Pinewood is a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Welcome to the 2017 – 2018 School Year!

It’s been a glorious Michigan summer, hasn’t it? We hope each of you had a chance to take some time to do something you loved whether it was a big trip in the car or with the camper, or “summer” just meant you didn’t have to pack lunches every day and sleep an extra ten minutes!

School began for our students two days ago but our teachers and staff have been hard at work for the past week or more getting prepared both physically and mentally for a great year.

Teachers and administrators spent three days last week in professional development beginning with a renewed connection in their respective buildings. Time was spent reflecting on summer breaks, hearing personal news, reviewing school policies, and discussions about policies that will be reviewed further this year. Elementary teachers were also given the opportunity to learn from veteran Grandville teacher, Stacey Byl, on Whole Brain Teaching. Stacey introduced this active learning technique of teaching to Jenison in February so her second visit centered around additional tips, a review of the brain functions, the value of Whole Brain Teaching, and lots of ideas for teachers to try on their own. [If your child knows what “mirrors up” means and responds to “Class?” with a prompt, “Yes?”, their teacher is using Whole Brain Teaching!]

Teachers also focused on legal updates, literacy, and had opportunities to meet at both the grade and building levels for brainstorming and implementation of all they were learning.

Elementary teachers also had the chance to hear from Dr. Stephanie Grant from Development Enhancements in Holland. Dr. Grant is a clinical psychologist specializing in childhood trauma. Teachers learned a great deal about the ways that trauma affects a child’s developing brain and how that might translate to behaviors or difficulty learning in school.

For the final session, Tom asked teachers to take a deep breath and told them he wanted to help them begin the year with helping teachers learn how to take care of themselves. “You have a stressful, physically demanding job and I want to encourage you to take care of yourself and each other.” School Board President, Bill Waalkes, reminded teachers that “We hire you to do the job and we’re here to support you.”

To this end, teachers heard from Jen Rapanos, former School Social Worker, and current owner of Well Bean Yoga and Mindfulness. Jen led the teachers in various mindful practices such as mindful eating, diaphragmatic breathing, and simple yoga. Mindfulness is being taught in many Jenison classrooms as a means to help students become more aware of their surroundings, feelings, bodies, and minds. Many of our students have already been practicing mindfulness in their classrooms, but what is it? Mindfulness creates a moment between a situation and our reaction to it. Jen shared this quote from Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

We hope that our entire staff was able to take a deep breath as school began this week and that they continue to find ways to care for themselves throughout the year, making them even more incredible teachers for our kids! With the theme of “In the Pursuit of Excellence” in mind, we know that teachers will set the bar high and students will rise to it! Congratulations on the beginning of another great year at Jenison! Go Cats!

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

Readers are Leaders!

MIII0041Don’t be surprised if you start to see stickers all over the Jenison community soon declaring, “JPS Reads” and you’ll probably want to join in on the fun!

Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, Media Specialist, Jan Staley, Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz are partnering to capitalize on the excitement and popularity of the James and Giant Peach initiative. With this next phase, all Jenison citizens will be challenged to set their own specific reading goal and when it is reached, they receive their own cling-on letting everyone know they did it!

MIII9995According to Ms Schultz, “It will be great to drive through our district and notice all the paws displayed in the front of homes.  Our community will shine with the importance of READING!” Of course, you can also brag about your reading skills by putting your sticker on your car and give a little wave to others who’ve done the same!

But if you think this is just for our students, think again! “This is not just a school based reading program, but a way to get everyone in the community excited and involved in reading. We have talked to business leaders and also our senior citizen community members to join in the fun of showcasing our love of reading here in Jenison. Our students and community members will even have the opportunity to share favorite authors, favorite books, or even share reading photos on Twitter at #JPSReads.”

Parents – you play a critical role in your child’s interest in reading! “Together…We are Jenison!! We believe that the love of reading often starts inside of the family and as a school district we are here to grow, build upon, support, and encourage that love of reading!  Together with our families and community we are committed to continuing to foster a love of reading and learning in ALL our children.”
“Not all readers are leaders, but…All Leaders are Readers.”  – Harry Truman

This phase of JPSReads runs from January 16 – February 27 and will kick off all this week.

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#JPSReads!

1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsWhen Junior High theatre director, Holly Florian, chose James and the Giant Peach for this year’s winter performance fifth grade teachers, Michelle U’Ren knew that she wanted to read the classic story aloud to her class. She knew it would help them appreciate the show even more to be familiar with the story.

