JPS Teachers Rock!

Across the country, teachers are being celebrated with Teacher Appreciation Week and National Teacher Day! At JPS we know that our greatest assets are our amazing teachers and the passion, creativity, and knowledge they bring to their classrooms each day. Sandy Hill Principal, Jon Mroz, appreciates the time set aside for this important acknowledgement. “Teacher Appreciation week provides the opportunity to say the extra “thank you’s” that are sometimes difficult to get to during the busy times of the school year.  I can think of many examples at Sandy Hill where teachers step right in to help because they see the importance of supporting all students, staff, and families around the building.”

We all know that our teachers work hard to teach the curriculum and do everything they can to help students achieve their academic goals, but teachers at JPS [and around the world!] are doing so much more as well. “The staff at Sandy Hill are extremely hard working and I can think of many examples where they may help a student in the hallway, on the playground, or anywhere in the building, even when that student is not in their “homeroom.” We have a focus that all students at Sandy Hill are our students, and every adult is responsible for helping every student grow. A couple of very specific stories [from a very long list]  when teachers are going above and beyond are: providing their own gloves or coats to a student when their hands were cold, bringing in or buying clothing for a student in need, buying snacks for students in need, reaching out to and partnered with community members to figure out ways to reward/recognize students, and donating or finding ways to get items donated for families’ daily needs.”

Because we all learn better in a positive, supportive, holistic environment, our students excel when our teachers are aware of and devoted to their students overall well-being. Mr Mroz adds, “There are many examples at Sandy Hill when students experienced an immense amount of positive change because of their amazing teacher[s]. Many students have not only shown tremendous growth academically, but socially and emotionally as well. It is always rewarding to see the gains a child can make with their confidence both in and out of the classroom resulting from the connection they have made with their teacher.”

If you are appreciative of the work your child’s teacher is doing, you know a teacher in your neighborhood, or you are living proof of the devotion of a teacher, it is always a great time to say, “THANK YOU”! As a former teacher and current administrator, Mr. Mroz knows the impact of these not-so-simple words. “The “Thank You’s” go along way to teachers as well, so they can have the reminders of the positive impact they are leaving, and it also models the gratitude we try to instill on our students as well.”

[This writer would like to kick things off by saying “thank you” to my high school English teacher, David R. Harchick, who taught me to love literature, not be afraid to critique writing even when it’s a classic, be the best I can be, and to never fix my hair or makeup in public.]

Additionally, Mr. Mroz recommends to parents that they keep the lines of communication with teachers open. “Students and parents can also show their appreciation by having open lines of communication with teachers. This allows teachers to have as much knowledge possible about their students to meet each students’ individual needs.”

To our incredible JPS teachers we want to remind you that the work you do is valuable beyond measure, even if you can’t see it right away. “Many times, the impact you make is not going to be seen until a students’ time in your classroom is done. It is compared to watering a seed a little bit at a time, until one day, the student begins to make personal connections that creates relevancy, and they begin to grow and flourish.”

Thank you, teachers, for all you sacrifice for our students and the ways they flourish because of your dedication. May you always remember,
“One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” — Malala Yousafzai

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!

 

Star Student Spotlight: Izzy Krzewski!

When asked who Junior High Vice Principal, Heather Breen, would recommend as a Star Student, she did not hesitate! “8th grader, Isabelle (Izzy) Krzewski is a sweetheart of a student who is very involved in theater, dance, orchestra and choir.  She works incredibly hard and has great grades.”

Izzy comes from a musical family where her four older siblings are happy to indulge her habit of singing around the house. She has participated in Jenison theatre the last two years and performed as Princess Winifred in Once Upon a Mattress and this year, she wowed the crowd with her especially mean portrayal of Aunt Spiker in James and Giant Peach. Izzy insists that her role has Aunt Spiker caused her to have to “dig deep” because she usually plays the fun, silly roles and Aunt Spiker was the exact opposite. Izzy herself is sweet, kind and humble so finding her “inner Aunt Spiker” was a fun challenge.

