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!

Teachers Begin Year by Celebrating Success!

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year at Jenison Public Schools!
We hope you enjoyed our summer series on student writing and if you’re new to the blog, we hope you’ll subscribe and check in with us every Thursday to celebrate the great things happening in our schools!

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To kick off the year, all JPS teachers participated in three days of professional development centered around the yearlong theme of “Celebrating our Successes”. As parents can appreciate, teachers are so busy during the school year that they often miss out on learning from and celebrating with each other.  According to Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, “With the busy school schedule, meeting kids needs at every level, preparing lessons and meeting the many requirements from the State, we do not always take [or have] the time to slow down and celebrate the amazing happenings and successes at JPS!” Professional development throughout the year will provide opportunities for celebration in an effort to be “more mindful [and] purposeful about celebrating individual and team successes in our buildings”.

img_4255During the year, professional development will continue with Classroom Learning Labs which aim to provide a more consistent and collaborative curriculum. During this first training, elementary teachers attended literacy sessions led by our own experienced, talented and amazing staff!  “All elementary teachers were asked to select three of eighteen sessions to attend to learn or solidify what they know about reading, writing, math workshop, student assessment, literacy instruction, how students learn, and differentiation of instruction.”

Twenty eight JPS staff members across the district from Transitional Kindergarten through Junior High, led the sessions teachers attended.  “The sessions were powerful and dynamic with staff from different buildings and different grade levels sharing and learning from each other!  We ended our day with grade level team time to reflect on the learning and set instructional goals for the year to best impact our students.”

img_4249Additionally, teachers took time to create Literacy Belief Statements which were based on research about the best practices in literacy education and the statements will be posted in a visible location in each elementary building. “Each month we will focus on one of these belief statements and how it fits with literacy instruction.  Teachers are participating in a self-select book study centered around these statements where conversations and collaboration will take place every month.  Leading the discussion and learning is Janet Schultz, our new district Literacy Coach.  Janet has been teaching for fourteen years at Jenison Public Schools and will be supporting the instructional collaboration and literacy learning!”

Teachers are looking forward to seeing more of this type of professional development at Jenison and are excited to start the year: “It was noted by one staff member that “it was one of the most encouraging and motivating three days”!”

Intentional Care for Kids Before + After School!

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For some kids coming to school early and staying later isn’t a bad thing. At all five of our Jenison Elementary schools and the ECC, before and after school programs are providing intentionally fun and educational environments for students of busy, working families.

From 645 – 9am and 330 – 6pm kids can enjoy a healthy snack, gym time, art projects, outside time and get help with their homework. Currently, there are just over 400 students enrolled in the program and attendance varies each day depending on families and their schedules. On average, however, schools see about 18 – 30 kids each day.

MIII4771Each school’s program has their own variations including “Technology Friday’s” when students an earn time towards video games or ipads. Other days of the week they are playing board games and interacting with teachers and each other.

Melissa Caster is the Director of the program and has been for seventeen years. She says that “our main goal is for the children to have a fun, safe place to come to while their parents are at work.” Melissa is especially grateful for the staff that work with her to make a difference for kids, some of whom have been in the program for over ten years. “We have great staff who care for the kids, who want the kids to succeed, they take great pride in working for Jenison and being a part of the school district. I’ve had kids come back [who are graduating] give hugs and say “thank you for always being there”.”

Rosewood Principal, Lloyd Gingrich appreciates the the important work of the program. “Before and after school care is truly an important service to our students and families.  The staff does a job well above and beyond just child care.  They help students complete their homework, give them opportunities to play active games where they are exercising, provide snacks and make their time here fun and creative.  It’s an important service for working families because they need a safe and stimulating environment for their children while they are starting or finishing their work day.  Even though it happens outside of our school day, the before and after school program is an important part of our school.”

There is a rolling enrollment to join the program and there is a fee of $8 per session that your child is present [as opposed to other programs in the area where parents pay for the days the child is signed up, regardless of attendance]. The program does not take snow days and is open for a great summer camp as well. If you are interested in having your child be part of the summer camp program please note that it does fill up and registration paperwork is available after Spring Break.

