Sandy Hill Third Grader and His Class Teach the World About Love and Laundry

miii3995At elementary schools all around the country there are kids earning points and rewards for trying to improve their behavior or work on particular skills. The rewards are usually specific to the student’s interests such as additional technology time, reading with a friend, eating lunch with their teacher, etc. but these average rewards were not enough for one Sandy Hill third grader. Kamden VanMaanen wanted more. Kamden has a unique interest in laundry detergent and one of his teachers, Olivia Kool, found a way to capitalize on that passion and make life a little easier at home too.

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Mrs. Kool, Kamden & his rewards

“Kamden started off by earning ipad time which did not seem to be a big enough incentive for him. As his classroom teacher Mrs. Ryan and I got to know Kamden better, we quickly learned about his love for Gain laundry detergent. Students with autism often have high interest areas and Gain detergent is something that Kamden is passionate about and talks about on a daily basis. He has even gotten many teachers and students to switch to using Gain for their laundry. He can tell you everything you would ever need to know about laundry detergent and the different scents. When I noticed that the ipad time was not really an incentive for him, I started thinking about what could we do differently to help him have good days at school. One day, I asked him if he had a good day would he like to earn some Gain laundry detergent. His face lit up when I asked him this. The first couple of days I went out and img_3509-1bought laundry detergent and he was highly motivated to earn that reward. Mrs. Ryan and I definitely noticed a difference with Kamden when he was earning the laundry detergent.”

Kamden’s mom, Amanda, decided to continue the reward at home and was also buying Gain for Kamden, which was adding up for both mom and teacher! This fall Mrs. Kool got an idea: “I wrote a letter to Meijer and Procter & Gamble. In the letter, I told them that I was a special education teacher who had a 3rd grade student who was obsessed with Gain laundry detergent. I told them how he tells everyone that Gain is the best detergent because it “has a wonderful scent and makes you open the world of fragrance.” Mrs. Kool told the companies in her letter that Kamden earns ipad time to watch Gain commercials on YouTube and asked if they’d be willing to send detergent samples as his rewards.

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Kamden dressed as a washing machine for Halloween!

“About a month later I got an email from Michael Kadzban the Buyer for Laundry and Cleaning Supplies for Meijer. He told me that he and Todd Vishnauski from Procter and Gamble secured some Gain supplies for Kamden along with some other things for him. They personally wanted to come meet Kamden and drop off the goodies they got for him. Michael and Todd were amazing! They brought tons of Gain samples for Kamden as well as Gain t-shirts, notepads, water bottles, and an official certificate from the Gain team.”

img_3503Michael and Todd “were amazed at how well the students in Kamden’s class embraced Kamden’s passion for Gain detergent and how happy the students were to see the excitement in Kamden’s face when they came to their class.  Todd from P&G said it best when he told the class that the makers of Gain have a term for people who love their product. These people are called Gainiacs. That is what Kamden is, a true Gainiac.”

img_3507Amanda VanMaanen, Kamden’s mom is grateful for the support of the teachers and staff at Sandy Hill for their love and care for their family. “Kamden was thrilled to have Todd and Michael visit him in the classroom. He couldn’t stop grinning and talking about it constantly for a long time. He told every person he knew about it. I think it was wonderful to get his class involved. They were all so excited for Kamden and it made his love of detergents a little more relatable.  I think Kamden felt so proud and excited to spend a little part of the day sharing his favorite topic with everyone. The staff has been so supportive of his fixation, even sending pics of their detergent purchases.  Mrs. Kool went above and beyond to send out the request and to set this up for him! It certainly helped with our budget for supplying laundry detergent incentives for Kamden too. We are so proud to be a part of a school that truly cares for and supports our son!”

Kamden loves his teachers and friends and he really likes science. He says he loves all the subjects in school except math, which many of us can relate to. He thinks that Mrs. Kool is a good teacher because “she’s really nice and she does nice things for me like asking the guys [from P & G and Meijer] to come to school.  She’s a good listener and she likes laundry detergent too. She has a cool down corner that I really like.”

img_3493Sandy Hill principal, Jon Mroz, knows that Kamden’s story has already impacted the students in Kamden’s class and the entire school. “This story is important to share because Kamden is an amazing young guy, with a one-of-a-kind personality.  With the help and support of the Sandy Hill teachers, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth with Kamden in many areas over the years.  Kamden’s story has allowed other students an opportunity to understand that everyone has differences, and that we can accept those differences with an open mind and open heart.”  

