JHS Recognized with Michigan Exemplary Athletic Program award

The honor and privilege of serving as the Superintendent of Jenison Public Schools is a humbling, yet greatly rewarding experience. As a destination school for many families, it’s no secret just how amazing this place is.

It is well deserved when our staff and programs are recognized for their excellence. JHS has been honored by Newsweek Magazine multiple times as the Best High Schools in America, the Washington Post’s most challenging high school as well as a GRAMMY Foundation Signature School. Also, receiving recognition as one of the best 100 communities in the nation for music education nine times.

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Cody Inglis – MHSAA Director, Tim Ritsema – JHS Athletic Director, Brandon Graham – JHS Principal, Emily Siler – Student Athlete and Tom TenBrink – JPS Superintendent. Banner held by Athletic Booster representatives, Erich Stoezner and Jason Kyle.

Not only do we have an outstanding music and fine arts program, but a successful athletic program as well. Established in 1971, Jenison has a short but rich history of athletics and hard working supporters. At Jenison, we believe in the value and benefits of dedication, motivation, and perseverance. We see our athletic program as a vital part of our total educational program and take pride in its achievements. 

At our Homecoming football game on September 20, Jenison was officially recognized as an Exemplary Athletic Program by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s (MIAAA). We are one of 25 schools that have received this award – and only a handful of them are in the West Michigan area. This is the result of many years of hard work to create a quality infrastructure and a reputable athletic experience; one that functions as an extension to our fantastic educational and fine arts programs.

Former Athletic Director, Kevin Van Duyn (also 1983 Jenison student athlete/graduate and coach), was instrumental in laying the groundwork to bring our program to this point. After his nearly 20 year career at JPS concluded, it was an honor to see him inducted into the Jenison Athletic Hall of Fame in March of 2019. He embodies a core belief that good sportsmanship and personal integrity are the foundation of what defines success in both winning and losing situations.

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Tim Ritsema, Jenison High School Athletic director is happy to carry the torch and keep our athletic program operating at Exemplary status:

“We’re not perfect but it’s exciting to receive recognition for the hard work that’s taken place. We have some state of the art facilities and the Jenison athletic department strives to share the District’s vision, mission, and core values by stressing Community, Achievement, Tradition, and Service – CATS. When everybody rows together in this endeavor, everyone wins – regardless of the trophies and banners that are on display.” 

Recipient schools experience rigorous screening including an application process, written documentation of the program’s strengths and a two-day visit by an MIAAA evaluation team. Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) states that this award honors programs that model excellence and equity. Schools that are providing for what is best in educationally sound high school athletics.  

Our teachers are relentless in the classroom and many of them continue that effort on the fields after school – 56 of our staff are in assistant or head coach positions at JHS. Our district-wide commitment to the advancement of the emotional, social, moral and physical growth of all of our participants remains strong and is a key component to this recognition. 

I’m beyond grateful for the work of all members of our athletic department to support our “blue ribbon” level program. Our students benefit immensely from relationships built with coaches, the challenge of competition and lessons of teamwork. Go Wildcats!

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Cody Inglis – MHSAA Director presenting the award to Tim Ritsema – JHS Athletic Director

Check out this video footage of the beautiful outdoor Jenison Athletic Campus:

 

Wildcat Homecoming 2019

Spirit week activities, tailgates, assemblies, parade, football game, dance and welcoming old friends back home; there is so much about the tradition of Homecoming that I look forward to each year. I enjoy every aspect of seeing our friends, families, students and community members coming together to celebrate.

For me, the high school pep assembly represents the official kick off to homecoming and it is something I love to attend. It is full of excitement and high energy as the marching band sets the tone. The students and staff unite in their pride and have a fun time pumping each other up.

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The pep assembly is also the first official presentation of the Homecoming court. A simple but very special tradition surrounding this presentation is one that many may not know about. The homecoming court representatives choose a teacher to escort them during the pep assembly. This has been a Jenison tradition for as long as I can remember.

I love seeing the teachers that have been selected; more than that, I love hearing the reasons behind a student’s choice for their teacher escort.

Year after year, students are honoring their teachers by using words like ‘admire’, ‘role model’, ‘mentor’, ‘passion’, ‘genuine’, and ‘contagious positive attitude’. Sharing these moments with our students and their teacher escorts is such a highlight of my homecoming pep assembly. It is a very cool experience to see the positive and lifelong connections that are made between our students and their committed teachers. Read some more awesome student quotes below and keep going for more great Homecoming 2019 moments! Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

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Sophomore, Lizzy Lee and Mrs. White 

Sophomore, Lizzy Lee – I chose Mrs. White as my escort because not only did I have fun in her class last year, we got to hang out outside of school through YoungLife and build friendship.