But it didn’t stay specific to Ms U’Ren’s class! It didn’t take long before a district-wide project was born! Other teachers were interested in reading the story to their classes as well and and soon, Holly, Michelle, and Jan Staley, media specialist, were organizing the first ever district-wide read aloud, which came to be known as JPS Reads!

All of the teachers are encouraged by the response so far. “The feedback from teachers, students, and parents has been really positive.  Perhaps the most exciting part is hearing the connections being made at home!  There are many stories of families discussing James and the Giant Peach during dinner and younger kids begging older siblings to tell them what happens next in the story.

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Story brainstorming in Mary Veldink’s 3rd grade Pinewood classroom

When Ms Florian was considering scripts for the junior high performance she was excited about the visual and production challenges posed by James and the Giant Peach. “[It] stood out to me right away as being a fantastic option – the story is so wonderful, and the stage version has many featured roles, which gives lots of students a chance to show off their performing skills. It will also be a technical challenge! Figuring out how to create a giant peach that rolls off the cliffs of Dover and into the Atlantic ocean is going to be a creative challenge for the entire production team.”

Not all teachers had a copy of the book but thanks to a grant from the Jenison Public Education Foundation, those teachers were provided a copy. Even our Spanish Immersion classrooms are reading the story in Spanish! In order to empower teachers, weekly emails are sent to participants offering suggestions for activities and ways to connect with other teachers in the project.  Each individual teacher can choose which activities they would like to implement within their own classroom. Lori Barr, Pinewood 6th grade teacher, is engaging students’ writing skills by having them write blog posts with their thoughts and questions. Check out their Letters to Ms Florian here

If you have ever wondered if reading at home matters, it does! “Statistics have shown that a powerful predictor of reading success is having a parent who personally reads aloud to their child 5–7 days a week. Our community read aloud, JPS Reads, will hopefully ignite the joy of reading and the community bond it builds within the classroom family…the hope is that this will then be talked about and become part of our individual family habits also.”

Congratulations to all the teachers, students and families who participated in the first JPS Read Aloud! We can’t wait for the play this January!

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*Photo courtesy of goldstar.com

Say “Hi” to New Teachers!

This year we welcomed 23 new staff members to the Jenison family! Here you can meet some of them and feel free to say “hi” in person when you cross paths!

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Anna Flood  |  Burlsey, 6th Grade

“I grew up in the area and have always heard amazing things about Jenison. As a new teacher to the district, I have noticed the strong community and support that surrounds education. I am excited to grow with my group of 6th grade students, and watch them use their abilities to be successful.”

 

mcelweeAlexa McElwee  |  Bursley Interventionist
“I have grown up in this community.  Living in Hudsonville, attending GVSU and now working in Jenison, I have seen this community from so many sides.  From being a child, to a student, and now as a educator.  This community stands behind you and support you in every way.  When I graduated the one thing I knew I wanted in the school I worked for was a huge community involvement.  When I accepted my position in Jenison, I knew I was going more than a community, I was joining a family.  Jenison is such an amazing school district who wants the best for the students and their families.

On the first day of school I was feeling like most students do when they walk in the door, nervous, anxious and excited.  I definitely had first day jitters.  I was nervous for joining a new team and for meeting new students who have never seen me before.  By the end of they day I was getting high fives and lots of hugs from all the Kindergartners as they walked by my room to head to the bus.  To see their faces light up each morning when they see me in the hall or working with them makes me so excited to see the relationships that are being formed.  This is going to be a great year.”

vandebergJosh VandeBerg  |  Sandy Hill, 4th Grade

“My family and I are very excited to return to the area!  My wife Amanda and I are from the area, but moved to Florida 9 years ago. We have 4 children Ben (10), Abigail (9), Hannah (6), and Levi (3).  All of our extended family lives in the area and my children are thrilled to live by their cousins.

