Full of Thanks and Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope this day finds you embracing the people and places that fill you up and enhance your life! I am thinking about my loving and supportive wife, terrific children and the blessing of a new grandson! I am also thankful for the supremely talented and committed group of educators I get to work with daily. Not only do they sharpen each other as they strive for academic excellence, they sincerely invest in the heart and character of our students.

This month marks the 21st year that our staff has been encouraging our students to think outside themselves, cultivate true gratitude and give with compassionate hearts through the “Your Change Can Change Hunger” fund drive (YCCCH). That means there have been several graduating classes that have participated every year of their time at JPS. It truly has become a holiday tradition that we all look forward to. Initiated by Susan Hodson, a mom with two elementary daughters that many years ago – it just goes to show, one person can make a big difference.

I’m so proud to share more about this year’s YCCCH fund drive and all the ways our amazing Jenison community is giving back this Thanksgiving!

Kids First Pet Supply Drive

We love to see the generosity of our students combined with a little entrepreneurial spirit! Two sixth grade El Puente students, Grace Roth (left) and Randi Pennington (right) brainstormed and organized a collection for the Harbor Humane Society during the month of October and delivered the donations earlier this month. So inspiring to see our students putting their compassionate hearts to work!

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Grace and Randi, and their KidsFirst classmates collected over 100 pounds of food, dog beds, blankets, a bag full of toys, multiple bags of treats, leashes, and food dishes.

Jenison Parent Liaisons

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Ms. Tracy and Ms. Veldink

The mission of the Jenison Parent Liaison program is: Building bridges between home, school, and community to promote student success for all families of Jenison Public Schools. One tangible way they do that is through organizing collections of things that can be used to support local families.

1) Ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing Ministry. Also, currently collecting snow pants (through the winter season) in partnership with Rosewood Reformed Church. This provides JPS families access to any type of clothing as needs arise. If you would like to donate clothes or snow pants, please drop items to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary.

2) They partner with Mars Hill Bible Church, Fair Haven Ministries, Baldwin Street Christian Reformed Church and Sunrise Ministries to provide Christmas and Thanksgiving Assistance for our families.

3) Now accepting donations for family activities in the area; such as bowling, Rebounderz, movie theatre, etc., to give to families to enjoy special together time over Christmas break. Donations can be brought to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary. 

1st Annual Turkey Trot 5k

An idea led by senior, Max Zuber; the Jenison Men’s Cross Country team hosted the first Jenison Turkey Trot 5k. It was a little more wintry when the race actually took place this past weekend but it was an overall success for their first year. The donation table ended up nearly overflowing and items were delivered to Love Inc.: the Turkey Trot is good for your heart in more ways than one!

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There were over 60 runners of all ages at the first ever Turkey Trot 5k!

Jenison Public Education Foundation

To keep our little ones warm and cozy in the coming months, the Jenison Public Education Foundation conducted a hat, mitten, sock drive at their Expo event on November 3. A donation competition between elementary schools revealed Pinewood as the winner. They won $250 for their school and a school assembly with a magician! Since 1995, JPEF has been enhancing learning environments and funded more than 162 programs valued at over $200,000, for the students of Jenison. 

National Honors Society Thanksgiving Baskets

The NHS members (high school juniors/seniors) organized a Thanksgiving basket program. They donated the items needed for a full thanksgiving meal for 10 Jenison families. They traveled together to deliver the food to each family on November 16.

Jenison High School Thespians – “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”

Of course, the Thespians had fun dressing up and getting into character on Halloween but they also organized an event called “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”. They had another great turnout this year with many donations brought in to keep members of our community fed this holiday season.

Your Change Can Change Hunger (YCCCH) benefiting Hand2Hand

This annual change fundraiser began in 1998 and is something the kids plan for each year. After a 15 year partnership with another food pantry in West Michigan, it shifted to a more local organization. Hand2Hand partners with local churches and schools to provide a backpack filled with supplemental food that bridges the gap of weekend hunger. When students became aware that their change was going to help kids in their own school district, possibly even their own building – giving sharply increased. The fervor with which students wanted to take care of their own is so inspiring! We keep breaking the previous year’s record for giving – and I think we’ll see that again this year.

Coming into the 2018 fund drive, JPS students have raised over $196,000 since 1998 – nearly half of that had been given in the last 5 years! While the final totals are still being counted, I think we can quite confidently say that we will pass the $200,000 mark this year! That’s amazing! Your Change really CAN Change Hunger!

Thank you so much Jenison students and families!

