Pinewood Design Team Takes Home the Gold!

Every year the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District [OAISD] hosts a project for students in Ottawa County called futureprep’d as a way to connect students with some of the world class companies that call West Michigan their home. Sarah Magro, Intervention teacher at Pinewood, applied for the program and was teamed with a teacher in the Grand Haven School District. Each teacher selected three fifth graders to make up the team from Ottawa County to take on the Michigan Design Challenge.

Sponsored by the Michigan Design Council, the Michigan Design Challenge is a statewide competition  for educators to work with students to solve an existing problem. Students accomplished this challenge by using Project-Based Learning which is to start with a problem and find the solution through the creative sequence [seen in the photo above].

The challenge this year was to create a device or object to help make MI winters more safe or more fun. But as Ms Magro and her fellow teacher, TJ Klumpel, quickly learned, students have very different ideas for making winter more safe and fun than adults!

The team created a series of Smart Sleds which are built by the customer through a kit of their choosing – based on their interests. For example, they created a racing sled for the daredevil, a safety kit with a helmet and bumper pads for the cautious consumer, and even a “Lazy Joe” kit with a towing feature for those of us who prefer to sled less proactively.  What the students created was a solution to both problems – winter would be BOTH more fun and ore safe!

The team’s ideas were submitted to the Michigan Design Challenge in June as well as presented to a crowd of parents and family members at the OAISD for futureprep’d. Then, during Professional Development week in August, Ms Magro got the news that the Ottawa Country team had been selected for the Top 3 statewide in their age bracket! At that point, the team was paired with Stryker to brainstorm their ideas with staff from their industrial design division. The team drew up the kids ideas and the students were also exposed to important careers that are a little outside the box. Every team in Top 3 worked with a different company who, with help from the students, created posters with with their ideas and these posters were brought to the University of Michigan last week for the awards ceremony.

After the judges assessed all the Top 3 entries, Jenison and Grand Haven won the GOLD!

Ms Magro is not only proud of their win, but their hard work along the way as well. “It’s very cool that kids get to work through the creative sequence alongside kids from a another school, another teacher you don’t know, learning about collaboration, teamwork, and finding a solution to a problem – these are all important skills for kids to learn.”

Students take full ownership of the project, receiving only consultation and support from their teachers. Ms Magro is also excited that her students were able to see that there are careers out there that aren’t “cookie cutter” and, for the kid who may have a hard time finding their place, they learn in this process that they will have options.

“I’m very proud of the students for stepping outside the box. We had our own vision of how to make Michigan winters safer, but from a kids perspective, it’s so different. What they came up with was above and beyond what TJ and I thought of. Seeing what students are capable of and the higher level thinking that they’re capable of is incredible.”

Congratulations to the entire Ottawa County team, but especially to our Pinewood Champions: Luke Cousino, Selena Keller, and Meredith Bolhuis! We’re so proud of you and your accomplishments!

*Photo courtesy of the GH Tribune

Star Student Spotlight: Peyton Benac!

If you’re a regular reader of the Jenison Blog, you have already met our high school star student, Peyton Benac. Last winter, she impressed us with her story of starting the Girls in STEM Club for elementary students, and now she is principal, Dr. Brandon Graham’s choice to round out our special series of awesome Jenison students!

Peyton’s list of accomplishments in a long one but her humility, gentle spirit, and desire to enrich and encourage younger girls is nothing short of inspiring!

Last year, Peyton shared with us that she felt motivated to begin the Girls in STEM Club because of her own experiences on the junior high Science Olympiad team. During her time on the team she heard inappropriate comments from fellow 7th, 8th and 9th grade students about the presence of girls on the team. Peyton was keenly aware of the lack of female leadership in the group and was seeing its impact. “If we had another woman in the room –  a high school girl or a female teacher – this would be such a different environment. I noticed that a lot of junior high girls were quitting Science Olympiad, and I was getting pretty frustrated by it even as a junior high student”.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, Peyton began serving as a Science Olympiad coach. “I started coaching sophomore year and I tried to “fill the space” and be that person that wasn’t there when I was a junior high student.” It was at this same time that she approached Mrs. Putti about starting the Girls in STEM Club for elementary students.

This winter Peyton won a National Merit Scholar award which is based on the PSAT which she took during the fall of her junior year. Based on scores, they choose 16,000 students nationwide. These 16,000 students are asked to write an essay, submit their transcript, and a letter of recommendation and the organization chooses 14,000 finalists. With this prestigious award comes varying amounts of scholarships from schools around the country. Financial awards range from a one-time $2500 gift to full ride scholarships depending on the school.

Peyton applied to fourteen schools to “see what happens”. Her schools of choice include Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Boston University, and Harvey Mudd College [a small, prestigous STEM college in Southern CA]. She adds, “I kind of want to go out of state if I can. There’s so much to see.”

