KidCAT Players Inspire

On the surface, it may seem like another celebration for the football team but look closer and you’ll see an initiative bringing a community together and modeling some pretty amazing attributes.

The KidCAT program started about 10 years ago when a teacher had the idea to foster a connection between the elementary students and the high school, with community events such as football games. It’s not always natural – especially for families who don’t know any players personally; however it has grown to be something that the varsity players and the elementary students look forward to each year.

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Sully Russ is one of 20 seniors on the team this year. He enjoyed sharing a visit with his Bauerwood friends. Go #24!

Early in the football season, classroom teachers adopt a player; sometimes a teacher is able to choose a player that once sat in their elementary rooms. The teachers and players alike, really appreciate having the opportunity to reconnect. This year, all 43 Varsity players were paired up with an excited classroom of little Wildcats ready to keep this tradition going. Teachers guide the young students in thoughtful exercises as they get to know their KidCAT player, then share notes, cards of encouragement, and small treats throughout the season.

And the Varsity guys get to give back as well. They are able to be a positive role model; sharing their character and work ethic in return. On the big day of the KidCAT football game, all the players go visit their elementary friends and spend some time with them. When the players arrive, the kids are star struck and in awe like a celebrity has entered their little world! It’s awesome to see the guys having a good time with some silly questions and leading the way for future generations as they promote literacy, community and kindness. As October is Anti-Bullying Month, we are proud to watch as the football team has also joined the Stomp Out Bullying, anti-bullying campaign this year. I’m proud of the leaders we have in this team.

The grand finale is when the students and their families rally to cheer on their KidCAT player at the Varsity football game. At game time, students are grouped in sections with their schools and it’s so fun to see our young fans totally engaged in the game while they cheer for their Wildcat. 

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Senior, Kyle Nott leads the pack through the student tunnel at the KidCAT game, October 12. Photo Courtesy of Damion Van Slyke Photography

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Sandy Hill]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

Cognitive Impairment [CI] Categorical teacher, Betsy Norton:

Jenison is my home and where I grew up.  I had an excellent education and experience as a Wildcat and I choose to teach here and raise my kids here!  We have recently moved back to the area and we are so pleased to be settling back into our hometown with pride and an eagerness for our kids to continue their growth as students, athletes and community members.

I think Jenison is a different school district because Jenison has an amazing support system for kids with disabilities. The special education staff is absolutely incredible. They have such a passion for creating a quality environment for all kids.  Jenison is where I developed an interest in teaching kids with special needs through the CAL tutoring program in high school. I did my Student Teaching in Jenison, and it is so good to return [after being in many districts] to the supports that were my foundation in Special Education.

My building exemplifies this by supporting our self-contained program like a family.  Sandy Hill teachers open their doors to our students and treat them as their own.  The networking, communication and “Kids First” attitude is evident every day at Sandy Hill.

I look forward to enjoying my time with my family over the summer.  We will be regulars at the ball fields, neighborhood pool and hopefully find some time to hit the local beach towns.  

Next year, I look forward to continuing my career at Jenison and getting to know more teachers and families in the community.  I hope to continue the growth of a Parent Group we started this year, and possibly starting a Special Olympics/ Unified Sports team at Sandy Hill with my amazing teaching partner, Katie Bremer.  

Thank you, Mrs Norton, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Mrs Norton was chosen for this story by Sandy Hill Principal, Sara Melton

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Rosewood]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

1st Grade teacher, Danielle Sampo:

I choose Jenison because this was the community I was raised in and the school district I attended.  I wanted my children to have the same experience that I was fortunate to have.

I think Jenison is different school district because it provides opportunities for all students to grow and learn while having a safe, caring community around them.

My building exemplifies hard-working, caring, selfless teachers who go above and beyond for their students. I consider my colleges my family who are always their to support and encourage one another. This positively impacts the students we work with.

I look forward to summer because I love to re-connect with my two boys and my husband all while doing what we love – boating and spending time up north as a family.