Senior, Sydney Addington – I chose Mr. Zamborsky because he has been apart of all of my musical career, which has been a large part of my life, and has always been someone I’ve looked up to. I amire how much he has done for his students, our band program and for our school in general. He is always very positive and knows how to cheer people up. He has also always been someone I can joke around with and just laugh at each other. Again, I chose Mr. Z because he is a very good role model and someone I hope to be like when I am older.

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Mr. Carmichael and Junior, Bella Van Slyke 

Junior, Bella Van Slyke – I chose Mr. Carmichael to be my escort because not only is he an amazing teacher, but an amazing person. He has such a big heart and is always making sure that each and every one of his students are doing well. He always welcomes people to class with a big smile. I aspire to be as positive as him every day.

Senior, Kassidi Hill – I chose Mrs. Borst as my teacher due to her contagious positive attitude and good vibes! This lady radiates positivity and we all need a little reminder of the good things once in awhile. I was only able to have Mrs. Borst for one class, American Lit, sophomore year. Even with a class that you would expect to be dull, Mrs. Borst was able to make it a fun experience. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever boring when it comes to Mrs. Borst. She’s constantly smiling and whenever you ask her how she is doing, she’ll say, “Better now that I’ve seen your smile!” Which, truthfully, only ever makes my smile bigger. I look forward to passing her classroom every day just for a quick little chat because we joke around and then get on with our day, but even those quick couple of minutes flips my day around after talking with her. I wish a lot more people made me feel the way Mrs. Borst does because those are the kind of people I want to surround myself with! 

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Mrs. Elsie and Freshman, Rosie Nobel

Freshman, Rosie Nobel – I chose Mrs. Elsie because she is very caring not about just school but more importantly her students wellbeing. Immediately when I walked in to class the first day she made me feel welcome and comfortable especially for my first time in the high school. I am so lucky to have her as a teacher! 

Senior, Matt Huizenga – I chose Mr. Brosseit because to me he was more than a teacher. He was a mentor to me. He made me happy when days were bad. He is a great man!

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Sophomore, Teague Stephens and Mrs. Brown

Sophomore, Teague Stephens – I chose Mrs. Brown as my teacher. As I have grown up, we moved into a house right by Mrs. Brown; I have gotten very close to her even though I’ve never had her for a class. When I was told to pick a teacher I immediately thought of her. I’m so glad that she accepted and I look forward to her walking with me.


WILDCAT HOMECOMING 2019

It was a gorgeous day to welcome recently retired, Mr. Waters as our homecoming parade marshall. The “Game Show” theme brought the creativity of the classes. The Freshman class walked away as the float champions for this year with their “The Price is Right” float. The Junior class took their “Supermarket Sweep” one step further with a shopping cart – parade route collection of food items for Hand 2 Hand ministries. They collected almost 100 items from the community! The football game against Reeths-Puffer was a thriller with an action packed second half. An exciting touchdown with just minutes left in the game paved the way for a big win! It was a great day of celebrating with our community – it was a great day to be a Wildcat!

Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

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Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

JPS Partnering with Parents

Our district’s highest priority is the care and education of the children in our community. Everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by staff that is committed to fulfilling the district’s mission which is, “to ensure that each and every student grows intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially in a safe and caring environment.” Not only do we have the best-of-the-best taking great pride in the curriculum, quality of instruction, extra-curricular activities, and beautiful facilities that are available to support our students; my colleagues are consistently collaborating with each other, and engaging with parents to help children find success now and in the future.

1254344780175e62ac9fd57a668510fa5024ca78Those collaborations can happen by focusing on the school work at hand and beyond. The Jenison Parent Liaison program has provided family unit support for students with a steadfast commitment over the last few years. I’m so excited to see it continue full steam ahead with some very compassionate and enthusiastic people leading the way. As Parent Liaisons representing the Family Resource Center, it is their mission to help families be successful at home so that students can be successful at school.

The Family Resource Center can be of assistance with mental health support, food insecurity and clothing, navigating insurance processes, as well as supporting teachers and families through crisis (death, grief, loss). They also offer programs for homework assistance, leadership and character development. 

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Mary Veldink (left) has been a 3rd grade teacher for 23 years but has been involved with the Jenison Parent Liaison program since its inception. Mary is now a full time Parent Liaison and assists Pinewood Elementary, Sandy Hill Elementary, El Puente, Jenison Junior High, and the JIA. Beth Morey (right) has been with the district for 11 years as a speech pathologist in the ASD program. She is also a fully dedicated Parent Liaison and will now support Bauerwood Elementary, Rosewood Elementary, Bursley Elementary, Jenison High School, and Steam Tech families in her new role. They both support ECC families.