As other theatre students have affirmed, the program at Jenison is a place all kinds of kids call “home” and Izzy is no different. She loves theatre because “the kids, the environment, and all the people — theatre people are the best people to be around because you can just laugh and joke with them. If you’re stressed from homework, theatre and dance just help you forget about it and be part of the art.”

Izzy also participates in the Junior High Dance Team which performs at the boys basketball games as well as various local competitions. If her dedication to theatre wasn’t enough to exhaust you, Izzy’s dance schedule directly corresponds  to the preparation for the musical each year and she insists it’s not a “stressful kind of hard work”.

In class she describes herself as “quiet and shy” but these are not the qualities she possesses on stage. “I just like becoming a different person on stage and making the audience smile and laugh”. Izzy says that her math teacher, Mr. Ohman is the teacher that inspires her to learn and the class she enjoys the most. “Mr Ohman teaches us math, but also teaches us about life. His stories are really inspirational. Usually in first hour I’m tired but he keeps me engaged with all of his stories.”

Because two kinds of art performances aren’t enough for Izzy, she also participates in the junior high choir and orchestra where she has played the viola for three years. “In orchestra I’m playing the notes and in choir, I’m singing the notes which is really cool and it helps me learn more.”

Her favorite music to sing is show tunes and she loves Newsies and Hamilton. She has seen movies of Broadway shows but has yet to see one in person but very much looks forward to it.

Izzy is looking forward to auditioning for theatre and being part of the High School choir and orchestra and says, “It is difficult balancing it all during the theatre and dance season. You’re up late, but it’s totally worth it.”

She encourages everyone to find what they love and lean in to it. “You have to find a passion in yourself, something that makes your heart beat faster and then that’s really where you make your mark.”

Thank you, Izzy! Your hard work, bravery on stage, dedication to your passion is an inspiration to all of us! We’re proud to call you a Wildcat!

Groundbreaking Celebration for New School!

Last Monday evening, not even the gray skies couldn’t keep spirits down as the Board of Education and Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, broke ground on the new school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

The Early Childhood Center [ECC] and Spanish Immersion program currently housed at Rosewood and Bursley Elementary Schools, will both be housed in the new building located near the corner of Baldwin and 28th Ave.

The new school – Jenison’s first new school since 1970! – will be a two-story, LEED certified building with 36 classrooms. It will also include modern security features as well as, assisted listening systems in each classroom, two playgrounds and two full-size ball fields.

Becky Steele, Rosewood and Bursley STEM teacher was on hand to capture student Samantha Eriks tell those in attendance what the new school means to hear and future Spanish Immersion students. Becky says, “Samantha has been a Bursley Spanish Immersion student since kindergarten, and is headed off to the Junior High in the fall.  Her fluency [as well as her poise, confidence, positivity, kind and helpful heart…the list goes on and on] certainly speaks volumes about the quality of the language immersion education that students get in JPS.”

This is a very exciting season for JPS and we can’t wait to monitor the progress and celebrate when our students and staff are filling the halls!

Rosewood Principal, Lloyd Gingerich, along with SI teachers!

ECC Principal, Lee Westerveldt, joined by two ECC students

Star Student Spotlight: Cordiela Sorrelle!

Pinewood fourth grader, Cordelia Sorrelle, is a girl of many talents, combined with a sweet, humble, and kind heart. Cordelia was nominated for this mini-series on Star Students by her principal, Rachael Postle-Brown, who says that Cordelia “always does an amazing job and is so humble”.

Aside from her regular schoolwork in fourth grade, Cordelia is involved in the chess club, robotics club, ACT, the after school reading program, and loves STEM.

She joined the chess club at the beginning of the school year without ever having played a game before. She “thought it looked interesting” because, “I like to think of strategies and tactics”. She enjoys playing board games but she especially loves those that involve strategy. Cordelia says she’s a good chess player but she hasn’t beat her dad just yet, but knows she will one day. [Look out, dad!]

Cordelia is also a member of ACT which is a weekly educational program for third through sixth graders who qualify. “In ACT we solve problems. Right now, we’re learning about things to build a mini-golf course. First, we learned about pentominoes. [Readers: if you need a quick math lesson, check out the Wikipedia link telling you what a pentomino is. Go ahead, we’ll never tell.]  Then, we made a tabletop mini-golf course to see where the ball will go”.