If I wasn’t a teacher I would probably be a social worker/counselor working with at-risk children because I love making a difference in the people’s lives. I would teach them that their challenges do not define them as a person but only help to mold them into who they are today.

Thank you, Ms Sampo, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Ms Sampo was chosen for this story by Rosewood Principal, Lloyd Gingerich

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Bauerwood]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

4th Grade teacher, Craig Westra:

As a 1986 graduate of JPS, Mr Westra has continued to make sure Jenison is part of his life! “I chose Jenison because I grew up here and attended Jenison Public Schools. Jenison teachers and coaches have been a large part of my life, helping me through difficult times, improvement after struggling academics, and experiencing athletic success.

I think Jenison is a different school district because we encourage children to be multifaceted, yet accepting, while providing them opportunities to explore many different activities.  

Mr Westra sees the support given to students every day at his school. “Bauerwood exemplifies this by being a child-centered building, teaching our students how to encourage, support and respect their peers.”

And don’t think Mr Westra will be kicking back in his hammock this summer! I look forward to summer because I love to work at the high school pool and teach backyard swim lessons. He is also excited to get going again in the fall! “I’m looking forward to working with another group of awesome fourth graders next year.”

Thank you, Mr Westra, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Mr Westra was chosen for this story by Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Bursley]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] Categorical teacher, Kate Walker:

I choose Jenison because Jenison’s program for students with Autism is excellent.  I had the opportunity to work here briefly as a long term substitute and was so impressed with the building leadership and teamwork within the program, when I had the opportunity to come back one year later, it was a “no-brainer.”  While I loved my job within another district, I knew I wanted to be part of this tight-knit, supportive team, which has stretched me and supported me both professionally and personally.

I think Jenison is a different school district because of the support.  I see the community step in and support the district. I see students step in and support each other, especially our students with special needs.  The peer program at the elementary level and the LINKS program at the secondary level allow our students with autism to be supported in unique and tangible ways.

My building exemplifies this by living life like a family.  As staff, we do not hesitate to step into both the personal and professional situations we find ourselves in.  We come around the families of our students to care for them in times of crisis and we do not hesitate to support students with kind words and extra encouragement on a daily basis.

I look forward to summer because I love to spend time with my 3 kids.  We enjoy trips to the beach, the ice cream shop, and many hours at the baseball fields and the pool.  We work to strike a good balance between being busy with friends and activities, and having time to rest and relax.

I am looking forward to continuing to work with my students next year.  One of the best parts of my position is that I typically work with my students for 3 to 4 years.  This allows us to build very close relationships and I get to see their growth across time. It is always amazing to get to the end of their 6th grade year and look back at how far they have come since the beginning of 3rd grade!

Thank you, Ms Walker, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Ms Walker was chosen for this story by Bursley Principal, Brent Huck

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Pinewood]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

1st Grade teacher, Kelsey Radvansky:

I chose Jenison because of the great community and phenomenal teaching staff. I had the opportunity to student teach in Jenison 5 years ago. As soon as I walked in, I knew this was the district for me! The teaching staff, administration and students were all so inviting and warm. It felt more like a “family” environment than a work place. After a few weeks of student teaching, my beliefs were confirmed by the daily conversations with other staff members, the obvious care and concern for every student, and the interactions and support from families. It truly is a dream environment to thrive in!

I KNOW Jenison is a different school district because of its environment. I’ve been in numerous other districts and none have compared to what I’ve felt here. The level of love and support to all kids and staff in this school community is unmatched! Jenison really takes the time to teach the whole student: academically, socially, emotionally and physically. All aspects of education are truly embraced in Jenison.

Pinewood exemplifies teaching the whole student in so many ways. Our building constantly strives to present our students with top of the line curriculum. We are constantly reviving curricula to best meet our students needs. Teachers here are willing to do whatever it takes to give the best material to our students and present it in an exciting way! In addition to that, we have adopted a Social Thinking curriculum. With that, students are exposed to how to be socially self-aware, take on new perspectives, self regulate, and further develop their executive functioning skills. These lessons help students socially and emotionally grow with each coming school year. Finally, at Pinewood, it is not uncommon to see staff attending student events and volunteering outside of the school day. Our staff really wants to build meaningful relationships with each and every child and it shows!!