They are so pleased to be able to connect so many families with the resources they need to make life a little smoother. Recently, they saw many community families join for the 7 week ‘Meet up and Eat up’ summer food service program. It was exciting to have numerous high school sports teams also come alongside them and serve food and play with the kids during that time. 

The Family Resource Center was also able to assist with family scholarships for camping vacations at Spring Hill. And when the summer was winding down, they were handing out backpacks and supplies where needed.

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Sue Hetfield and Jodi Huyser, Jenison ECC PreK teachers and ECC Family Outreach leaders were given a match-making vision to change the lives of preschoolers and their families.

I would also like to introduce another program for the PreK families, The ECC Family Outreach. This program came from two very passionate preschool teachers who had a shared vision based on the needs they see everyday. They have worked tirelessly based on the belief that it is essential to make a home-to-school connection as soon as possible. Matching families with resources and making families successful at the beginning of a child’s school experience has the potential to change the trajectory of that child’s life. They are offering monthly sessions to engage with parents regarding topics such has healthy habits, budgeting, outdoor safety, healthy eating and literacy.

The problem solving passion that is behind both the ECC Family Outreach and the Family Resource Center is a strong characteristic of our #BeRelentless community.  I’m proud of the hard work that has transpired to bring our families support when needed. When we’re doing what’s best for our students and families, we can’t go wrong. Please check out some family resources below or ask your school principal to learn more about these programs.

If community members would like to help the Family Resource Center support other Jenison families, there are ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing MinistryOther donations of activity gift cards for families to spend time together on weekends or school holidays are very helpful as well (Rebounderz, Bowling, Movies, Zoo, etc.).

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ECC Family Outreach

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The Gridiron Border Battle

You don’t usually need a passport for “AWAY” games, but last week the varsity players of St. Thomas More (STM) Catholic Secondary School of Hamilton, Ontario did, as they loaded up to drive 5.5 hours for a memorable international experience in Jenison.

The STM football program tries to come to the midwest for a game at least once per year. They are one of the most prominent and highly decorated football teams in Ontario and Canada. They are also repeat Provincial Bowl Champions from 2015-2018. JHS Athletic Director, Tim Ritsema knew they would be a good competitor for us to start the season with and it was exciting to get the chance to host them.

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The football players weren’t the only ones hard at work preparing to show our northern neighbors the spirit of west Michigan.

Leading up to the 7:00 kick off, the David McKenzie stadium took a moment to be silent in memory of Jenison student, Sydney Carfine who passed away following a car accident earlier this summer. She was a cheerful person and beloved friend who would have been a senior this year.

Jenison Boy Scout Troop 354 presented the flags as both countries were honored with their anthem. Karen Ambs, recently retired Jenison elementary choir and music teacher, pulled together a group of volunteer singers to welcome our guests with live vocals singing ‘O Canada’. This group, appropriately named the CatPack Chorale, was made up of Jenison Alums, parents, community members, current students and even included two of our own varsity football players!

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Game nights look a little different for them at home so we were honored to treat the STM players to a fabulous “Friday Night Lights” experience – great crowd, awesome atmosphere, and stellar performances by the marching band for our national anthem and their half time show. Jenison Varsity Coach Rob Zeitman and AD Tim Ritsema agreed – a win would have been nice but the exposure our students receive in welcoming this team is a valuable interaction. Following the game, the teams shared a pizza party and came together to share little bit about their high school and football experiences.

The stadium atmosphere wasn’t the only thing that was different about this game for our opponents. There are different game rules in the United States versus Canada. In Canada, it’s three downs to get a first down. They play with a longer and wider field; they also play with 12 players on the field at a time instead of 11. That obviously didn’t deter them, as they came away with the win that night!

The STM team was also given the opportunity to catch an exciting American collegiate contest on their way home – stopping by East Lansing to see Michigan State beat Western Michigan, 51-17.

STM Head coach Claudio Silvestri was super appreciative of the our community saying:
Thank you so much for everything you have done to make this experience happen. Our players and coaches raved about the “Jenison” experience.  Your program is “top notch” and your facilities were incredible. It was the warmest  hospitality we experienced in the 17 years of doing this trip! Our kids were also blown away by the Michigan State experience!

Despite a loss for us on the field Friday night, hosting our first international game was a heartwarming WIN and the Jenison community did not disappoint! It was a great experience all around. 

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STM Players at the MSU game Saturday, September 7.

Ready to Launch

It may be the beginning of the school year but our teachers are always operating with the end in mind. This is Brad VanTimmeren’s 8th year teaching within the M.E.R.I.T program at Jenison High School. He uses projects like build-your-own bottle rockets to daily instill the knowledge and confidence his students need to carry them forward.

