Stand By You: Pink Out 2017

miii3935The High School gym was, once again, a sea of pink on Friday night as the Jenison community showed their support for those fighting the battle of breast cancer.

This year, there were eight honorees: Jill Barnes, Jane Carlson, Carolyn DeJong, Dianne Duch, Michelle Gradisher, Shirley Kerkstra, Joni Otto, and Stephanie Tuttle [not necessarily pictured in this order].

miii3411For Michelle [3rd from right], she was overwhelmed by being an honoree but once she arrived to the “pinked out” gym that night and started getting to know some of the other honorees, those fears were gone. Michelle was diagnosed through a mammogram that she desperately wanted to avoid that particular day but chose to go through with it. The office was calling her to return to the hospital before she even got home that day. On March 31 of last year she underwent a double mastectomy which she describes as a “no brainer” based on the test results and family history of breast cancer. She is incredibly thankful for her amazing support team and encourages women not to avoid those important mammogram appointments!

miii3660Joni Otto [1st on the left] was a Jenison teacher for 22 years and is thankful for the science and availability of genetic testing, which she believes is a gift we all need to take advantage of. Joni discovered she had breast cancer and opted for the lumpectomy. Meanwhile, she had genetic testing done which revealed she was at a high risk for breast cancer, so she chose to go a step further and have a bilateral mastectomy to prevent any further occurrences which seemed likely in light of the test results. It wasn’t an easy decision for Joni but she felt that it was the right thing to do to protect herself and her family. She is hoping that her former students will dig deep into their pockets to donate to the Pink Out cause on her behalf!

miii3685Stephanie and Shirley [3rd and 4th from the left respectively] are daughter and mother honorees and Stephanie also says that genetic testing is an essential and lifesaving aspect to her story as well. Her mom Shirley is a breast cancer survivor [and three time honoree!] and Stephanie didn’t want her family to go through another season of cancer. She believes her mom feels guilty for passing on the gene but she also sees genetic testing as a gift, especially when it revealed the BRCA gene which can lead to breast and ovarian cancers. She also urges readers to consider genetic testing if you have a family history of breast cancer as the preventative measures “are much better than going through treatment.”

[If you’d like to explore genetic testing, you can do so locally at Spectrum Health. Please note – this is not an endorsement, merely a local resource.]

miii3680Three of our honorees discovered their cancer through self exams and took a moment in their introductions to make sure and encourage women in the audience to remember to do this. Everyone stressed the importance of regular mammograms and the Spectrum Health mobile mammography unit was in the parking lot, available for tours!

miii3770Finally, High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, introduced Cindi Sigmon as a special honoree. Cindi has been battling Multiple Myleloma since January 2016. “She has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant this summer” and “for the past 21 years, she has shown love to the students, staff, community members and parents that have traversed the halls of Jenison High School.” Cindi was escorted to the floor by her husband and received a standing ovation for her courage, service, and strength.

All of our Pink Out Honorees are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of perseverance and we thank them for being willing to come forward and share their stories. May you and your support teams know how important you are to all of us!

Thank you to all of the Pink Out volunteers, financial supporters, and participants who came out last Friday to make this another great year! It’s a powerful message we send each year to those who are struggling as well as those have suffered a loss. Together, we will Stand By You. We are Jenison!

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High School Students Join County Collaboration on Suicide Prevention!

c23ixoyxcaaovueOn January 23, Jenison High School Social Worker, Kris Faber, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, Assistant Principal Rhonda Raab, Counselor Jenny Riha and seven Jenison High students joined other students from Ottawa County to talk about the realities of suicide and how to help prevent it.

The event (called the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Summit) was on at Zeeland East High Sshool and it was a coordinated effort with OAISD with twelve districts in attendance.  The group spent the day collaborating with local districts to learn what efforts are being utilized to address mental health needs and suicide prevention.

c23rcdlvqaen73uThe Mental Health foundation of West Michigan was a co-sponsor for the day promoting the positive benefits of the Be Nice! program throughout West Michigan.  Ms. Faber adds, “We were also able to hear speaker Rick Chyme share his personal story and challenge everyone to “plant seeds” of kindness and love toward others as you never know how one might positively impact others.”  The team also had time as a JHS group to plan how we might impact our school specifically and work to diminish the stigma of mental health and seeking support.