I always look forward to summer time because I love to go for morning walks with my little yorkie, Cooper. I start my day with a cup of coffee, then him and I hit the trails! I also love to lounge on our back deck and curl up with a good book. Summer is the best time to catch up on house projects, too! I love seeing what I can renovate, decorate or paint in the summer time!

If I wasn’t a teacher, I would probably be the next Joanna Gaines! If you haven’t heard of her, you need to turn to HGTV and watch the show Fixer Upper immediately! I would love to buy and fix up old, run-down houses and make them new again! I love getting my hands dirty with a project, as well as design, decor, and everything about her farmhouse style. Luckily, with being a teacher and having my summers off, I get a glimpse of the lifestyle in my own home with new projects.

Thank you, Ms Radvansky, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Ms Radvansky was chosen for this story by Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown

Rosewood 5th Graders Bring History to Life!

Every year our JPS 5th graders research, create, and present their very own historical wax museums! You could certainly feel the [nervous?] energy in the building last week as the Rosewood 5th graders prepared to wow parents and visitors with their knowledge about figures from American history.

According to 5the grade teachers, Doug Diekman, Mary Beth Vachon, and Marietta Schoolmaster, “Our 5th graders research their character and create a Venn diagram, timeline, word cloud, informational sheet, map, and even draw a self-portrait. This is all displayed on a tri-fold poster board and a short speech is created based on their character and presented in first-person point of view.”

Teachers enjoy watching the kids take ownership of their characters as well as the information needed to make a great presentation. They also like the fact that the project encompasses multiple aspects of the required 5th grade curriculum. “The beautiful part of this project is that there are multiple common core curriculum standards that are met. From reading standards, writing standards, speaking and listening standards, as well as social studies standards. It ties many learning experiences into one.”

The students look forward to the event because it’s a natural extension of the expectations their teachers have of them each day. “This project reiterates our daily lessons of work ethic and accountability with the fact that they know their work will be on display. It also helps connect when they realize that their parents and the “whole school” is coming to watch them.”

“The minutes leading up the first “performance” are our favorite. The kids are getting nervous/excited as they get their costumes ready and places are being set. We gather the kids all up for a “pep-talk” and then walk silently through the “tunnel” of parents as they go their spot in the “museum”. We give a countdown and they all become “wax” for the next hour.” During that hour, guests are encouraged to visit each historical figure to hear a short speech prepared by the student. These are the moments that the students shine as they teach their knowledge to interested audiences!

These 5th grade teachers know that this project is impactful far beyond a history lesson. “There are so many life skills that take place through this process and the confidence that is gained when they are done is immeasurable. Many students are intimidated by this project when it is introduced, but through their perseverance and grit, as in life…a sense of accomplishment is felt by all.”

“The importance and significance of this project simply sums up what is done on a daily basis here in 5th grade. This is just an opportunity for parents and community members to see and hear about the academic and life skills that are taught as students continue to #getbettereveryday.”

Congratulations to all of our JPS 5th graders! We know you had to be brave and creative for tackling this project and you did it! Thank you to all of our 5th grade teachers as well for demonstrating creativity and grit in the classroom for our students everyday!

Jenison Celebrates Autism!

According to the latest information released from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 children has Autism in the United States [April 26, 2018].

Incredible ECC teacher, Tricia Maday + a student

Here at JPS, we do all we can to learn the unique needs of our kiddos on the Autism Spectrum and support them to have productive, challenging, and fun days at school just like every other kid! One of the ways that kids and families are supported is through the Autism Family Network which exists to serve the districts in the more eastern portion of Ottawa County.