M.E.R.I.T (Meaningful Education Rooted In Transition) is a program designed for juniors and seniors who are looking for an opportunity to get prepared for life outside of high school. Our high school staff has been focusing on teaching students life skills and exploring post-high school options through this unique program for nearly 14 years. Karen Dame is also a member of the M.E.R.I.T. team. She has been with JPS for 6 years. and offers guidance in language arts, employability and work readiness skills.

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Mr. Van Timmeren talks about the successful components of this bottle rocket.

The students must prepare, do their due diligence, be patient, listen carefully to instructions and work together to build their rocket. Launch day was delayed due to some weather but overall it went well this year. Van Timmeren shares that his students “enjoy being hands-on and learning visually. Building something engages a different skill set and thinking outside the norm of text books/tests sets up a great conversation about overall real life perspective.” Every year, students see success and failures within this project, and can evaluate what went well and glean applicable life lessons from it.

rockets-5One of the best things about our district is our teachers and staff who daily come prepared and committed to meet the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs of each and every student. While this is obviously a key focus during their time under our care and guidance, the importance of seeing this extend beyond graduation means embracing individual success as we launch each student. I believe it does our students a disservice to make them fit a mold they were not made for. Other learning take aways for M.E.R.I.T. students in the coming year will center around career building and planning, gaining exposure to multiple skill building opportunities and considering options. The program also includes a t-shirt business and partnering with the school store to teach practical skills.

Van Timmeren has embodied the “Be Relentless” theme for nearly a decade with his students. I am excited to see him engaging our students in genuine relationships and getting them ready to launch into the world beyond high school, their world. 

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“No matter where kids come from or where they’re headed, they first need to know their strengths; then we want to work together to maximize their abilities. Helping them find their passion and build their confidence is key in preparing them for the path ahead – that may be college, trade education or the workforce as well as valuable community member.”  

Brad Van Timmeren

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4-H: Swine Summer School

When Hudsonville Community Fair week rolls around, many people are enticed by the food, thrills and grandstand entertainment. But the 4-H experience is another very exciting and educational component. Currently, the Hudsonville Community Fair is the center for over 3,000 4-H exhibits – reflecting the strong agricultural roots of our community. 

You may have wandered the livestock barns to visit the animals, but have you ever considered the amount of work these young people have accomplished over the course of the summer to prepare for fair week? And did you know, some of them are Jenison students who don’t even live near a farm?

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These Jenison families were hard at work this summer with project pigs for 4H. Arianna and Ava Jenison, Taya Jenison, Ryerson and Jameson Kass, Gavin and Grayson Roby, Ally and Ellie VanTimmeren , Hannah and Rylie Paddock, and Christine Duch.

 

Since 4‑H began more than 100 years ago, it has become the nation’s largest youth development organization. They strive to engage youth in urban, rural or suburban communities to reach their fullest potential through experiential learning and the development of practical skills. Jenison teachers and parents have seen the benefits of this program first hand and they love that their students are getting a new perspective outside of their typical school and social circles.

This year, a collection of Jenison students (1st grade through 12th grade) spent much of their summer working on a 4-H Swine project. The process starts in May when the students look for a pig to purchase. They weigh about 40 pounds and reach around 300 pounds by fair time. Since some of them don’t live on a farm, housing the pig somewhere is a consideration as well. The students have much to learn and many decisions to make in order to raise their pig the best they can before the showmanship competition at the Fair in August. They are required to understand all components of the project, fill out paperwork correctly, give their pig the proper care including appropriate weight gain, grooming and being clipped well and making sure their skin is in the best shape possible.  

During the upbringing of their project pig, the students make observations, ultimately presenting them in a notebook for review as part of their final presentation. Christine Duch is a 10th grader at Jenison High School and was glad she could channel some of the learnings from her art teacher to creatively express information during the notebook portion. Using her art skills helped her feel more confident about the project. 

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Grayson Roby with his pig, Duck. (L) When he brought Duck home. (R) When they went to the fair.

Jenison High School Assistant Principal, Julie Roby enjoys seeing her boys take on this great responsibility and work hard all summer. They have also created great bonds with friends they have met through the 4-H program in the past years. “My kids are gaining life skills – they have learned how to self-advocate. They are by themselves when they give their sales pitch to local businesses (to secure a buyer), they are by themselves in the show ring, and they shake hands with adults after the auction and the pig is sold.  They have developed a confidence in their ability to represent themselves.”

Hannah Paddock is a 10th grader at JHS who has exhibited for 7 years, her 5th grade sister, Rylee joined 2 years ago. Mr. Ohman and Mrs. Hinkle are both Jenison teachers who have left an impression on Hannah – they have been so supportive and always stressed a ‘have fun and give it your best effort!’ kind of message. Hannah has appreciated that and applies that thinking to her fair projects. “It doesn’t always work out as we may wish but as long as we do our best and have fun with the process, it is always worth it in the end!