Thank you Miss Melissa and all of the program staff for your dedicated and caring work with our kids! We love knowing they are well loved and looked after each and every day!MIII4861

Preschool Class Joins Forces with Autism Classroom!

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In a classroom at the ECC something very exciting is happening. It’s not just the amazing opportunities to learn through art and play but also the chance for students in the Great Start Readiness Preschool and those on the Autism spectrum to learn together.

Classroom teacher, Tricia Maday explains, “The ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorders] preschool classroom is very unique because it services children on the autism spectrum as well as children included in the Great Start Readiness Preschool.  The intention behind our program is to provide support to all children while using age typically developing peers to help with social and behavioral modeling.

thumb_MIII0821_1024 copy“There have been great successes witnessed already this year in just the few short months we have been in school which is exciting to see and helps build confidence in all children. As an example:

We had one student join our program recently. He had never attended any schooling and has very limited communication skills. At the beginning, he had a difficult time attending to activities and participating in lessons. Through peer modeling and implementing accommodations he is able to follow routines, transitions and attend to activities. He is now demonstrating personal care and daily living skills that we weren’t seeing initially. Another great accomplishment we have been thrilled with is his increased daily communication and demonstration of appropriate expression of emotions. These things might seem very basic but for young children it can be difficult to know the appropriate times to express these feelings and knowing how to communicate them. Every little accomplishment is a huge celebration every day.”

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Of course, creating a learning environment for fourteen four-year olds can be exciting as well as challenging: “Our students are very eager to learn and help each other, but just like any four year old child they certainly keep us on our toes. It’s important for the teacher to take time to facilitate appropriate play with peers, provide strategies for problem solving and create an environment that encourages imaginative play.”

Ms Maday is encouraged by the witnessing the growth and accomplishments that each child is achieving already this year.  “It’s amazing to witness a group of diverse children working together to accomplish their own individualized goals and become their best selves.”

“Children with autism are just like any other child. They have obstacles to overcome and things that may be difficult for them. They all have something to teach and we learn from one another. This experience has been beneficial to everyone involved. Children learn about the unique needs of others as well as their similarities. This exposure helps shape the child into a well-rounded person who is ready for the world outside of the classroom.”

Thank you Ms Maday and the ECC for providing challenging and supportive learning environments for all of our young students!

And on this Thanksgiving Day we are especially thankful for all of the wonderful teachers, staff and administration that make up Jenison Public Schools! Thank you for all you do for our community and students each day!

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New Teacher Spotlight!

Introducing four more new teachers with Jenison Public Schools this year!

Keli Dykstra

Before bringing her skills and passions for Spanish Immersion education to Bursley Elementary, Kelli Dykstra was living and teaching in Costa Rica.  She was keeping busy teaching English immersion in a private, bi-lingual school in this Spanish speaking country.  Hoping to continue her career in language immersion and also return to a more permanent job in the States she came home to West Michigan.  She has loved to see the growth of her students both academically and socially and “Their bilingual abilities have blown me away.  I am very encouraged by their hard work everyday.”  Ms Dykstra adds, “I am adamant about the value of encouragement and pushing the kids to be the best that they can be. ”

Mary Lynn Randall

Mary Lynn Randall comes to the Early Childhood Center after four years of teaching in the Ludington school district.  Now, she spends her days with our Pre-K [or transitional Kindergartners]!  Her husband was commuting to work from Ludington to Grand Rapids and after they had their daughter they knew it was time to make a change.  She had heard good things about Jenison from her sister, Ashley Hankamp, who teaches art at  Bauerwood and Pinewood and she knew it would be a good fit.  Mary Lynn is encouraged by her students “eager minds and energetic spirits” and thoroughly enjoys being part of the Jenison family.  When Mary Lynn isn’t wrangling the energetic spirits of her Pre-K students, she is true to her farm-girl roots and enjoys spending time with her family in the outdoors hunting, fishing and scoping out good auctions.