Cordelia is in ACT with other qualifying fourth graders from two other JPS elementary schools. She is proud to be in ACT and decided to apply because of what she believed about herself and her abilities.  “ACT is for people who are academically talented so I thought, why don’t I take the test because I think I’m smart.” She says that ACT is a safe place to be and feels like her fellow students support each other. “I like that other people there are smart too so people don’t judge me about it.”

But Cordelia’s love for learning doesn’t stop there! She is also a member of the after school reading club where, Monday – Thursday, she finds a comfy seat in the library and reads a book of her choice for 45 minutes with other book lovers. Her favorite book right now is Land of Stories, a series about twins who go into fairy tales. Cordelia has loved reading, “since I was born” and is not only a fast reader, but always has a book in her hand.

Cordelia also decided to join the robotics club this year and says that she liked building robots. Her 4 person, all girl elementary team [which included her older sister] competed in robotics events made a forklift but after they found that other teams were copying it, chose to destroy it and build a new one. Cordelia was the youngest member of the team and when asked how she feels about people who think robotics, chess, and STEM are better suited to boys she says emphatically “I say, girls can do anything that boys can do.” When asked how it make her feel when people say those things, she gives us all a lesson in self-confidence: “I don’t really care about what they say.”

Adding to her already impressive resume, this spring Cordelia will take her talents to the softball field for the first time. Her friends are doing it so, “I thought it would be cool if I did it too.” She didn’t want to be unprepared so she took a softball clinic “to see what it was like”.  At home, she tries her best to take care of her three dogs but they don’t make it easy for her. “When I get home, it’s like they haven’t seen me in a thousand years and they jump all over me.”

Cordelia, I think it’s safe to say, we’d be excited to see you too! You are the true definition of a star student and we cannot wait to see where your gifts, talents, and kind heart take you!  We’re proud to call you a Wildcat!

Dads and Daughters Take a Spin Around the Dance Floor!

Last weekend, the gym at Bauerwood was transformed into a tropical luau for the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance! This year, 280 girls and the men in their lives that serve as fathers (grandparents, uncles, cousins, brothers, friends – anyone!) danced, took selfies, drank fruity umbrella-adorned punch, and had an amazing time!

Last year, committee co-leader, Jean Houghton, talked to other moms about the possibility of bringing the dance to Bauerwood after experiencing it at Bursley before their family moved. It took this dedicated group to plan, organize, decorate, and now, in its second year, it’s the second highest fundraiser for the school! This year, the dance generated about $1000 to school expenses.

There was a DJ spinning the tunes and he also led a limbo contest, and, according to Jean, the dance floor was filled the entire night. “The girls are so excited to be there, they have big smiles, and are happy to be there with their dads.” The girls received a Hawaiian lei when they arrive and a carnation when they leave to cap off their “wow” experience.

This year, the committee was able to provide limited sponsorship to families that needed financial assistance but they plan to increase their capability in this area for next year. “No student should be left out because things are tight at home”. [So if you’re wondering about next year, make sure you talk to your child’s teacher when the time comes around!]

Jean feels that this type of event is important for families because it “shines a spotlight on the girls’ relationship with their father figure. They are encouraged to feel beautiful, they feel important on that day, it gives them confidence, and makes a special moment to share with each other.” She added that it’s encouraging to hear from teachers and other parents how excited their daughters are before and after the dance. “They can’t stop talking about it!”

This is clearly a special treat for our daughters and their dads and we are thankful that parents take this time to make special memories with their kids! [Moms! Be watching for Mother – Son Bowling at your school!]

Thank you to the dance committee: Alyssa Fennema, Candace Bennett, Jean Houghton, Liz Opatic, Sara Reilly, and Missy Brandt!

Parents make all the difference and this event is so much more than a fundraiser! Thank you to all the dads and daughters who brightened the gyms around Jenison with your beautiful smiles and amazing dance moves!

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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