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Hannah Paddock, Christine Duch and Ally VanTimmeren watching Taya Jenison show her pig.

Some of our Jenison students have come away big winners for their efforts at the fair. The Paddock family won Grand Champion (best of the entire show) 4 times during their 7 year 4-H career. Multiple awards were received within the group this year as well including Ava Jenison, 2nd place; Rylee Paddock, Reserve Champion Junior Showman, Grand Champion Barrow (overall) and 1st place in individual class; and Hannah Paddock, 1st place in individual class.

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This is Ava Jenison’s 5th year showing pigs at the Hudsonville Fair. She received a Second Place ribbon this year for her work with her pigs, Annie and Willie.

In the 6 years Arianna Jenison has been participating in 4-H, she and her parents have learned more than they ever thought they’d need to know. They’ve given shots and taken care of other animal emergencies. One year, they were faced with a case of pig pox (like chickenpox for pigs!). Arianna enjoys the showmanship day, meeting new people outside of school and the satisfaction of hard work. She has also learned a great deal of financial responsibility with all that comes with raising a pig. 

The students all agreed – they love the work and they come to be really fond of their swine friends, however, it’s a lot of stress wrapped up in a week of excitement. While they’re a little relieved it’s over, they’re looking forward to starting again next spring and making many more great memories at the fair!

It’s exciting that our Jenison students are pushing themselves with determination and perseverance; and representing our school so well! I’m proud to see them taking advantage of the 4-H experience!

When you head to the fair next year, make sure to take time to visit the 4-H exhibits and ask those hard working kids some questions. There’s something for everyone and the student exhibitors love to share what they have learned.

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Senior Arianna Jenison with her pigs, Kim and Kanye. She has participated in the 4-H pig project for 6 years.

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Shown with her pig Sully, is Rylee Paddock, a 5th grader at Rosewood Elementary School. This is her second year participating in 4-H. This year, she received multiple awards: Reserve Champion Junior Showman, Grand Champion Barrow (overall) and 1st place in individual class.

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Shown with her pig Winston, is Hannah Paddock, a Sophomore at Jenison High School. This is her 7th year showing at the fair. This year, she received 1st place in individual class.

2019 Senior Honors

Although the tassels have been turned from right to left, I wanted to highlight a special day of recognition for our seniors. One of our mottos at Jenison Public Schools is that we strive to finish strong in whatever we do. And every year, I’m so proud to see our seniors do just that.

On May 28, ten hardworking students were part of a luncheon celebration and officially named the Top Ten for 2019. These students have been diligent with the marathon that is high school, achieving nearly all A’s in each course of their high school career.

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Half of this year’s Top Ten were Bauerwood Elementary Students. (Photo by Jim English)

What makes this group so inspiring again this year is not only their commitment to their studies, but their involvement in other extra curriculars like Music, Student Government, Athletics, Theatre, and numerous volunteer opportunities in and outside of school. The experience they are gaining in the classroom combined with real life lessons of these additional activities is a testament to the JPS commitment to provide a comprehensive education.

While there are obviously only ten spots in the Top Ten, the class of 2019 as a whole was a talented, dedicated, and scholarly class. May 28 was also Senior Honors Night; a wonderful celebration of all of their hard work, and to recognize the 5 million dollars that was awarded to this senior class for their future plans.

The class of 2019 is a group of incredible individuals who have demonstrated servant leadership during their 4 years at JHS! They are definitely going to be missed but I’m excited to see them make their mark in this world!

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Megan TerHaar, Valedictorian and Danika Austin, Salutatorian

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Emma Byerwalter with Bill Waalkes, JPS School Board President

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Jenison Class of 2019 – Top Ten 

The Class of 2019 Top 10 are:
Megan TerHaar, Valedictorian
Danika Austin, Salutatorian
Erika Buhk
Emma Byerwalter
Andrew English
Hannah Lok
Samantha Miller
Emily Rose
Elizabeth Tower
Brandon Zink

 

Senior Honors Night

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It is a huge honor to recognize the students who are set to serve our county through the military.

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Photos by Damion Van Slyke Photography

Graduation 2019

The Class of 2019 overcame some crazy weather this year and graduation day was no exception. While dodging the downpours that morning, our seniors returned to their elementary halls one last time for a final send off by the younger wildcats. It’s a tradition meant to inspire the younger students but also, a chance for graduates to acknowledge how far they’ve come and what they have accomplished during their student career. Seniors always look forward to this and many have a great time seeing some of their favorite former teachers. Thunderstorms continued to threaten the outdoor ceremony tradition until just a few hours before the processional began. In the end, thankfully, our seniors and their loved ones were able to enjoy a beautiful evening.