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Myca Belknap grew up traveling with her missionary family and never felt the need to “put down roots”, that is, until she found herself at Rosewood as the new 4th grade Spanish Immersion teacher!  Now she says, “I can already see that this is going to be easy because our little school already feels like family!”  Myca and her husband Dave, have four children and enjoy a very musical and artistic family with all of them displaying talents in these areas, “We love to “jam” in our studio/basement with our friends and their kids in the colder months, and enjoy our music acoustic style in our backyard during the summer and early fall.”  She has taught Spanish Immersion in South Haven and Forest Hills before coming to Jenison and says, “The family atmosphere, quality staff, good relations between educators and administrators, and high parent involvement are only a few of the qualities that to me spell “EXCELLENT SCHOOL, EXCELLENT DISTRICT”.   The more I explored, the more attractive JPS became.  I can truly say that I have “landed my dream job”!”

Myca wants parents and the community to know, “I am committed to my students’ development and feel so privileged to be trusted with the children in this community.  I take my responsibilities both with joy and care because [as a parent myself] I understand the hopes, dreams, and expectations that we have are born out of a deep love and desire for our children to prosper and be as successful and be as happy as humanly possible.  To this end, we all strive.  We make sacrifices.  We make the “hard decisions”.    We go the extra mile.  After that, we must trust their future [and ours] to the children we have loved and trained.  My trust is with hope, because I see a bright future in the students that I teach!”

Tyler Moran

Tyler Moran joins the Junior High staff after graduating from GVSU and teaching in various districts around West Michigan.  Now he teaches our 7th and 8th grade students with Cognitive Impairments and Learning Disabilities in the areas of Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Study Skills. He was attracted to JPS after volunteering a couple of years ago in Lisa Douglass’ classroom “and I realized what a great staff and student body they have here.  After the first interview, I knew it was meant to be.  I went home and told my wife that I need this job and that I can’t see myself working anywhere else!  I am truly blessed to have been even considered for this job!”  Tyler’s family is growing!  In addition to his stepson, Gavin, with his wife, Melissa, they welcomed a baby girl into the fold last month! He has enjoyed celebrating his students academic gains this year and is encouraged by their desire to learn — even in Middle School!  “I am ecstatic to be apart of the JPS family and I can’t wait to see what my future holds here at JPS.”

We are so thankful to add these teachers and their passion for educating to the Jenison family! 

Hoops for Livi

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Last Thursday the teachers of Pinewood, Sandy Hill and the ECC met on the hard wood for a [mostly] friendly game of basketball, all in the name of fun and fundraising for the A-T Children’s Project, a cause very close to the Jenison family.

On November 4 the entire Jenison community lost Olivia Veldink, a 7th grader at Jenison Junior High, sister of Abby and Kate and daughter of Mary and Dave.  Olivia lived with a rare disease known as A-T or Ataxia-Telangiectasia but was never without her bright and contagious smile.

The basketball game is not only an opportunity for families to come together in the name of competition but also to raise money towards A-T research.  Laurie Takens, Pinewood Administrative Assistant and fundraising organizer, says the early totals show over $6000 has been collected which is already  $2000 more than last year!

Staff Ball 350 copyEric Zane, co-host of the Free Beer & Hot Wings show on 97.9 and Jenison parent was happy to provide his announcing skills to the booth alongside Brian Gray, Jr High Psychologist. Eric developed a relationship with the Veldink’s years ago when his own kids had Mrs. Veldink as their teacher and he regularly uses his national platform to bring awareness and opportunities for fundraising for A-T.  He also developed a special bond with Livi as his partner in many appearances at the Reeds Lake Triathlon.  “From a personal standpoint, my wife and I and the relationship with Mary and Dave and the family, the Pinewood community, it means everything.  These are the things that matter.”

Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown, was hoping that the game was “a chance for Pinewood, Sandy Hill and ECC kids to come out and see their teachers having fun, be able to interact with other families but also to celebrate Livi’s life and raise as much as we can for A-T.”  They advertised in the Advance newspaper, sent a parent email, included the event in their newsletter and invited Livi’s 7th grade class.  The gym was packed full of supporters from all three schools ready for a night of celebration.