Kristen Gray, JPS Teacher Consultant for students on the Autism Spectrum, says, “Autism Family Network was created when Jennifer Breen, who had previously been a board member of Autism Support of West Shore, observed that families from eastern Ottawa County participated in meetings and special events less frequently than those families who resided in western Ottawa County.  While events have been organized to be easily accessible to families in Jenison, Coopersville, Hudsonville, and Allendale, AFN welcomes all who would like to attend.  The majority of families involved are from Jenison, Coopersville, and Hudsonville, however we also have members from other districts in Ottawa County and a number of districts in Kent County. ”

Parapro Extraordinaire, Diana Zeitunian with a student

In an effort to support and engage the families they serve, Autism Family Network hosts a wide variety of opportunities such as bi-monthly parent seminars on a variety of topics*.  “There are also monthly family fun events, which allow families to try activities, most often free of charge, without the concern of a meltdown or spending money should a child not want to participate.”

Finally, to support parents who often rely on each other for advice, a listening ear, an understanding nod, or any form of support, monthly parent gatherings are scheduled at places like Panera, where parents can gather to talk.  “During the summer and school breaks, the locations of the parent gatherings may change in an effort to accommodate parents who may struggle with child care.”

Stupendous 6th Grader, Monae William

Parents who would like to join the mailing list should visit www.myautismfamilynetwork.org.  Joining the email list does not commit a family, but does ensure updates will be received regarding future events.

One of the ways that the Autism Family Network supports families is through an annual event called, “Celebrate Autism”. While the specifics of this even change each year, the purpose remains the same. “This event is an opportunity for families to celebrate Autism and what it means to the AFN family as a whole. One of the highlights of the event is the distribution of the Essential Piece Awards. These awards are given to individuals nominated by families involved in AFN. Each year, families have the opportunity to nominate one person who has made a difference for their child. During the event, nominees are recognized and given a personalized plaque thanking them for contributing to the Autism community.”

This year, six JPS employees, 1 current student, and 1 JPS retiree were selected as award winners!

Monae William – 6th grader at Bursley
Kate Walker – Teacher in ASD program at Bursley
Sara Hayes – Teacher in ASD program at Bursley
Tricia Maday – Teacher in ASD program at the ECC
Jenny vanBiljon – 4th grade teacher at Sandy Hill
Diana Zeitunian – Paraprofessional at the Junior High
Salena Corner – Social worker at Rosewood, Bursley, and Bauerwood
Les Rowsey – Retired vocal music teacher from the high school – now teaching individual music lessons

Thank you to these amazing JPS team members! Our students on the Autism Spectrum are more successful because of you, but our district and our JPS family is better too! If you see one of these  incredible people around school, be sure to tell them “way to go” and, of course, “thank you”!

Brilliant Bursley teacher, Kate Walker + a her student

Super Social Worker Salena Corner with a parent

Sensational Sara Hayes + a student

Magnificent Music Teacher Les Rowsey + a student

* Currently, these seminars take place at Jenison Junior High, in the media center, on Thursday evenings.

Terracycle Turns Trash into Money for Bauerwood!

Parent volunteer extraordinaire, Becky Hilbelink, grew up hearing about the importance of recycling. Her father worked for waste companies for most of his working life and taught Becky and her siblings the value of recycling what we use and using things that be recycled. So it makes sense that Becky is the one responsible for bringing the familiar Terracycle bins to the Bauerwood entrance.

“I noticed TerraCycle printed on a carton of CapriSuns advertising that you could earn money for your child’s school.  I went to TerraCycle’s website, did some research on it, and then brought the idea to the Bauerwood parent club to help earn some money for the things that the parent club funds.”

Terracycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste. Sponsoring companies pay for the shipping of the recyclables to TerraCycle, but schools must meet a certain weight requirement before shipping the items if you want credit for them.  TerraCycle pays 1-2 cents per piece that is recycled.  Twice a year checks are sent to schools and non-profits that have earned credit. Becky is willing to go above and beyond to do her dad proud!  “I sort the recyclables and store them in my garage until I have enough to send in.  My biggest challenge is finding large enough boxes to send in the recyclables!”