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After four hardworking years of academics as well as life lessons, the class of 2019 confidently entered the stadium to recognize all they have achieved at Jenison Public Schools. This is a group of remarkable, talented, caring young men and women of great character who have already made an impact on their world! I am so proud of them and I am sure that we will be hearing great things about this class in the years ahead! GO WILDCATS!

Keep scrolling to enjoy some beautiful photos that were captured that night, along with a few amazing and inspiring student speech videos. 

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Anna Norton Senior Address – video courtesy of Rich Conflitti

JonJon Conflitti Student Address – video courtesy of Rich Conflitti

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Elementary School Visits

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Bursley Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Rich Conflitti)

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Pinewood Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Rachael Postel-Brown)

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Bauerwood Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Crystal Morse)

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Rosewood Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Amanda Moerdyke)

SH Senior Walk Through

Sandy Hill – Class of 2019 (Photo by Sara Melton)

Senior Spotlight: Clarissa Mata

Tonight, the Wildcat Class of 2019 will officially close the door on their school career at Jenison. For each of those students – and their families, this evening represents a lifetime of hard work and perseverance, with hopeful eyes looking into the future. 

One of those students is Clarissa Mata. Clarissa is a bright young woman with a compassionate heart and big plans – she also happens to be one of the first within her extended family to reach the achievement of high school graduation.

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“We won’t see real change until we speak up.” Clarissa Mata,  (Portrait by Eva Russa)

Clarissa’s parents came to America when they were young and have worked for years to create a family focused, hard working, entrepreneurial support system in which she  and her younger brother could thrive.

Working at her mother’s restaurant has helped shaped aspirations for her future. Watching her as a business owner has instilled a strong community mindset that encourages her to invest and make a difference wherever she goes

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The Mata Family at Clarissa’s Quinceanera celebration

In 2015, Clarissa exercised her own entrepreneurial spirit and started a cupcake business. She enjoyed the process and even participated in a few business competitions. She loved being able to donate proceeds to worthy causes she was passionate about, including suicide awareness programs. Through the Careerline Tech Center, she began to explore the Culinary Arts program to possibly build a career on her cupcake business. She appreciated the education and while she experienced the fun aspects of it she now knows that she sees her future going in a different direction.

Looking around the world today, Clarissa feels heavy with the brokenness in society, and an even stronger calling to be an agent for change. She is watching the climate of current politics with a keen eye and plans to pursue a political science degree.

“I’ve been heartbroken time and again by the devastation in this world. ‘Hopes and prayers’ are great, but that’s not enough. We won’t see real change until we speak up. What better way to make sure that happens than if I am given a platform – on the floor in Washington, to do that.”

Jenison has given Clarissa memories of life shaping experiences and she credits her teachers and the staff for their willingness to guide and mentor her. She will hold them dear and is sad that they will no longer be a part of her daily life.

The work of our teachers and staff that helps shape our students and gets them ready for their new world does not go unnoticed. Clarissa, your enthusiasm for making this world a better place is contagious. I am proud to call you a Wildcat and can’t wait to see what your future will bring!

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Q: How old do you think you will be when you feel like a grown up?

A: (without pause) “When I win the election I’m running for.”

Retiring Teachers – Class of 2019

Final music concerts. Conference competitions for spring athletics. The final day of regular classes for our seniors is tomorrow… just a few of the many indications that we are screaming down the homestretch of this school year. With all the excitement that comes with closing the books and looking forward to a well deserved summer break, there are bittersweet moments.

As we soon graduate over 300 students, we also say goodbye to 7 amazing teachers who have acted as champions for your children and led the way for their students, literally for generations. This June, I wish the best to a group of teachers who represent 236 years of wisdom and experience. If your students have had the privilege to study under these teachers, I encourage you to reach out, wish them well and thank them for their deeply dedicated careers.

  • Eileen Maday
  • Linda Reimink
  • Steven Waters
  • Karen Ambs
  • Paula Riordan
  • Brenda Meade
  • Sandra Johnson

Eileen Maday

High School Reading Specialist, English and Social Studies Teacher

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Eileen is the Reading Specialist at the High School and also teaches English and Social Studies. In a few weeks, she will conclude 30 years of teaching – 9 years with Holland Public Schools and 21 years as a Jenison Wildcat. Her favorite memories of teaching are the moments when students have a realization of their potential, master an important skill, achieve a goal, or feel supported through a difficult time. Her favorite book to teach in literature classes is To Kill a Mockingbird as she feels there are so many powerful messages that will always be relevant to young people.  

