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.


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.


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!


Georgetown Township Gets Schooled by Pinewood 6th Graders!

img_3621Back in September, we told you about an amazing project being spearheaded by Lori Barr and her 6th grade Pinewood students to restore swimming to Maplewood Lake.  Well, we are happy to say that this year’s class has continued the tradition of trying to solve the real-world problems in their own neighborhood!

img_3598-1Last month, all of Pinewood’s 6th graders presented their research and solutions to the Georgetown Township board and not only were their township reps blown away by what they heard, they have asked for copies of their presentations for further review. Dan Carlton, Township Superintendent, told the students they have “raised the bar so high I can’t even reach my arm high enough to show you how high it is!” The township is setting goals this month and they wanted to read over the resources and recommendations in order to pursue them.

The township had been previously unaware of the mosquito issue at Woodcrest Park [where Maplewood Lake is located] but students’ surveys found that spectators couldn’t even tolerate a soccer game due to the quantity of mosquitoes.  Students presented ideas for fountains, aerators and bat boxes. Fountains would keep most of the mosquitoes off the water, aerators would reduce mosquito populations because they move and clean the water and of course, our native bat friends could sleep all day in their cozy bat boxes and feast on mosquitoes all night.

captureStudents also presented ideas for a “natural playground” with the help of Natural Playgrounds in Canada. Students said in their presentation, “We want a natural playground because, you would feel like you are in the woods. The experience just feels like you are literally experiencing nature. The wood feels nice and smooth on your hands. Unlike metal and plastic.” They also presented ideas for native flowers for aesthetics and native plants for preventing runoff. 

capture2Because of a snow day in December, students had to problem solve another real-world problem: being behind on a project. Mrs Barr asked them to think about what their parents might do if they are behind at work. One student reported that sometimes, her mom has to work through her lunch which seemed to be the best solution to this hardworking crew. They worked through their lunches, they gave up extra class time where they would typically have freedom to chose their own activity – they chose to work hard to make their presentations the best they could be because they knew the township really wanted to hear what they had to say.

img_3631Seeing these amazing accomplishments has been a joy for their teachers. Mrs Barr has been teaching for 33 years and says that the past five years have been the best. “Mrs Brown encourages us to try new things and I’ve never seen anything like it. It takes courage as teachers to try new things, but you can be creative, let the kids have the power chord and let it be a student led classroom.”

Check out the clip below of a handful of students on the Maranda show that aired this week! On the way back to school one student shared with Mrs Barr, “I really feel like we’re a family. This is a year of family.”

6th Graders at Pinewood: You ARE a family and you make us all so proud! We are cheering you on and cannot wait to swim at Maplewood Lake and play at Woodcrest Park because you made it safe and fun once again!


Board of Education Appreciation Month!


Second Row: William Waalkes, Paul Peppel, Craig Jenison, Eric Hartman First Row: Amanda Peterman, Geoffrey Brown, Craig Rockwell Not Pictured: Adam Tountas, newly appointed trustee

Public education is the backbone of American society, and local school boards are deeply rooted in U.S. tradition. It’s the foundation on which our democracy was built. Today local school boards continue to do the most important work of their communities—that of educating our youth.

As citizen leaders, members of the Jenison Public Schools Board of Education continue to face complex and demanding challenges. Their extraordinary dedication to Jenison Public Schools is greatly appreciated. The job of a school board member is tough, the hours long and the thanks few and far between. Too often we’re quick to criticize school board members without really understanding the complex nature of their decisions. We often forget about the personal sacrifices school board members make in fulfilling their responsibilities. Jenison School Board members contribute hundreds of hours each year leading our district. The time spent in board meetings represents just a small fraction of the time school board members spend helping to lead our district.

The month of January is set aside to time to thank them for their untiring efforts. This is a time to show our appreciation and begin to better understand how local trustees work together to prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders. Join with others from our district and throughout the state to salute the men and women who provide grassroots governance of public schools.

Please take time to show your appreciation to the Jenison Public School Board members who faithfully and with great passion provide leadership for our school district. The members of the Jenison Public Schools Board of Education include:

Mr. William Waalkes, President

Dr. Craig Rockwell, Vice-President

Mr. Geoff Brown, Secretary

Dr. Eric Hartman, Treasurer

Mrs. Amanda Peterman, Trustee

Mr. Craig Jenison, Trustee

Mr. Adam Tountas, Newly appointed trustee

As further evidence of their dedication, be looking for a post at the end of January on an important, upcoming Bond Issue.

Thank you, Jenison Board of Education members for putting our students and their education at the top of your priority lists!  We are so grateful for you!

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.


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! 