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ECC: Introducing our youngest Wildcats to this awesome and impactful tradition.

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El Puente students show off their own collection box. Excelente!

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Bauerwood Elementary students excited to hear the final count for the district!

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Pinewood Elementary Student Council with their cash donation.

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Rosewood 5th graders proudly show off their school’s contribution of over $1,700 this year!

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The Sandy Hill third graders surpassed their collection goal on the last day of the change drive. They raised over $150 on Friday alone so Mr. Mosher took some pies to the face!

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Bursley kids excited to give back to others.

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Junior High Students with a hefty donation to YCCCH! When the final count is confirmed, the JH hopes to break their current school record of over $10,000 dollars collected. It definitely seems within their grasp!  Many students have come up with creative collection ideas such as coffee/hot chocolate sales and candy & pop sales. Good old fashion  competitions against other classes in the building have really kept the excitement high!

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JH Students paid $1.00 towards YCCCH to play in the gym for 1 hour before school.

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The High Schoolers also had unique fundraising opportunities: here they are selling pizza at lunch time as a fundraiser for YCCCH.

If you would like to join Jenison Students by supporting the work of Hand2Hand, please visit their website for more information about how to get involved.

 

Homecoming Dreams Big in 2018

Student Council representatives were very excited to line up for the 2018 Homecoming parade with a few special guests. And they knew the rest of the students would feel the same. This year, Jenison High School Student Council decided to partner with Make-A-Wish Michigan for their Homecoming theme.

Last Thursday, the student body was introduced to these 4 special guests and by the time the Friday parade rolled around – Brody, Sam, Kia and Izzy were practically hometown celebrities! These special people are local Wish Kid Ambassadors and they have had the opportunity to receive a granted wish from this amazing organization.

Jenison class representatives worked tirelessly on parade floats they designed based on each child’s wish. Some of the kids even participated with design and building input for their float over the last few weeks. Members of student council were in resounding agreement that it was the best feeling to be a part of something important, to see their classmates thinking outside of themselves and really embracing their Wish Kids.

Following a cool, dreary parade, families flooded the high school gym to keep the fun rolling at the Make-a-Wish fundraiser Carnival. The students had a goal of raising $15,000 and the carnival was an integral part of meeting that goal. If the rain kept you away from the Homecoming festivities, they are still receiving donations through this weekend at  Jenison Homecoming Make-a-Wish Campaign.

There was plenty of action on the field Friday night; by the players, the band and color guard – however, the folks that stole the show were the Wish Kid ambassadors as they escorted the Homecoming Court during the half time festivities!

Despite a loss in the last minute of the football game that evening (to an undefeated team), I could not be more proud of the team’s performance and the spirit of every fan in the stands. Our guys have the hearts of a champion and they never quit until the very end. Homecoming 2018 was a great time with friends and family and just another reminder of what our Jenison community is made of: talented, hardworking individuals with compassionate hearts, trying to make the world around them a little bit better than they found it.

We were also honored to receive a good amount of attention from the local press last week. Having them partner with us to help spread the word about this special campaign is so appreciated! Check it out!

Homecoming Assembly Coverage from WZZM

Sunrise Sidelines from WZZM

Enjoy reliving the experience of Homecoming 2018 with photos from Missy Brandt.

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Princess Izzy was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Senior Class. The seniors also happened to win the float design competition at the end of the night!

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Kia was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Junior Class.

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Sam was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Sophomore Class.

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Brody was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Freshmen Class.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame Comes to JPS!

This weekend you can get a jump start on Spring Break by visiting Paris in the late middle ages! [Don’t worry, it’s only for 90 minutes. No need to invest in a chamber pot.]

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a story originally written by Victor Hugo in 1831. The story was meant to raise awareness of the value of Gothic architecture [which was being destroyed for more “modern” designs] but it has, instead, become a well-known story of acceptance and morality.

The show is a combination of the 1996 Disney movie songs and the original story by Hugo. It will introduce audiences to Quasimodo, a misshapen man who was abandoned at the Cathedral as a baby, a Parisian judge named Claude Frollo who has reluctantly raised Quasimodo as his son but left him mostly alone in the old church. You will also meet Esmerelda, a kind gypsy woman who helps and befriends Quasimodo, setting off a complicated love triangle…or quadrangle… There is danger, adventure, as well as other difficult themes*.