Staff Ball 740 copyFor their part, the teachers brought the fun — and some mad basketball skills, of course!  They played a quarter in costumes, they played with their opposite hand and using a tiny basketball.  Thankfully, they had students on hand to take the free throws on their behalf when referees Tom TenBrink and High School Principal Brandon Graham saw fit to call a foul.  And once again, the breaks between quarters and halftime were filled with entertainment provided by the ECC student dancers, audience participation with the Wave, Chicken Dance and YMCA and even a staff dance routine.  To put a cap on this amazing evening the whole stadium sang “Let it Go” from the Frozen soundtrack.

The Jenison family is proud to stand beside the Veldink’s and continue to celebrate Livi’s life and fight for a cure for A-T.  Thank you to all who attended, participated, cheered, sang, danced and donated!

The Veldink Family: Abby, Kate, Livi, Mary + Dave

The Veldink Family: Abby, Kate, Livi, Mary + Dave

“We would like to thank our Pinewood family and our friends from Sandy Hill and the ECC for coming out to the Hoops for LIvi game this past Thursday.

Dave, Abby, Kate and I would thank you for giving of your time and money to support the A-T Children’s Project, for all of your thoughts and prayers, and for walking beside us as we mourn the loss of Livi.  Jenison might not have the fanciest restaurants or nicest downtown, but we have something that many other communities don’t have: We have people that care for one another, walk with one another through good times and bad, and support one another.We are blessed to live in the Jenison community.
Livi would have loved this event.  Thank you for honoring her memory. ”  — Mary Veldink

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The guy from Duck Dynasty vs a banana. Very tough call.

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Good sportsmanship is key in any game!

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Pinewood staff selling shirts

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3 pointer!

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Sandy Hill smiles!

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C’mon! It’s easy to plan in an angel costume! Maybe not the soft serve ice cream though…

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Volunteers cruising through the crowd taking donations! Impossible to say “no” to these faces!

2 points!

2 points!

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Amazing cheerleading + stunts!

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Go Wildcats!

 

 

 

Kids Hope Teams up with the ECC!

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Each Tuesday at the Early Childhood Center students know it’s a special day.  For those with Kids Hope mentors, they know that Tuesday is the day their mentor comes to school to spend a half an hour just with them.

Kids Hope USA is a growing non-profit that partners churches and elementary schools all around West Michigan.  Students who are looking for a little extra academic help or social interaction are selected by teachers and are paired with volunteering adults from Ridgewood Reformed Church right here in Jenison.  All volunteers are required to complete and application, go through an interview and background check and are trained in Kids Hope and school guidelines.

For ECC principal, Lee Westerveldt, the Kids Hope partnership is part of an ongoing goal to partner with neighboring organizations in an effort to expose students to inter generational relationships.  Most of the Kids Hope volunteers are senior citizens and “most find that this is a very fulfilling, really cool experience with kids.”

030 copyParents of Kids Hope students give their permission for the mentor-mentee relationship and mentors spend 30 minutes each week with their student teaching board games, practicing reading or math or just having a nice one on one conversation.  Ridgewood Kids Hope Director, Joyce Schoonejongen, says, “We are able to support the teacher, to supply another support person in the child’s life. We are dedicated to coming each week and to be a consistent person in the child’s life; we show love to the children and encourage the children.”

This is the fourth year that Ridgewood Reformed has partnered with the ECC and the applications have only increased with each year.

Ms Schoonejongen knows that the 30 minutes mentors spend with their students each week means so much more than a few board games and crafts.  “Mentors and the teachers have a supportive relationship, working together for the child’s welfare so that the child will have a positive school year, making all the progress that the child is able to make. To help the child to be ready for the next academic step in their school work.”

Third year mentor and former Elementary teacher, Twylla Nieboer, knows ” it’s a joy to know that you are helping someone succeed in life.”  She concedes that her mentee is quite the charmer and they love doing puzzles, reading and playing games during their time together.

“The real power behind it is when you see students get their needs met with Kids Hope or in the classroom or having enough to eat or getting enough sleep – when your needs are met, you’re successful in school.”  – Lee Westerveldt

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 Thank you, Kids Hope volunteers, for joining Jenison Public Schools in supporting our youngest students!  We’re grateful for your partnership!