I am a big believer of living in the community that I teach in.  Jenison is an amazing place to live and raise a family.  The schools are top-notch and we can’t imagine a better place to be. I am so excited for this school year because everyone that I work with truly cares about each other.  The district leaders, the team at Sandy Hill, and everyone I meet throughout the district is amazing. Jenison has a lot to offer its students.  I am currently involved in the robotic’s program and we have a blast using what we’ve learned in the classroom to solve a problem.

willieMaura Willie  |  Elementary Music

“I was drawn to JPS because of their excellence in music. I love how the district and community supports the arts in their schools. So far, I’m most excited for the year because of all of the collaboration I’ve seen. Everyone I’ve come into contact with has been eager to help each other and work together. ”

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Jenny Huizenga  |  High School Math
“I was drawn to JPS because my children attend JPS and I love the schools and the community.  I am excited to be teaching in the community where I live.  The staff and students are amazing at Jenison and I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and get involved. “

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Bridget Ehlich  |  Bursley Elementary, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“I was drawn to JPS by the reputation it has in the Greater Grand Rapids area as forward educators. I am excited about the year because I have already felt welcomed by the community and can tell that this is a good place to be as an educator.”

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Dustin Morley  |  Junior High ELA
“I first heard about Jenison Public Schools while I attended Grand Valley State University ten years ago and heard nothing but good things about the district and community ever since. After moving from the Detroit area to West Michigan I was very excited when a long-term substitute position opened at Jenison Junior High. The building and district felt like home for me from the first interview for that position.  After being a long-term substitute for a year and a half, I couldn’t be happier to now be a full time teacher at Jenison Junior High School. I’m particularly looking forward to getting more involved with the school and community this year.”

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Rachel Nichols  |  ECC Special Education

“I was looking for a district that wanted to everything possible to benefit their students. I talked to some friends and they all were so pleased with Jenison and what they are doing.  So far it has been great everyone has been so friendly and welcoming it has been an amazing start to 2016/2017 school year and I am excited to continue!!!”
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Anna Siegel  |  Pinewood + Sandy Hill Special Education

“What drew me to JPS is the success of the district and the sense of community. I am in two different elementary buildings throughout the day this year, and so I am excited to interact with many different staff and students this year!”
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Kristen Dantonio  |  Pinewood, 5th Grade

“I was drawn to Jenison because I was told that it was a district that cared about people. It is a district that puts relationships first and I knew that I wanted to be part of that. I am most excited to get to know my students and coworkers at Pinewood. It has been a great year so far and I am excited to see how those relationships will grow.”

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Christina Salinas  |  Rosewood, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“The wonderful Jenison community and Spanish Immersion program drew me to JPS.  This year I am excited to see students continue to grow in their literacy skills in Spanish and English.  I am also excited to work with the supportive teachers and staff at Rosewood Elementary. I have learned so much from them already. Their dedication and passion for teaching is contagious!”

We’re so thankful for all of our teachers and all that they do for our students and families! Thank you to the new teachers for bringing your talents and passion to Jenison!

Bond Dollars Hit the Road!

miii9763Last May the Jenison community voted in support of a Bond proposal that allows the district to keep up with the growing needs of our students, teachers and community. One of those very important [and practical!] needs was replacing ten buses in the current fleet which took place this summer.

According to Kip Medendorp, Director of Transportation, buses should be replaced every fifteen years to keep up to date on mechanics as well as gas mileage. However, with multiple needs facing the department, new buses had been put on hold until the recent Bond vote when the purchase of ten buses was able to move forward.

miii9745The old buses were sold at auction in July – the oldest of which was 23 years old [maybe some of our Jenison parents used to ride those Jenison buses?] and all of them experiencing some rust issues. The new buses are already out on the road and Mr. Medendorp says that both drivers and students are happy to have them and consistently show respect to the new equipment. One important safety feature on the new buses is a “sleeping student alarm” that requires drivers to walk to the back of the bus and push a button confirming the bus is empty within a certain amount of time. This, in addition, to the department’s policy to check for remaining students will continue to keep our students safe!

miii9782The transportation department isn’t stopping at new buses, though! The bond vote will also provide a new radio system and equip all buses with a GPS system. This will allow for the department to be able to locate a bus when needed. Additionally, they are planning to purchase tablets to be given to substitute drivers which will detail the route and each stop, replacing a print out that subs use now.  Finally, they are looking into putting cameras on every bus and joining an app for parents called, “Where’s my bus?” that would allow parents to locate their child’s bus at any time.

In accordance with the overall goal of improved communication, the department provides many online resources. You can visit their website here for information and complete their Transportation Request of Change form here. This school year, over 500 parents completed the form online saving the team and parents time!

Through the support of the community and the dedicated team in the Transportation Department, the whole student is honored, served well and kept safe from the beginning of their day to the end, “We try to make all the kids happy; we’re the first ones they see in the morning, the last in the afternoon and it’s a source of pride for our drivers to contribute to the students’ experience”.

miii9767-2Thank you to the Jenison community for your Bond support and to our bus drivers and transportation staff for keeping our kids safe! Don’t be shy when you see the Jenison buses on the road, give them a wave to say you’re thankful too!