New Teacher Spotlight

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


Before joining the second grade Spanish Immersion class at Rosewood, Beth Zuwerink was teaching in Rockford Public Schools.  She had taken some time off to raise her son and missed Spanish Immersion so she decided to return to the classroom this year.  “I am looking forward to helping my students grow as students and as individuals. As I watch my son grow and develop, I’m even more reminded of how special and unique each child is.  I feel blessed to be able to get to know each of my students and to help them realize their full potential.  And, of course, I am also looking forward to all those goose-bump moments that come as I watch my students’ Spanish language skills progress!”  Beth is ‘hugely passionate” about immersion education and Rosewood students are lucky to have her on their team!

Olivia Mwakanandi

Olivia Mwakanadi is a new Intervention Specialist at Bauerwood Elementary.  “My students have already made great gains, and it’s so encouraging to see that my teaching is helping them (as an intervention specialist). It’s encouraging to be present for the “lightbulb” moments in my kids.”  Olivia is working on her Masters Degree in Learning Disabilities at Grand Valley and was most recently subbing at Bursley Elementary which she enjoyed immensely.  Her first introduction to Jenison was during her student teaching in 2012 and I really loved the team atmosphere I sensed, and how caring the teachers and staff were, not only for each other but for the kids.” When I subbed for 6 weeks at Bursley, the feeling of togetherness and team atmosphere continued, and I just loved how welcoming everyone was and how comfortable I felt after only 6 weeks. I am thankful to work in such a wonderful district, and that I am so excited for the opportunity to teach here!”

Sami Duval

Samantha [or Sami] Duval is a new Fourth Grade teacher at Bursley Elementary.  Like Olivia, Sami spent her student teaching and a period of long term subbing in Jenison at Rosewood and Bursley.  “The first time I walked into the building I knew Jenison was a great place to be as I was surrounded by such a kind and welcoming staff.”  Sami also took some time coaching the JV Cheerleading team and as the assistant coach for the Varsity team.  So far this school year she is already inspired by her students:  “[They] are so kind and giving. They took Kid President’s Socktober challenge and they collected 680 pairs of socks to give to the homeless. Watching the joy in their faces as they counted socks everyday was such an amazing experience.”  When Sami isn’t teaching she is spending time with her husband, their dog, Rosco, and drinking Biggby coffee.

Thank you to all of our teachers for sharing their passion and talent with our community!

Junior High Teacher Named Science Teacher of the Year!

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The entire district and especially Jenison Junior High is so proud to announce that Holly McGoran has been named by the Michigan Science Teachers Association as the 2015 Middle School Science Teacher of the Year!

Ms McGoran was selected after being nominated by Jenison Curriculum Director, Kristi Rogalla, and Junior High Principal, Brett Cataldo, “for using or modeling best practices, inspiring students, demonstrating innovative teaching strategies, being an excellent role model for students and other teachers, demonstrating leadership, and exhibiting a passion for science and for teaching.”   – MSTA

After the nomination was made Holly had to submit her resume and teaching philosophy, which she did somewhat reluctantly as is her humble nature.

8th grade students with their "earthquake proof" structures they made from straws, paper clips, string and masking tape in Ms McGoran's class.

8th grade students with their “earthquake proof” structures they made from straws, paper clips, string and masking tape in Ms McGoran’s class.

“When they did the surprise announcement it was nothing I had ever anticipated because there’s a lot of hard working teachers that do what’s right for kids.  It’s an honor to be part of this prestigious group of people.  They are all people who are so dedicated to kids first and then science and I think that’s what’s really cool about it.  The award wasn’t just focused on science content and curriculum it was focused on how you relate to the kids, how you work with your colleagues first and then science is the avenue to do so.  Knowing that all of those people are so wonderful with kids to begin with and then we work through science is really cool.”  — Holly McGoran

“I would put Holly up against any teacher in the nation because of the way she builds relationships with kids and she works tirelessly to have the best lessons out there.  She works with our highest achieving students and students that need that extra help along with her.  To watch her teach for an hour just gives you goosebumps.  She makes science fun and even our reluctant learners are motivated and having so much fun learning that they don’t even realize they’re learning.”  — Brett Cataldo

Mr Cataldo stresses that one of the reasons Holly is an exceptional teacher is her ability to connect with students, allowing them to explore a subject and by sharing the classroom with them which creates a safe environment for learning.  Holly has devoted her entire 16 year teaching career to Jenison Public Schools which she counts as a privilege.  “There’s so much support from administration and my colleagues and it’s such a great opportunity.  I feel so blessed to be able to learn alongside my students and my colleagues each and every day because that’s my inspiration.”