Students have readily jumped on board with their participation. “The students have done a great job recycling during the lunch periods.  It also helps when I have little contests to encourage the kids to remember to recycle.” The students can easily connect to the benefits of this program, “It helps earn money for the school.  I explain that the money is used for the playground balls, jump ropes, PE equipment, scissors in the classroom, all the “fun” worksheets they do, construction paper, art supplies, etc.” Of course, some kiddos simply understand they are doing something valuable, “Some of them also realize the importance of keeping trash out of the landfills as much as we can to help the planet.”

The different types of recyclables are organized into “brigades” and Becky is intentional about choosing brigades that are easily accessible for students during the lunch period. She also encourages students to bring in items from home. Currently, Bauerwood participates in five brigades, “The current ones are toothpaste/toothbrush products, Go-Go Squeez/squeezable fruit pouches, cereal bags/liners, personal care items [like shampoo, deodorant, soap containers, etc.], and snack/chip bags.” [Note: Unfortunately, Capri Sun discontinued their participation with Terracyle this year so Becky is currently on a waiting list for a different drink pouch brigade. Stay tuned!]

Since the inception of the Terracylce program at Bauerwood, the students have donated the following items:

Toothpaste tubes/brushes: 1194
Drink Pouches: 34,214
Go-Go Squeez/fruit pouches: 3431
Cereal Bags: 1112
Personal Care Items: 1299
Snack/Chip bags: 4841
Lunch kits: 401
Tape dispensers: 97
Glue containers: 469
If you’d like to join the Bauerwood brigades please bring your items to the bins in the lobby! If you’d like to inquire or start your Terracycle program, check out their website!

“I think it’s important for people to be conscientious about the impact we have on the environment and to do what they can to help preserve/protect it for future generations.  For example, I love going to the ocean, but don’t enjoy all the trash on the beaches.  It also allows the kids and the community to give back to the school in an easy, tangible way.  How easy is it to put your trash in a different container versus another?  It’s a simple way to earn money to buy the supplies necessary to continue providing a quality education for our most precious resource, our children.”

Thank you, Becky, for all you do for our Jenison students, teachers, and staff! We hope that our kids are taking what they’ve learned from this program into their daily lives and beyond!

Star Student: Amaya Rodriguez

When Sandy Hill principal, Sara Melton, was asked to nominate a Star Student it didn’t take her long to select Amaya Rodriguez!

Amaya is a 6th grader who is heavily involved in school life. She serves as a safety, helping to keep our youngest elementary students safe and taken care of, she was selected for the honors choir and works with a younger student with special needs.

She reports that her favorite subject is math because, “I’m really good at it.” She is also a talented artist who loves to draw people she sees in her mind and Amaya is also beginning to practice photography with her phone which she uses to take pictures of landscapes and then draws illustrations from the pictures.

Amaya would like to give a shout out to Mrs Messinger, her 4th grade teacher, because she remembers that Mrs Messinger requested to have Amaya in her class after seeing her play soccer at recess with the boys. “I’m not really a “girly-girl”; I don’t like to wear dresses but I love to play soccer and football.”

Amaya lives with her mom, younger brother, grandma, grandpa, and their dog Shiketa. She takes her inspiration for being a star from her mom, and she has learned to “be really strong”, “be a leader” and “know my boundaries”. [Maybe Amaya could help us adults with these!] She knows that being a leader isn’t easy but important. “A leader helps other people do their best. They look for the best people to work with and be friends with.”

She is looking forward to next year and braving the halls of Jenison Junior High – she’s actually been looking forward to this since the third grade! “In third grade, school became my second home and getting to junior high meant I was closer to my future.”

Amaya plans to pursue a future in music, going to college and majoring in piano performance and vocalization. She wants to encourage other students that “it doesn’t matter if you think you can or you can’t. The best think you can do is try your best.”

It is easy to understand why Amaya was selected to represent Sandy Hill and all JPS elementary students this year. Adds Mrs Melton, “Amaya is a unique individual who has a huge heart.  She is inquisitive, sincere, and a hard worker.  She brings great energy and encouragement with her.  We appreciate Amaya and know that she has a bright future!”

Congratulations, Amaya! Your kind spirit and confidence are an inspiration to all of us and we can’t wait to see where they take you! We’re proud to call you a Jenison Wildcat!