Director Todd Avery saw an adaptation of the show when he was younger which inspired him to read the novel and “this heartbreaking story of the deformed bell ringer and his desire to be loved has been with me ever since.  The Disney cartoon is one of my favorites and as soon as I heard of the show’s availability, I jumped at the opportunity.  I’m proud to say that we are the West Michigan’s high school premier of “Hunchback.”  Not many theatre programs will be able to successfully mount this production.  It’s that difficult.”

Mr Avery knew this show would be a challenge for everyone involved – which is why he chose it! “I knew that it would be a challenge musically [both for the orchestra as well as the singers], and I knew that from a technical perspective it would be a challenge for all the crews involved.  We have to build a set that looks like the cathedral of Notre Dame, microphones for 35 actors, a full orchestra and a 30 person choir, projections, period props including a sword fight, as well as period costumes.  Lighting a full stage from back to front isn’t easy either.  I knew the production would test our limits [and it has], but I was confident that our students and their wonderful adult mentors would pull it off.”

The production is entirely student-run with assistance from some staff members and even more amazing volunteers leading the other essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound.

Most of the students who serve on the set design team are seasoned crew members with JPS productions. They love getting to know new people, spending time with their friends, and yes, working hard! Brandon Sams has been part of the cast in former productions but wanted to try something new. He says that he likes getting to know both sides of the curtain but he especially enjoys their role of “running crew”. [These are the unsung heroes of the show, bustling to change the set between scenes and wearing black to blend in and go unseen.] “There’s an adrenaline rush to have to change the set.” But Brandon also wants other students to know that there is a place for them in any JPS production. “You make friends in theatre. Before the first show you might be anxious, but theatre is really welcoming, we’re a family.”

In typical Jenison Arts style, the dedication, talent, and grit required to pull this off will be very evident to audiences. “The show has a “community choir” made up of JHS students, Jenison residents, and JHS alumni.  Their dedication to learning this difficult score [rehearsals 1 – 2 evenings per week and some Saturdays since January] has impressed me tremendously.  Our talented cast has spent even more time learning their music [which is A LOT as there are very few moments without music in the show], and, under the musical direction of JHS thespian alum, Sarah Schrems, along with Jason Coffey, have been ready to perform for several weeks, exceeding their directors’ expectations.  Dan Scott has the orchestra, the largest we’ve ever had, in top shape!”

While this may not be the show to give you “warm fuzzies”, it will make you think. “This is a hard show to watch.  It has bad stuff happen to good people which is why we’ve recommended it for ages 12 and older.  However, the score is pure magic and the story has incredible themes relating to how we treat others, objectifying women, loss of innocence and the power of love.  It’s the Disney version’s songs but the Victor Hugo story, which does not have a happy ending.  It is an absolutely gorgeous show that will take your breath away.  Bring your tissues.”

Break a leg, cast + crew! Once again, we are amazed by the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Thespians and can’t wait to see your latest production!
You can get your tickets for this weekend here!

*Please note: The Hunchback of Notre Dame contains mature themes, simulated violence, and the deaths of some characters. Recommended for students 12 and older.

Sandy Hill Students Work to Ease Hunger in Jenison!

Ten years ago this October, Cheri Honderd realized that some kids in Jenison didn’t have enough food to eat, especially on the weekends.

Drawing on her experience as a Kids Hope Director, Cheri knew that through school and community partnerships, something could be changed. Cheri and her friends at a local church decided to take action and – starting right here at Sandy Hill – nineteen students were given a bag of food for the weekends, privately placed in their backpacks during the school day and Hand2Hand Ministries was born.

“The nation was going through a recession and it was impacting her community. For the first time in decades the city of Jenison, along with neighboring communities, was facing a hunger crisis. Many former middle-income families were not able to feed their own children. The number of free or reduced lunch participants in one school district went from 5 to 30 percent in one year.” When Cheri learned that children in her local schools were hungry, it brought back painful memories of her own childhood when her parents struggled for employment.

Deanne Messinger, Cailey Mulder, Cheri Honderd, Jenny van Biljon, Myra Baine, Samantha Inman

Those nineteen students at Sandy Hill paved the way for the nearly 4,900 students in 8 counties and 145 schools across West Michigan to be fed all weekend and better prepared for their school week!

This fall the students at Sandy Hill gave back to Hand2Hand by raising money through their annual Change 2 Change Hunger campaign [which takes places across the district]. The money raised through this initiative at Sandy Hill was enough to purchase 500 lunches that were packed by Kindergartners and their 4th grade buddies.

Kindergarten teacher, Myra Baine says, “It’s neat to see the program come full circle like this. There is local, childhood hunger in Jenison and we are trying to meet that need.”