If Eileen were not a teacher, she believes she would most likely have had a career with a social service agency, working with children in the foster care system. Her family has grown through foster care and the adoption of two of their children.

This summer, Eileen and her husband Tim will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Tim recently retired after 30 years as a firefighter and Eileen is looking forward to more time together. They enjoy traveling, hiking, cycling and spending time with their 5 children and 7 grandchildren. They have exciting plans to hike in all of the national parks and spending time in Europe soon.

“My parting thought is one of gratitude to all of my colleagues.  It has been a honor to work with so many gifted educators who have inspired me with their dedication and sustained me with their friendship.  I am truly thankful.”   ~ Eileen Maday

Eileen, we are truly thankful for your commitment to our students over the years and we wish you the absolute best as you travel to see all the places you have taught about through the years.  

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Eileen Maday with  our Multicultural Advancement Scholars group attending the Calling All Colors Conference at Grand Valley State University.  This is a group she has  sponsored with several colleagues over the past few years.

Linda Reimink

High School Physical Education and Health Teacher

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Mrs. Reimink with some 3rd hour freshmen following a fun and challenging work out.

Linda is a Physical Education and Health teacher at the high school. She has worked for 32 years to teach students the value of fitness and overall health. Helping them develop healthy habits and encouraging good decision making – hoping to set them up for a great future. She enjoys being active herself and loves that her additional role as the Varsity Women’s Golf team has incorporated that as well. In her spare time, she enjoys helping lead worship at her church and reading. Some of her favorite books include Educated, The Help, Water from My Heart, Chasing Fireflies, and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

She’s had the chance to build many great relationships over the years and working with colleague, Kari Kossen every day is icing on the cake. Another highlight of her career is when a student works hard and reaches a goal (running farther and longer than they ever thought possible). She feels that she and the students generally have a good time together and loves the daily laughs they share.

If she was not a teacher, Linda would probably be employed in the corporate wellness field. Actually, her retirement plans may include some part-time work in that arena. She loves the idea of being involved in a mentoring program for college students. Linda and her husband Ron have two grown children and 2 granddaughters. Retirement for her also means more time to travel, spend with family and friends, and will probably include baking for them.

Thank you Linda, for your dedication to send our students into the world with a bright and healthy future ahead of them.

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Mrs. Reimink and her Jenison Varsity golf athletes.

Steven Waters

Junior High Choir Director

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Mr. Waters has enjoyed teaching and seeing the JH students progress during their choir career.

Steven proudly completes his 23rd year in Jenison this year, rounding out his accomplished 35 year teaching career. Prior to his time as Jenison Junior High Choir Director, he taught Elementary Music, Band, and Choir K12 in other districts.

He is fueled by the hard work the students give him daily, and the feeling of chills when the group wrestles with a section and eventually gets it just right. He shares the immense excitement of the students when they sing a 4-part chord in tune. Experiencing all those firsts with the students and watching them grow and progress through their choir journey is something he will never forget.

As much as Steven has enjoyed the hard work of planning and preparing students for concerts, he and his wife, Jeanna look forward  to attending concerts together – especially at Christmas (a notably very busy time for music teachers).

They have three children, three grandchildren and one more grandchild due in June. They are thoroughly enjoying this phase of life and looking for more of life’s simple pleasures, including backyard cookouts, gardening and outdoor adventures. Steven will also continue making music as he participates in the worship team at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids.

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Mr. Waters directing his 23rd and final junior high concert, at the Jenison Center for the Arts.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work in the Jenison Public Schools with all the wonderful Jenison Families over the past years! Each year has been filled with many blessings on a professional level because of my wonderful students and my exceptional colleagues. I’ll miss hearing the excitement in the voices of the kids as they come into the choir room each day or when they come to the concerts. I’ll miss all the great laughs and tears with the students AND with my music teaching team.

I count myself fortunate to have been here doing what I love so much with people that I love.” ~ Steven Waters

Steven, thank you for using your mastery of music and love for people to point our students toward a successful future. We wish you a beautiful, musical future!

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A student grabs a selfie with Mr. Waters at the conclusion of his final choir concert.

Karen Ambs

Music Teacher for Sandy Hill and Rosewood Elementary Schools

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Mrs. Karen Ambs

Karen Ambs is one of our energetic, big-idea music teachers in the district. Her primary role is lead music teacher at Sandy Hill and Rosewood. She came to Jenison with 4 years of teaching under her belt including kindergarten physical education, typing, library tech, theatre, and art. That diverse beginning set the stage for a passionate, creative career here.

She has also spent time leading the elementary honors choirs for her schools and working on the choreography for the Junior High musical productions. After 32 years of teaching, she is anticipating a more flexible schedule to spend time with her husband and two grown children. She also looks forward to teaching private voice and piano lessons and tapping into her full potential as a recently self proclaimed “gym addict”.