Jenison’s ECC Wraps Educational Excellence in Hugs and Smiles

Imagine:

After a harried morning of looking for shoes, fighting traffic and dodging flood zones, you turn the corner on Connie Street to drop your child off at Jenison’s Early Childhood Center. Walking through secure doors, you pass an impressive aquarium whose bright colors are matched only by charming displays of artwork dotting the halls.

Making your way past the infant rooms, you locate your child’s preschool classroom and scoop her up for a last kiss before she skips into class. Stopping at the coffee kiosk for a free cup of flavored Joe on the way out, you nod to the chef who’s returning to the kitchen with an armful of veggies from the school’s garden.

You realize that your bologna sandwich will pale in comparison to the lunch your four-year old will be eating, but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of the preschool rooms in Jenison's Early Childhood Center

One of the preschool rooms in Jenison’s Early Childhood Center

The scenario above is not part of a movie or a facility reserved for an elite crowd of Hollywood starlets. It is a snapshot of life at the ECC for every parent and every child who walk through the doors (*bologna sandwich optional). With room for little ones starting at 3 months and up to 5 year old pre-kindergarteners, this school is buzzing with laughter and finding innovative ways to make learning fun.

Mr. Westervelt at the coffee kiosk.

Mr. Westervelt at the coffee kiosk.

Principal Lee Westervelt beams like a proud parent as he weaves through the hallways. He knows this school is special, and notes that parents drive from as far away as Allegan County and Grand Haven to grab a coveted registration slot.

At the moment there is a waiting list for preschool at the ECC, despite incorporating the use of several portables and rooms at other Jenison Elementary Schools. Currently, 450 children are in the building every day, with another 300 in satellite locations.

We’ve been fortunate that there is a lot of stability here. We’ve proven that we hire people who have graduate-level preparedness and who stay. We really don’t experience a lot of turnover, which is great for the kids. I hire the best people out there,” said Mr. Westervelt.

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Ms. Keriann Poquette

One such teacher is Ms. Keriann Poquette who uses the latest technology to foster growth in reading. Two days a week, students use iPads to read with a reading buddy from Mrs. Ryan’s class at Bursley Elementary School.

Using Facetime, ECC kids sit and listen to an older student read to them while the iPad sends images from the book. This partnership allows older students on the other side of Jenison to practice reading and gives younger students additionally examples of fluency.

In mid-April the 5 year olds at the ECC will begin to read back to their reading buddies, practicing their newly forged skills in a tangible way.

Students view pages to their reading buddy's book via Facetime on the iPad.

Students view pages to their reading buddy’s book via Facetime on the iPad.

Aside from the gifted staff of teachers, the ECC boasts an amazing army of volunteers who come in every day to run the morning coffee kiosk, work with students, and organize the “Motor Moms” group. Motor Moms focus their attention on developing fine and gross motor skills by employing techniques used in Brain Gym and Bal-A-Vis-X. Examples of those activities include: obstacle courses, balance beams, crawling, rolling, galloping-to-marching, catching and throwing.

Motor Moms work with students each day.

Motor Moms work with students each day.

Chef Wade Borysiak preps black beans for the next day's lunch menu.

Chef Wade Borysiak preps black beans for the next day’s lunch menu.

All that galloping works up an appetite in the kids, and they’re fortunate to have GRCC Culinary Institute graduate and former Head Chef at GR’s One Trick PonyWade Borysiak, prepping fresh vegetables and healthy meals each day for the entire facility.

Aside from the community garden on the ECC grounds which provides food each spring and summer, Chef Borysiak shops locally at least every-other day for the freshest foods. On the menu that day: whole grain brown rice with mirepoix and slow roasted pork shoulder.

Mr. Westervelt is passionate about the connection between healthy eating and healthy, well-fed, attentive kids who are ready to learn. His dream is to expand the kitchen, hire a sous chef, virtually eliminate sugar and processed food from the school, and begin to partner with local farms for a larger variety of garden-fresh options.

But more than anything, Mr. Westervelt and his staff are excited about kids. They take good care of each other. They pursue excellence. They focus on what’s important.

“The great thing about my job is knowing that for many kids, being here is the best part of their day. And I love being a part of that.”