Packing lunches is not the end of this project! Mrs Baine secured an additional $250 grant from the Ottawa Area ISD to round out their project-based learning project. “As a class we will collaborate four more times [4th and K] to engage in lessons to help solve a real world problem.  During these lessons students will work in small groups to  create a plan and model/present to an authentic audience.” Their audience will consist of representatives from United Bank and Chapel Pointe Church who will hear the students’ proposal to use their parking lots as part of the potential solution to the next phase! [Keep an eye out for more details on this soon!]

The students have been eager to learn how they can help and participate in problem-solving and learning lifelong relational skills. “The reaction to this problem-based learning from our students is enthusiasm, excitement and desire to do their best by working together with a cross age learning environment. In my Kindergarten class, the ability to work together is a big emphasis this year.  Working with others who may or may not agree with you to get a concrete solution is something we work on, on a daily basis.  We work on it in our social groups during recess and free choice time and we also work on it during our academic times in reading and math groups.”

“The opportunity to have these experiences in a classroom setting is so valuable as they go out in the real world and become life long learners.  To have students start a fire in themselves to know they have power. I believe giving them experiences early and knowing that even at the young age of five and six they can make a difference and help someone else is amazing.”

You can even check out the story on Wood TV!

Thank you to our wonderful teachers for not only organizing such a powerful experience for our students, but involving them in solution-focused learning! They will see their worlds a little differently now and know they can be part of the solution! Thank you, Hand2Hand, for bringing real change to our community and empowering our learners!

 

 

Pink Out 2018!

There may have been a snow day last Friday, but it didn’t stop the Jenison family from coming out to paint the High School gym pink!

Celebrating the tenth anniversary, the Pink Out committee chose to expand their focus to include honoring Jenison community members dealing with other types of cancer, while acknowledging that their roots remain in the fight against breast cancer. In the ten years since Pink Out began, they have raised over $100,000, recognized over 100 warriors and sold 15,000 Pink Out t-shirts.

Karen Koekkoek knows what it’s like to fight against breast cancer but she never expected it to happen again after finding her first lump at the age of nineteen. Now in her early 60’s, she was vigilant with her mammograms, self-checks, and doctor’s appointments. But despite her best efforts, she was diagnosed in August of 2016 and the type of cancer she had was called, “aggressive and invasive”. She received chemo for five months, radiation five days a week for six weeks and has experienced the first part of a double mastectomy. Karen’s daughter, Sherrie VanManen, says it’s a “huge honor” to be recognized by the Pink Out team and to be taken under their wing with support. Karen adds, “Faith over fear quickly became my motto. February of 2018, 125 appointments later, I am a survivor, cancer free!” We celebrate with you, Karen!

2010 Jenison graduate, Marcy VanderMeer was a senior when Pink Out first began. She was only 22 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in April 2015. “It feels overwhelming to be an honoree. I am thankful to the committee for all the ways they supported me and my family.” In the first six weeks after hearing the news, Marcy says she was in shock but there was already so much happening in the Jenison community. There was a spaghetti dinner and chili cook-off fundraiser and even a neighborhood elementary buddy raising money for Marcy’s treatment. “Although fear was present in my life and I lost many friends along my three year journey, being part of this community has made all the difference in my ability to keep moving forward.”

Unfortunately, children in our community are not immune to cancer’s reach. Sam Lewinski is a four year old at the ECC and Shawn VanPutten is a 2014 Jenison graduate, both of whom are in remission. Shawn says, “Jenison Pink Out has offered support to me and my family during our journey: cards to let me know they were thinking of me, texts to my mom to let her know she was not alone and to provide words of encouragement. They also provided financial assistance for my ever-mounting medical bills, so thank you for supporting the power of pink because the warriors need to know that no one fights alone.”

Sam’s mom spoke on his behalf while Sam stood proudly on the podium. Through tears, she described their journey with Wilms Tumor, a kidney cancer and thanked the community for surrounding them through this struggle. “Just nine months ago, Sam finished his final chemo and was told there is no evidence of disease. During his treatment, he had several surgeries, radiation, and chemo. During that time, this community proved itself time and time again. We moved from Ohio ten years ago and I can truly say that this battle could not have been fought three hours from family without this community and the Pink Out community that showed up even we didn’t know them. We can now call Jenison our home and our family.”

