two hours of the day our JJHS Student Congress lead the assembly. We plan out fun games that get the maximum number of students involved. We play music and get the gym rocking!”
To encourages some healthy competition, costumes are judged by the staff members each lunch. “We ask all staff to come down half way through their lunches grab a ballot, walk around to all the categories and pick the favorites. It’s a lot of fun to see all the creativity today, we usually get some awesome group costumes, really scary ones, and other great winners! I tally up the ballots and we announce the winners during the assembly by calling them down to the center of the gym. Each winner gets a large bag of candy….we had a lot of candy brought in this year from our student congress members so they got a pretty stuffed bag this year!”
MIII1551 copy“It’s a long stretch of serious hard work when starting school until this assembly. This allows kids to take small break from tough academic work and have some fun. Kids pair up and plan costumes together, get excited in the halls when they see a peers excellent creativity on costumes, and cheer each other on during the games played. We usually have students cheering for kids they never knew walked these halls and might make a few new friends today because they found a common interest, etc. The student congress members get to see their hard work and planning pay off while everyone is having a good time participating in the games they planned and gathered supplies for. Over the years we have found that this is a nice bridge from parading the halls in elementary school, to still wanting to be kids and have fun on Halloween at school. Kids are well behaved, yet excited for this opportunity to compete in a friendly competition all while being dressed up! Teachers love dressing up too! We usually talk over lunch about what we will dress as, and it’s a good time for everyone!” – Mrs DeFouw
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Thanks for another great Halloween, Student Congress!

Jenison Homecoming 2015

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The chilly wind didn’t stop Jenison fans from coming out in droves to celebrate Homecoming this year! With the theme of Board Games as their guide, each class created a special float and waved to the adoring crowd on the parade route.  Many High School clubs, teams and organizations were represented including the soccer team, cheerleaders, dance team, swim and water polo teams, volleyball team and even the equestrian team! Junior High Vice Principal and Float Judge, Heather Breen says “The kids did a great job [on the floats].  They demonstrate outstanding school spirit and creativity.”  Fellow judge and Junior High teacher, Kevin Fales agrees, adding that the students should be proud of their hard work.

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Although the football team was coming off a stellar victory against the previously undefeated East Kentwood, they weren’t able to pull of a win on Homecoming against Forest Hills Central, falling 22 – 14. However, it was hard to be discouraged when Kate Veldink and Jacob Helm were announced as Homecoming King and Queen.  Fellow senior MIII5610 copy[and close friend of the Queen] says that her senior Homecoming is “really special” and she wants to be sure to cherish every moment.

Kalyn Brockman, a Jenison freshman is taking in Homecoming for the first time not being on the sidelines. She says she loves seeing the whole community come together and it’s a great chance to show our Jenison pride!

Thank you to all students and staff for your hard work leading up to Homecoming and throughout the weekend.  Your passion and commitment make the entire event memorable and special for our school! Thank you to the community members who come out to the parade and football game to support our students and families; we couldn’t do it without you!

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Jacob Helm + Kate Veldink receive their royal regalia!

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The seniors show off their float, “Operation”.

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The Junior Class float, “Candy Land”.

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Sophomore float, “Battleship”

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The freshman class float, “Monopoly”

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Jenison Officer, Matt Chatfield, takes the field!

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Congratulations on another amazing Homecoming celebration! Go Wildcats!

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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200 Reasons to Celebrate!

6a00e5503379c68834010536bfa3d5970bAs we kick off the 2015 – 2016 school year the Central Office Sentinel is proud to mark our 200th blog post!  Over the past four years Jenison Public Schools has had so much to celebrate and we’re grateful for all the parents, community members and other Wildcat fans who journey with us each week [there are nearly 2200 of you!]!

When the weekly blog began, the Jenison Center for the Arts was still under construction and now it has already hosted musicals and plays by our junior high students, high school students and community members.  Not to mention the many art exhibits and concerts also presented by our students throughout the year!

We have celebrated the inspiring accomplishments of our students including Merit Scholarship Semifinalists, DECA award winners and Junior High Student Council elections.

The blog has been a place to learn and brag about our teachers winning incredible awards like “Music Educator of the Year“, “Director of the Year“, “Science Teacher of the Year” and “Excellence in Education“.  [Wow! Aren’t our teachers amazing?!]

Jenison Public Schools wouldn’t be complete without the many volunteers who spend time with our students in the Kids Hope program at the ECC, dads who stop away from regular life to be in classrooms with Watch Dog Dads and parents and staff members who lead groups like Girls on the Run.

One of the most important aspects of the culture at Jenison Public Schools is that of giving back and participating in the community and our students have certainly taken up important causes and been their champions!  Thank you, students, for taking part in projects such as Make a Wish FoundationYour Change to Change Hunger, Pink Out and the annual Soup Dinner.  You remind us that students and kids aren’t just “the future” — you’re the present too!

We’ve learned about the creative ways our students are learning in the classroom, whether it’s through a field trip to the State Capitol, a fascinating lesson on Anatomy and Physiology, Spanish Immersion classes for our Elementary students or the incredible work done by the JIA, there is a place and an opportunity for every Jenison student!

Thank you for joining us each week as we recount and honor the work done in our schools!  We are thankful for the support of all Jenison parents and community members and look forward to the next 200 posts and, especially, the coming school year!

We Are Jenison!


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*graphic courtesy of freshpickedwhimsy.typepad.com