“The staff, the administration, the students, the parents, everybody really embraces education and all aspects of education.  It’s not just grades and report cards.  It’s before and after school, relationship building — everybody in the community really embraces that so it allows you to be able to innovate wildly. Without knowing that everybody around you is supporting education you could never innovate wildly.

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“It’s so fun to have them acting and thinking like scientists, that’s what really motivates me.”  

Superintendent Tom TenBrink agrees:  “Holly McGoran is a highly effective and exceptional science teacher. She is a master teacher who is skilled at getting her students engaged in the everyday learning that occurs in her classroom. Mrs. McGoran understands the importance of building meaningful and positive relationships with her students in order for them to be successful learners in her classroom. She is passionate about her subject matter and brings an enormous amount of energy to her classroom every single day. We are very excited for Mrs. McGoran that she was chosen as the State of Michigan’s Middle School Teacher of the year for 2015 by her peers. She definitely exemplifies the very best that the teaching profession has to offer.” — Tom TenBrink

Holly will be honored and officially awarded at a special ceremony at the 2015 MSTA Conference held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on Friday, February 27, 2015.  “We are proud to include Holly in the prestigious list of MSTA award winners.”

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Please join us in congratulating Holly for this incredible honor!

Pinewood Author’s Night with Jenison Junior High Teacher

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As families were starting to gather for Author’s Night, the anticipation was building.  “I can’t WAIT to get this book!” one excited boy said under his breath but too excited to fully restrain himself.  And he wasn’t alone.  The Pinewood Media Center was packed last week as about 50 parents and students gathered to hear from popular Jenison Junior High teacher, Joe Roper, who is a new published author!

746 copyMr. Roper’s book, The Hunter Awakens, was published in July and is a contemporary fantasy adventure about a thirteen year old boy who goes to live with his grandparents only to discover secrets about his family and himself.  It is the first book in a trilogy and readers will only need to wait until May of 2015 to read book two!

Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown invited Mr. Roper to speak at their annual Author’s Night event as part of their current initiative for students to be more active and have alternatives to watching TV that they can be excited about.  She also wanted to bring the idea of becoming a writer a little closer to home, “They know an author.  Someone who they see and know actually had a book published….to help with that inspiration of knowing that anything is possible, if they really want to be a writer, they can”.

JR began the writing process for this book back in 2007, finishing the first draft in 2008.  Since that time the book has been through many edits and Mr Roper says that 95% of the book is different than that first draft, mostly in the area of dialogue. “It’s been a labor of love for seven years.”

After submitting a short story to Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing and hearing from so many in the short story community how happy they were with their small publishers he decided to give them a try.  Now, he’s happy with his choice saying, “it’s more like a literary family” where he enjoys more control than the average author in regards to cover design, editing and even online promotions.

For his first event with students Mr Roper shared his journey to getting published, did a couple readings from the book, gave some great tips on being better writers and led a writing activity all before personally signing books for students.  Mr Roper shared that as a young student he struggled with reading and didn’t enjoy it as he grew up.  He had certainly never considered writing anything until his sister suggested it to him.  It got him thinking, “That would be fun to write something and what if I could write something that would inspire or capture kids who didn’t like to read…what could I do to capture their imagination and show them the amazing stories that are out there that you can access through reading.”

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He has certainly captured our students and we’re thrilled that one of our own teachers has had the opportunity to make his dream come true and we hope it inspires our students to do the same!

If you’d like to get your very own copy of The Hunter Awakens you can do so at Amazon!
What a great way to find a new favorite story and support our teachers at the same time!

Aiden finally gets his book!

Aiden finally gets his book!

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Everyone’s excited to read a new story!

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A rapt audience!

Future authors!

Future authors!

Super fans!

Super fans!

Congratulations Mr Roper!  We’re so proud of you and can’t wait for book two!

Hey Look! Jenison’s on TV!

It’s football season again, and that means at least one thing: area news teams are busy covering high school games around Grand Rapids. This coverage is exciting not only because it gives our kids a chance to show the community their best moments, but also because it provides a captive audience to our new commercial about Jenison.

As we did last year, JPS has partnered with FOX 17 News to craft this commercial which will air throughout the fall during the 10 pm news. Dr. Brandon Graham, principal of Jenison High School, had this to say:

“We’re just trying to show our community the outstanding things that Jenison High School kids are doing. We offer a lot of amazing opportunities and we want more people to know about what options are out their for their own children, especially in an atmosphere that opens the door for schools of choice.”

JHS’ Green Bean Gives Many a Reason to Smile

At just one year old, the Green Bean in-school coffee shop is doing more than adding a splash of caffeine to the lives of Jenison High School teachers and students. It’s adding warmth, both literally and figuratively, to the lives of all who cross the threshold.