She also has a passion for performing and volunteering with local community theatres. If Karen was not a teacher, she thinks she would involved in a non-profit of some sort.

She experiences bright moments daily when her students discover their own love for music but the memory of listening to one of her young students (who is in our CI program and largely “non-verbal”) sing incredibly beautiful solos will be forever in her heart.

“Don’t forget to take care of each other, and yourselves too. It has been a true honor to serve and teach alongside the amazing educators at Jenison Public Schools.” ~ Karen Ambs

Thank you Karen, for your contagious enthusiasm and tireless service. You have encouraged generations of students to love music and the arts, and our community has been blessed by that.

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Mrs. Ambs is often the first to teach the students to play an instrument.

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Mrs. Ambs with Sandy Hill music students

Paula Riordan

Bursley 3rd grade teacher

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Paula Riordan has been teaching at Jenison for 30 years, in second and third grade classrooms. She earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. She and her husband have four grown children, all of whom are married. She is excited that her family continues to grow with beautiful grandchildren that she looks forward to spending more time with – including a planned family trip to Disney World. Paula and her husband are also devoted Notre Dame fans and are anticipating attending at least one game each season.

“The most rewarding aspect of teaching for me are the relationships I have developed with both staff and students over the years. It’s such fun to have former students stop by my classroom to visit. I sometimes don’t recognize high school or college students by face because they have changed so much, but their names are etched in my brain and it brings back a flood of memories.” ~ Paula Riordan

Thank you Paula, for your dedication to a very fun age group of students. Your guidance and persistence helped build strong educational foundations for many young Wildcats!

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Brenda Meade

Bauerwood 3rd grade teacher

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Brenda Meade counts herself very lucky to have completed her student teaching at Bursley Elementary before she even graduated. Twice as lucky that there was a position at JPS for her upon graduation! Now, 33 years later, after she and her husband, Joe put their own three children through JPS – she still loves spending time and making memories with her Bauerwood 3rd graders daily. 

When you spend nearly your entire adult life in a community, it’s hard to pinpoint a most favorite memory, but a few might stand out. Such as the time a student’s backpack was moving, and when she asked him to open the zipper, out popped the head of a kitty cat. Another time, a mother duck and her ducklings wandered in from the courtyard at Bauerwood Elementary and decided to visit her classroom. The memories are plenty but making relationships is the best part! It’s exciting that she still has contact with many past students – from recent years, all the way to her early years of teaching.

During her time away from school, she enjoys camping, reading, and spending time with family and friends. Photography is something Brenda has always been interested in and she looks forward to developing her skills with some classes with her free time in the future. Another fun hobby she enjoys is refinishing thrift shop furniture.

“Thank you to the students, parents, and my JPS family for allowing me to have my dream job for the past 33 years.” ~ Brenda Meade

Brenda, we are so thankful you have been a part of the Jenison community for this phase in your life. We wish you the best as you have more time to pursue your interests and keep building relationships.

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Sandra Strobel Johnson

High School Social Studies Teacher

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At the age of 21, Sandra unknowingly discovered that she wanted to share her love of learning. She took a student teaching position and she knew the direction of her life had changed forever.  

She will tell you, “I have never looked back. Forty-four years later, I still love my work with young people, trying to ignite passion and encourage truthful self-reflection. I truly get a “kick” out of high schoolers.  I will miss the daily interaction with my wonderful, sometimes challenging, young adults. Many have left an indelible imprint on my brain and soul. Others have pushed me beyond my planned presentations to think more deeply and question more fully.  My life has been enhanced by their presence in it.”

“Few have been blessed with a job that provided joy, laughter, even some tears, as well as intellectual inquiry, and a chance to share with amazing teenagers my passion for psychology, sociology, and CAL (education through cross-age learning).  Teachers are required to write yearly goals. Throughout my career, my first goal was always to simultaneously engage my students’ hearts and brains while allowing them to discover their unique contribution to the world. As I told them frequently, no two people have the same finger prints.  Even identical twins have different prints. I do not believe this is an accident. The world is awaiting their own unique touch.”

“To my many students, it was an honor and privilege to serve as your teacher.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness that this chapter of my life is coming to a close.” ~ Sandra Strobel Johnson

“I hope I have illuminated my small corner of the world with intellectual curiosity, passion, and a love of learning, enabling my students to shine their internal light on their corners of the world.  The future lies in their hands. I am proud to be an educator nurturing students and deepening their commitment to enhance their world.”

Sandra, thank you for pouring yourself into your students and your willingness to let them fill you as well. We wish you the best as you find time to travel, read, learn even more and spend time loving on your two daughters and two grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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