Finally, warrior Jody Heyboer shared her journey with stage three colorectal cancer. Less than a year ago, Jody learned the news of her diagnosis and she quickly heard from the Pink Out team and “for the past ten months ,their support has been nothing short of amazing. When you don’t have cancer or are not directly affected by it, it’s hard to understand. Pink Out understands. Please know, the money you donate to this organization goes to help people in the community affected by cancer and I cannot being to express my gratitude for all those connected to Pink Out.” Jody learned in January that her tests revealed no evidence of disease, however, her fight against cancer isn’t over just yet. As of two days prior to Pink Out she learned cancer had returned and the Pink Out committee presented her with a check towards her medical expenses and reminded her that she is not alone.

Each year, this event serves as a celebration of those who warrior on and takes time to pause for those that we remember. We are grateful to all of those who braved the snow, but especially to those who brave the fight against cancer!

2018 Distinguished Honorees:

Dave Huyser           Sam Lewinski          Jody Heyboer          Marcy VanderMeer          Karen Koekkoek         Shawn VanPutten

Warriors: Karen Koekkoek, Marcy VanderMeer, Jody Heyboer, Sam Lewinski, Shawn VanPutten, Dave Huyser

You are all warriors and Jenison is proud to fight alongside each and every one of you! You are not alone! Thank you, Jenison community for your ongoing support of Pink Out – your partnership is vital to sustaining our warriors!

 

 

Something Special to be Thankful For!

[L to R] Katie Bremer, Mary Pollock, Betsy Norton, Sara Melton, Dan Searle

Did you know that something as small as a Tootsie Roll can earn $2500 for our schools? Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Knights of Columbus, the JPS Cognitively Impaired Categorical Program at Sandy Hill took home their generous donation from this year’s Tootsie Roll drive!

At this month’s Board of Education meeting, teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton, along with Sandy Hill Principal Sara Melton and Special Ed Director, Mary Pollock accepted the donation on behalf of this important program.

According to Dan Searle, The Knights of Columbus in Jenison (Council #7487) is made up of 240 Catholic men “dedicated to the good works of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. With our #1 priority being charity”. Each year the members vote on the organization that will receive the donations from their annual Tootsie Roll Drive that takes place the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Easter. With volunteer families stationed outside local businesses, they happily pass out Tootsie Rolls in exchange for any donation.  Mr Searle adds, “Every cent we collect from the Tootsie Roll Drive stays in the community. The more we collect, the more that is donated back. Through other programs, our Council alone collects and donates approximately $40,000 each year back to the community.”

The donation will be used to support and advance programs within the categorical program at Sandy Hill. In the past, the monies have been used to purchase i-pads and supporting apps, assist with peer-to-peer groups and many other activities.

Ms Pollock knows the value of these donations to the amazing work being done by teachers and staff. “We have an amazing staff in JPS. Teachers, both general ed and special ed, and support staff are constantly meeting and planning to make sure all students have opportunities to be a part of the school community. This donation will help support the goal of meaningful inclusion. The Knights of Columbus organization has been incredibly supportive of our efforts and they contribute via their Tootsie Roll Drive every year. It is greatly appreciated!”

JPS offers Special Ed categorical programs for the variety of needs presented by our students (Cognitively Impaired, Emotionally Impaired, Autism Spectrum Disorder). Ms Pollock adds, “We appreciate the community partnerships because it helps to foster understanding in the community of how our programs and services are provided. We are very intentional about making making sure all our students spend as much time as possible with typically developing peers. Teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton have done a wonderful job with their peer-to-peer program at Sandy Hill. Students with disabilities are accepted and benefit from the relationships with their peers and the typical peers gain from helping others and learning to understand differences.

The Knights of Columbus are certainly important community partners and the admiration between organizations is mutual. “Our kids attend these schools. We love our schools and know we are blessed to have such great and caring educators”, says Mr Searle.

On the day we take an extra moment to appreciate what we have, please add the Knights of Columbus and JPS teachers and support staff to the list! Giving all of our students the best education possible is certainly a team effort! Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at JPS!

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

Meet Our New Parent Liaisons!

Last school year, veteran Bauerwood teacher, Angela Tracy, had an idea. She wanted to know if there was more that could be done for students and, specifically, their families, who were in need of some extra support, especially if that help meant students would have more success in school.

Ms Tracy wrote a proposal and after some bumps in the road, the Parent Liaison program was born! Ms Tracy, along with part-time help from Pinewood 3rd grade teacher, Mary Veldink, are Jenison’s parent liaison’s and have been excited to get things rolling with this school year. The mission of the program is: Building bridges between home, school, and community to promote student success for all families of Jenison Public Schools. But what does that look like?

Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink will meet with parents who are looking for help in making connections with school such as: communicating with teachers/administrators, assisting with meetings at school, Kindergarten orientation, Jr High and High School transitions, parent volunteer opportunities, making calls and home visits,  and connecting parents with each other. If families need assistance connecting to resources outside of school, the parent liaisons are here for them as well! These resources include help with a crisis situation such as a need for food or clothing, housing, help with attendance or tardiness, dealing with a family illness or death, divorce or separation or substance and/or physical abuse.

There are three branches that have taken shape with the program thus far. The first branch is program development where Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink work on developing systems and sustainability. They are developing school-based teams and helping teachers and staff understand their roles. The second branch is administration where they are collecting data and planning for evaluation of the program. Finally, the third branch is case management where they are meeting with Jenison families [15 so far this year] and connecting them to health insurance, housing and food resources, and support organizations such as Ele’s Place and Gilda’s Club.

Ms Tracy says, “The JPS mission statement is “All students will grow intellectually, emotionally and socially while becoming lifelong learners”. The parent liaison program arose out of recognizing the need and desire to help families to create homes that encourage growth and learning and I was finding more and more kids coming to school — and their families who were in need of support.”

Other Ottawa County schools have already launched similar programs including Holland, Zeeland, Coopersville and Grand Haven is in the process.

“It’s been really encouraging for Mary and I when families get connected with the right resources. They’re encouraged and feel supported.”

If you would like to reach out to one of our Parent Liaisons on behalf of your family, they invite you to email them:
Angela Tracy: atracy@jpsonline.org [Bauerwood, Sandy Hill, Rosewood, ECC, JIA, and Jenison High School]
Mary Veldink: mveldink@jpsonline.org [Pinewood, Bursley, and Jenison Junior High]

Thank you to Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink for coming alongside all families and students in Jenison and helping to ensure that all students can come to school ready to learn!

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#JPSReads Update!

Guest Reader, Janet Schultz, at Sandy Hill!

We first told you about #JPSReads earlier this year and phase one is now complete! To kick things off in mid-January, District Media Specialist, Jan Staley, and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz, presented the plan at each elementary school with a slideshow, magic tricks, and Q & A. Students were provided with a participation sheet to set a personal goal that correlated with their grade level. Once their goal was met, they received a cling-on paw print to display in a window of their home. Every family member could participate and once a goal was met, you could set a new goal!

This could be your house if everyone is reading!

Teachers and principals across the district encouraged students to meet their goals and share what they were learning as they read and explored new genres and topics. Ms Staley was encouraged by one elementary school, in particular saying, “The principal did a fabulous job keeping the excitement going.  He interviewed students every day who had met their goals, asking favorite books, places they read, etc.  This school also had participation contests within the grades.  This excitement from the principal and teachers spread and the number of student goal forms were the highest in the district.” Numbers are still coming in from the Junior High and High School but so far, there is record of over 1300 participants!

Guest Reader, Deputy Eric Smith at Pinewood!

March is Reading Month across the country and #JPSReads is hitching up to it for phase two! Please check out the March Reading Month Calendar here. Students can be challenged with a new reading task each day and be entered to win the grand prize at the end of the month!

Finally, phase three of #JPSReads will take place at the end of the school year and, while there are still some details to arrange, it will involve a secret “Paw Patrol”! Staff members from the district will be driving around the neighborhoods looking for homes with multiple #JPSReads paw prints displayed and they will receive prizes!

Ms Staley says she loves hearing the stories from students about how their entire family has been involved with #JPSReads, even turning in goal sheets for their grandparents! “The students often have reading incentive programs that they are working on throughout the year, but the exciting thing about #JPSReads is seeing them get excited about their parents reading!! It really has touched many families in our community!  Over and over again, our volunteers, and parents that have come into our buildings have mentioned that their whole family is having fun with this, they love reading and working toward this goal together.”

Guest Reader, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink

“Reading is not just a “school subject”, that it takes a community’s commitment to raise our readers. We want to continue our district’s vision to build rich literacy skills at home as well as at school. Research proves that Readers are Leaders! Reading helps relax us and keep our minds active and growing. Reading also improves our thinking abilities, people skills, and helps us master communication in order to effectively collaborate and lead others. Grab your favorite books and start reading today!”

If you have questions about any of the phases of #JPSReads please ask your child’s teacher! Thank you to all of the families that are participating and we can’t wait to see more paw prints!

Guest Reader, Deputy Steigenga, at Bursley

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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