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District-Wide Book Fair is a HIT!

MIII8484Last month parents and students enjoyed the first Jenison District-Wide Book Fair at the JCA! After considering the amount of time and resources used in the fall at individual elementary school book fairs, Jan Staley, Elementary Media Specialist, and her teams decided to pool their talents and hold one fair for all schools instead. After more than seventeen years of separate events this event was a trial run for the team but it ended up to be a successful one too! Scholastic publishers [partners in the event] were also anxious to see how it turned out as this hadn’t been done by any other school before!

MIII8483The event saw sales of more than $19,000 and Jan explains how that money will be distributed: “We usually made between $2,000-$4,000 per building with our separate fairs. With the District Wide Fair every school met their goal, and was given a profit bonus too.  Depending on student count each school was given between $700-$1,100 in free books from Scholastic Publishers and $500-$900 in cash profits for future collection development.”MIII8450

The wide selection was the number one joy for shoppers. The most popular titles being Rangers in Time, Dr Kitty and Serafina and the Black Cloak which all ran out of stock and had to be ordered. “Instead of just 5 or 6 cases of books that a normal fair has, we had 22 cases of books and just as many or more boxes of books for table displays.”

While Scholastic only publishes paperback books, Ms Staley has the current electronic reading trends in mind as well. Last year she submitted a grant and she is piloting a circulating eBook collection at Bauerwood.  “If stats show it is being used well we will develop a collection for other buildings.”

If you are worried that you missed this epic book event, fear not! The fun will be repeated next year.  “Having the Book Fair at the JCA was SUPER successful!   In fact, I’ve decided that for next year we’ll have both Book Fairs, which are normally in the individual buildings, at the JCA.  Our fall fair will be on Dec 5, 6 & 7 and our spring fair will be the end of April 2017.”

Mark your calendars for next year and a HUGE THANK YOU to the volunteers that helped make this event possible and bringing the excitement of reading to every Jenison student!

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Michigan Supreme Court Visits Jenison!

MIII9140Last week the Jenison Center for the Arts was the site of an oral hearing of the Michigan Supreme Court. 1300 Ottawa County high school students, nominated by their teachers, were present for the arguments presented by legal council for both parties. Although the state’s highest court will take a couple of weeks to make a ruling this was a very unique opportunity for the students and the community of Jenison to host this important part of the judicial process.

MIII8975The visit came to fruition after the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office applied through Court Community Connections, a public education program begun by the Court in 2007. The case before the Court was Peter Deacon vs Pandora, the online music streaming site, whom Mr Deacon believes violated his state’s privacy rights when they sold his information to Facebook.

Superintendent Tom TenBrink was very proud to host this amazing event. “To see the Supreme Court in action right here in Ottawa County is a tremendous opportunity.” After the oral arguments were presented audience members were invited to ask questions during a Q & A session with the Justices and attorney’s and representatives from each visiting school were also able to join the justices for an intimate luncheon prior to the hearing.

185 Jenison students were invited and Celia Webers, Jenison junior, says that while they learn the basics of the court system in class “this is really good to be able to apply it and be in what we’re learning. We learn the terms but we don’t know how it works.”

Senior Parmida Davarmahesh is considering a future in law and was excited to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. “It really exposes me to how the court works and what my job and future career, if I become a lawyer, will look like.”  And junior James Groelsma adds that in class they are able to study the more well-known cases but this gave them the opportunity to study a case that’s a little more abstract, albeit timely. “It’s cool be part of something that hasn’t been decided yet. It’s not a clear decision; it’s an argument.”

MIII8966Mr Abram Brosseit, Government and Social Studies teacher, sees this as a great opportunity to honor Jenison students who have shown an interest in political science. “We want to give them the chance to see what it looks like in a world outside the classroom. A lot of students have come to me over the last few months as they know more of the facts of the case, they’re understanding that there’s arguments to be made on both sides and I’ve seen students really engaging in critical thinking in a very applied way. This isn’t an abstract question on a test, this is happening in front of them.”

We are very proud to not only host the MI Supreme Court Justices at the JCA, but especially the students and teachers who gained invaluable insight into the judicial process that happens around them every day.

Thank you to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office and the MI Supreme Court for involving our students in your work!

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