Peyton plans to pursue degrees in astronomy and physics. When she is done, she’d like to explore the passion she discovered while working with the elementary students in the STEM program. “I think I want to work more on the outreach side. Teaching college kids is obviously rewarding with high-level material and research – that’s all fun, but there’s nothing that really rivals a seven-year old who’s excited about building the fastest sled or the strongest boat. That’s so unique and important and I think there’s really a need for that encouragement for boys and girls, but especially for girls at those young ages.”

Payton’s aspirations go beyond encouragement. “I would like to teach at the university level and do research but hopefully, from whatever university I’m teaching at, be able to be in charge of whatever they do with younger kids: summer camps, after school programs, inviting kids to campus.”

Peyton sees her role with younger students as one of influence, which she values and appreciates in her own life. “Years ago I liked education, but I didn’t see it on a personal level.” She listened to science podcasts and saw herself in that role or on TV, but once she began working one-on-one and in groups she saw the impact she could have with students in person. “It’s fun to be on TV but way more fun to physically be in the room and there’s a bigger impact to be there.”

Mrs. Putti, Alice’s high school physics teacher, as well as Mr Kunzi and Mrs Sager have been “very instrumental in fostering my love of the STEM subjects. When you think about what it means for girls to not be afraid of that interest, I think it’s so much the personal relationships, having someone TV who is a woman and in STEM is one thing, but having someone who is going to remember your name, and work with you and remember your project, and show you how to do a problem is a totally different thing. The number of people you reach in a career like this is much less but the impact you have on each person is much more.”

So where did Peyton decide to take her talents? She’s headed to Cambridge and the mighty Crimson of Harvard University!

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, Peyton! We are so proud of you and know you will continue to make us proud as you head East and continue to conquer the STEM world! We love being able to call you a Wildcat!

 

Star Student Spotlight: Izzy Krzewski!

When asked who Junior High Vice Principal, Heather Breen, would recommend as a Star Student, she did not hesitate! “8th grader, Isabelle (Izzy) Krzewski is a sweetheart of a student who is very involved in theater, dance, orchestra and choir.  She works incredibly hard and has great grades.”

Izzy comes from a musical family where her four older siblings are happy to indulge her habit of singing around the house. She has participated in Jenison theatre the last two years and performed as Princess Winifred in Once Upon a Mattress and this year, she wowed the crowd with her especially mean portrayal of Aunt Spiker in James and Giant Peach. Izzy insists that her role has Aunt Spiker caused her to have to “dig deep” because she usually plays the fun, silly roles and Aunt Spiker was the exact opposite. Izzy herself is sweet, kind and humble so finding her “inner Aunt Spiker” was a fun challenge.

As other theatre students have affirmed, the program at Jenison is a place all kinds of kids call “home” and Izzy is no different. She loves theatre because “the kids, the environment, and all the people — theatre people are the best people to be around because you can just laugh and joke with them. If you’re stressed from homework, theatre and dance just help you forget about it and be part of the art.”

Izzy also participates in the Junior High Dance Team which performs at the boys basketball games as well as various local competitions. If her dedication to theatre wasn’t enough to exhaust you, Izzy’s dance schedule directly corresponds  to the preparation for the musical each year and she insists it’s not a “stressful kind of hard work”.

In class she describes herself as “quiet and shy” but these are not the qualities she possesses on stage. “I just like becoming a different person on stage and making the audience smile and laugh”. Izzy says that her math teacher, Mr. Ohman is the teacher that inspires her to learn and the class she enjoys the most. “Mr Ohman teaches us math, but also teaches us about life. His stories are really inspirational. Usually in first hour I’m tired but he keeps me engaged with all of his stories.”

Because two kinds of art performances aren’t enough for Izzy, she also participates in the junior high choir and orchestra where she has played the viola for three years. “In orchestra I’m playing the notes and in choir, I’m singing the notes which is really cool and it helps me learn more.”

Her favorite music to sing is show tunes and she loves Newsies and Hamilton. She has seen movies of Broadway shows but has yet to see one in person but very much looks forward to it.

Izzy is looking forward to auditioning for theatre and being part of the High School choir and orchestra and says, “It is difficult balancing it all during the theatre and dance season. You’re up late, but it’s totally worth it.”

She encourages everyone to find what they love and lean in to it. “You have to find a passion in yourself, something that makes your heart beat faster and then that’s really where you make your mark.”

Thank you, Izzy! Your hard work, bravery on stage, dedication to your passion is an inspiration to all of us! We’re proud to call you a Wildcat!

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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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!

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Board of Education Appreciation Month!

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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

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!

Beth

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!