Jenison High School, Jenison Public Schools, Green Bean Coffee Shop

This past winter, after diligent effort by Dr. Brenda Clark and her DECA students Emily Garland, Jon Nordquist, and Anthony Lemanski, the Green Bean was awarded a Gold Level Certification for this School Based Enterprise (SBE). According to the DECA website:

“The School-based Enterprise Certification Program was developed to provide recognition for outstanding achievement by school-based enterprises and to motivate SBEs to strive for excellence and to grow. The program provides SBEs with standards for model school store operation and provides recognition for school-based enterprises at three levels: bronze, silver and gold. The number and type of activities a school-based enterprise completes in each of the twelve sections will determine the level of certification awarded.” (quote HERE)

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School, Green Bean

But more than an award-winning feather in our cap, the Green Bean is helping to create community within our student body. With booths for breakfast or biology homework, students are welcomed into this space and invited to snag a muffin and a cappuccino before class.

Student employee and 2013 graduate Desiree Kennedy says that not only is it fun getting to know new people and interacting with underclassman, but working in the Green Bean is a welcome way to break up her day. She knows that making smoothies and pouring coffee prepares her for real-world work, encourages teamwork and collaboration, and creates an atmosphere of friendship.

Jenison High School, Jenison Public School, Green BeanPrincipal Brandon Graham is proud of the success of the shop and is quick to share credit with others.

“The Green Bean has been a terrific real-life entrepreneurial experience for our kids. They helped construct this business from the ground up — from the build out to the business plan to the execution of daily operations. Under the leadership of Dr. Clark, this has been an exceptional opportunity for Jenison High School students to grow.”

When autumn rattle the leaves again and the wind blows colder, stop in for a warm drink and tip your hat to those who are going the extra mile to bring some java to Jenison.

“Festival of Plays” Highlights Student Talent

Last week, the JHS Thespian Troupe put their best under a much-deserved spotlight when they showcased three student-selected and student-directed plays. “How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying” by Jonathan Rand, “Theory of Mind” by Ken LaZebnik, and Selections from “Almost, Maine” by John Cariani were chosen and conceptualized last spring, rehearsed this summer, and performed just days into the new school year.

Now in his 16th year of producing the Festival, theatre teacher Todd Avery beams like a proud father at the success of his students. He smiles at the admission of his young actors that directing is a very difficult but very rewarding experience, knowing full well the rigors of putting on  plays and musicals himself.  Yet the struggle is part of the growing, and these students are doing just that: working hard, attaining personal goals, and reshaping dreams. Mr. Avery is aware of about a dozen former student-directors who have left JPS and gone on to direct, write, or teach in other theater programs or professional companies. “I couldn’t be happier with the process or how well it works,” he said.

When interested students approach Mr. Avery expressing interest in participating in Festival (in this case, last May), he underscores the importance of selecting a quality script. If student-directors need help finding something relevant and of interest to them, Mr. Avery points to them to various resources that might prove helpful and thought-provoking. In the end though, it’s their choice to make under the guidance and approval of their teacher.

Mr. Avery also spends a great deal of time considering the students wishing to direct. He takes into account their work ethic, how they deal with pressure, what kind of leadership skills they possess, and their level of attention to detail. This year he expressed that, “…These were three of the best scripts I’ve ever had proposed for Festival. All three sets of directors were top-notch theatre kids and knew what they were doing. I was VERY proud of the results!”

Next week begins another chapter on the Jenison stage: auditions for the fall play “The Elephant Man” by Bernard Pomerance, which debuts the week prior to Thanksgiving. Adding to the excitement is that the show has already been accepted to be performed at the Michigan Thespian Festival on December 1 at Saginaw Valley State University! Performing here provides the troupe with the opportunity to be adjudicated with the hopes of being chosen to perform at the “Broadway” of high school theatre, the International Thespian Festival taking place in June on the campus of the University of Nebraska.

In December, auditions for “Singin’ in the Rain” open up in preparation for March’s musical performance. Mr. Avery notes that–yes–there will indeed be rain on the stage during the show, and that it will be a great way to wrap up the years of history and art that have unfolded in the current auditorium. “Singin’ in the Rain” will be the final production by Jenison theatre students on the old stage before the unveiling of the highly anticipated Fine Arts Center slated to open in late 2013.

The Jenison Theatre Program continues to gain notoriety and praise because of the hard work, dedication, and passionate pursuit of excellence displayed by Mr. Avery and his apprentices. “I feel incredibly blessed to work with such wonderful, talented kids in a district that truly values the arts. It is a dream come true!”

To that we can only rise to our feet and ask for years of encores from a man who truly inspires. Bravo!