Thank you Mrs Kool, Mrs Ryan, Mr Mroz and the many other teachers, staff members, and students that have gotten to know Kamden and supported him. Your love and encouragement of Kamden has made a huge difference for this amazing student and his family!

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A Semester of Celebration

As you dust off the glitter and confetti from your New Year’s reveling, it’s always a good idea to reflect on the past few months and remember where we’ve been. Please enjoy this “semester in review” and your chance to catch up on the excitement and happenings of Jenison Public Schools!

1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsIf you missed your chance to read “James and the Giant Peach” during #JPSReads this fall, don’t worry, there is another chance to celebrate and embrace reading coming up. [Psst! Check back next week for all of the exciting details!]

Our high school marching band wowed audiences all the way to Nationals at Ford Field and miii9593our choirs inspired a more local audience.

Once again, our high school thespians filled the auditorium for “Peter and the Star Catcher” in preparation for the spring musical, “Peter Pan”.

img_2278As always, our teachers brought immense creativity and passion to lessons in order to make learning engaging and exciting for students of all ages. Our Pinewood 6th graders are trying to make it possible for you and your families to swim at Maplewood Lake once again, our Spanish Immersion teachers are opening doors to culture and new opportunities, our 8th graders had history brought to life by community members who lived it and high school students were invited to take the Student Leadership Challenge.

Volunteers from Chemical Bank chipped in for a Day of Service at Rosewood and Pinewood moms served up healthy snacks!

Finally, not only did Bond dollars provide new buses but one of our bus drivers lived out her love for students by saving him from choking on Halloween. miii9753

It’s been an exciting semester and we look forward to continuing the celebration into 2017!

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Bus Driver is Humble Hero: A Story to be Thankful For

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Joey, Miss Kristin + Ethan

Halloween is never a typical day on a bus to begin with but for one bus driver and her students, it’s a day they’ll never forget.

It was early on in Kristin Bredeweg’s usual Friday afternoon bus drop off routine when she was approached by fifth grader, Joey Bonacci, who calmly reported that his friend, Ethan Dahl, was choking and he couldn’t breathe.

Leaving her red lights on, Kristin ran to the back and saw that Ethan was indeed, unable to breathe. She grabbed him into the aisle, wrapped her arms around him and performed the Heimlich maneuver.  Nothing happened. Ethan still wasn’t breathing. Kristin lost her mom earlier this year and in a brief moment of desperation she asked her mom for help and gave Ethan one more push. Air rushed into his lungs and he fell back in her arms. He was going to be ok.

miii9093Ethan says that he had been enjoying a hard candy before getting on the bus and he thinks a shard of it was what got caught in his throat. Joey knew he was choking, rather than goofing around, because Ethan had been laughing and all of a sudden, he wasn’t making any noise. Ethan and Joey have been friends since third grade and, along with their friend, Isaac England, they are always together on the bus and acknowledge they are good friends.

Kristin radioed into the Transportation office letting them know that Ethan was ok but there had been a medical emergency and asked them to please contact his mom. She told Ethan she wouldn’t leave until he waved at her from the front window before she shakily pulled away.

Kristin had never performed the Heimlich Maneuver and wasn’t sure she was even doing it correctly but she did what she says, any of the JPS bus driver would’ve done. “You love them like they’re your own kids. They’re not just your bus kids. When they’re in my care, they’re my kids. I just did what his mom would’ve done.” 

“I’m driving that bus, not because it’s a job, but because I love my job. I stay on my route because I know my families, because it’s relationships built in the community. There’s communication and relationships built between [yourself] and the families you drive for that make it worth sitting in the seat. They know I love their kids like my own.”

Kristin and Joey, there aren’t enough “thank you’s” and hugs to express how grateful we are for you and your quick and selfless reactions. Ethan, we are so very thankful that you are ok and we trust that you’ll avoid hard candy from now on!

Bank Tellers by Day, School Volunteers by Holiday!

miii0180Earlier this month, the staff at Rosewood was treated to a team of twelve volunteers from Chemical Bank who used their bank holiday to serve their community.

miii0191According to Matthew Kroon, Customer Service Rep at the Byron Center branch and point person for the Jenison project, “The twelve employees came from various locations in the area, and from many different areas of the bank such as retail, Mortgage Sales Manager, Collections, Wealth Management, and Commercial Lending.  Many are based in Byron Center, Cascade, Holland, and Hudsonville.” Seven out of the twelve have children at Rosewood, Sandy Hill, Bursley and Pinewood.

“We did many things such as repairing blocks in the courtyard that were damaged, stuffed folders for Mrs. Ambs, helped count money for the 5th grade pizza kit fundraiser, and even formed a “Sani-Squad” that sanitized entire classrooms while the kids were at recess, or on their special.  We had a helper in the STEM classroom, a helper in each of the English speaking Kindergarten classrooms, and we helped pick up trash and sticks on the playground.  We even had a short time to play with kids out on the playground, as well.”

miii0212As you can imagine, the volunteers were very well received. “The staff LOVED it!  Not only were they treated to Post Family Farms Donuts and On the Border Fajitas, but they had help when they asked, and MANY appreciated having a clean, sanitized classroom with all the germs and illness going around. ”

Thank you, Chemical Bank, for choosing Jenison and Rosewood to give of your extra time and energy. Our schools and teachers are better with our volunteers!  “Chemical Bank is all about giving back.  We are determined to promote a “Chemical Reaction” through Strengthening our CHEMunity.”

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Homecoming 2016

miii7641The weather may have had us all bundled up in scarves and blankets this Homecoming weekend but it didn’t stop our Wildcat pride! We hope you enjoy this post – a journey through Homecoming through pictures and take a minute to congratulate our Jenison football team on a winning season and record so far of 5 – 2!

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Homecoming King Tom Docsa and Queen Brianne VanDyke

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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!

Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

MIII8193The skies were a bright blue as the newest class of Jenison High School graduates stepped onto the field to celebrate their graduation. After what may have seemed like four long years the class of 2016 said good-bye to high school and in some ways, to each other as they looked to their futures.

“We are so proud of our Class of 2016. This is a talented group of students that have the ability to positively impact our community, country and our world. We wish them the best!” – Dr Brandon Graham, Principal

We hope you enjoy these photos and will join us in congratulating and celebrating the Class of 2016! Go Wildcats!

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“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

Pinewood Plants a Garden

MIII3040Every year our second graders learn about plants, how they grow, their contribution to our environment and which ones we eat! Teachers and students alike enjoy the hands-on nature of the lesson but this year, in conjunction with the Pinewood Wellness Committee, the Garden Committee was launched!

Pinewood second grade teacher, Amanda Roper, says that the idea for a garden at Pinewood has been bounced around for a while and this year seemed like the perfect opportunity to get things moving. “We met a few times and decided to raise some funds through a plant sale. The students then discussed what is needed to start a garden, surveyed parents about the most important things to include in a school garden, and brainstormed what we should plant as our fundraiser. ”

MIII3048The plant sale took place last month and raised around $400 and the committee will discuss how to best use the funds as well as some generous donations from parents. Through a writing assignment, second graders were able to add their ideas and are leaning towards using the money for a fence, planting beds, good soil, and, of course, plants! The committee would also love to incorporate a greenhouse-type structure that would be beneficial for starting a garden in late winter/early spring but each phase of construction will be carefully planned out before any definite plans get underway.

Students will take a crucial role in the care and tending of the future garden. “The students would be in charge of planting the spring seedlings [possibly utilizing the aforementioned greenhouse structure], transplanting and weeding plants, watering, tending to the garden itself-prepping the beds, planting plants, and signing up to tend the garden over the summer. They would also take charge of selling the raised plants at next year’s sale and marketing for the sale. We are hoping to double our plant yield next year with some awesome grow lights that are being donated to us.”

MIII3010A garden will bring a unique element to learning at Pinewood and will allow our students to learn many important aspects of the plant life cycle as well as where our food comes from. “This project brings to life our curriculum and opens the door to a great possibility for community outreach [under resourced families in our community would be possible benefactors for our extra crop yield] as well as providing some great family participation. This experience would provide students with an appreciation for nature and gardening and will give them skills that are life-long, and hopefully lead to healthy lifestyles. Being outside is not only fun, it is therapeutic and good for children. What better way to bring curriculum to life than through this hands-on outdoor garden classroom environment. We see this as a school-wide resource; a place where classes can go to observe the unique biodiversity that lives in harmony in a garden.
Working together to achieve a common goal is something that students will benefit immensely from. They will learn and see, firsthand, the fruits of their labor when the garden is up and running. The amount of pride and strong sense of accomplishment students will walk away with is immeasurable.”

What a joy it will be to see students take that first bite of a fruit or vegetable they planted from seed! We can’t wait to see your garden grow, Pinewood!

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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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