In a 2013 Youth Assessment Survey of students in Ottawa County in grades 8, 10 and 12, that had seriously contemplated suicide, there was an alarmingly high rate of 16.7%.  “Many adolescents are experiencing increased incidents and greater severity of mental health needs [especially anxiety and depression].  The stigma attached to seeking treatment can, at times, exacerbate the issues. ” Thankfully, JHS is working towards providing help any way they can.

Students are hopeful to continue the conversation in district and develop some tangible ways to provide support for existing mental health needs, as well as prevention of suicide.  We are hopeful to create a culture of kindness toward others as well as a place where seeking support is seen as a strength.  Sharing existing resources with students was one way we are hoping to be helpful to our students immediately.

Students! If you, or someone you know, has thought about or talked about committing suicide, there are people who care about you and are willing to help! You can visit Ms Faber or talk to any of your teachers, administrators, staff, or counselors. You can also call the Ottawa County Crisis Helpline: 866-512-4357.

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[Photos courtesy of Kris Faber and @benicemi]

High School Students Accept the Student Leadership Challenge

miii0113This fall, 40 Jenison High School students were invited to join a group of their peers known as the Student Leadership Challenge. Based on the book by Barry Posner and James M. Kouzes, students are encouraged to examine their own leadership actions and aspirations. They were nominated by the students who make up the Principal Advisory Board and the group meets once a month before the school day even begins – at 7am!

captureHigh School Principal, Dr Brandon Graham, sees the group as a way to develop leaders at the school and give a voice to those demonstrating leadership skills.  “We’re reading through the book, identifying ways they can improve their own personal leadership skills and the ultimate goal is to develop kids as leaders and bring that leadership into the school.”  As students are examining themselves, Dr Graham wants them to ask themselves about their every day choices and decisions. “Everything matters. How do you hold yourself to a higher standard?”

Throughout the year, the group would like to have members of the community who are successful in their positions visit the group and share what it takes to get there. By hearing from outside voices, Dr Graham hopes to inspire students to develop goals and find ways to work towards them, even now. “We look forward to continuing to elevate the leadership skills found in the kids at Jenison.”

Principal Advisory Board member and 12th grader, Ayesha Kothari, believes there is value in meeting and encouraging students to consider their role as a leader. From her personal experience of feeling anxious speaking in front of groups and now, finding it easier to manage, she wanted to be able to help others find ways to grow. “I think it’s important to foster leadership talents in kids that may not find a way to access it otherwise.” When the students were selected by the Advisory Board, Ayesha says “we saw ourselves  in those students and we wanted to reach out to them and access those leadership qualities.” They are studying the book by focusing on each of the five segments of the book and doing short, visual presentations on each portion and leading activities based on the reading.

miii0062Although 40 students were invited in October, Dr Graham says there is room for more. If you’re a high school student with interest in joining the Student Leadership Challenge, please talk to Dr Graham or any member of the Principal Advisory Board [Jafet Cruz, Alex Bennink, Ayesha Kothari, Tristan Milarch, Tabitha Hill].

Congratulations to the students rising to the Student Leadership Challenge! We believe and in all of your leadership skills and think it’s incredibly valuable that you continue to find ways to share them with us and your fellow students!

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Peter Pan Has a Prequel? Of Course it Does!

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Before you see Jenison theatre perform “Peter Pan” this winter, you’ll want to know the back story, of course!

Director and theatre teacher, Todd Avery, has been waiting to perform “Peter and the Star Catcher” for three years, ever since he saw it performed in Chicago and watched it win five Tony Awards in 2012. He was drawn to the unique qualities of the show including wonderful opportunities for an ensemble cast, creative scenery and the need for the audience to participate through their imagination. “Everything is very suggested. For example, we don’t have swords that we fight with, we fight with plungers. The actors create a ship with just a big piece of rope and their bodies and a couple crates, so the concept is just really interesting. It’s a unique way of storytelling and it’s a style called Story Telling Theatre.”

miii4226It’s not a traditional show where the actors play a single role. In this show, the actors are playing multiple roles, keeping track of where they need to be at all times and even wearing multiple costumes on top of each other!

While the winter musical performances are stories told through music, this weekend’s show is a “play with music” and students filling this role had very challenging music to master. All of the music is performed by a pianist and percussionist providing exciting sounds that take on a character of its own.

Sophomores Emma Byerwalter and Caden Hembrough play the leading roles of Molly and Peter respectively and are both alums of the theatre program beginning in junior high and taking on their biggest roles to date with this show. Emma loves her character and says it’s her favorite of her theatre career, so far. “Molly is confident, strong-willed and down to earth.” Caden says that he enjoys playing Peter who starts off being quiet and mad at the world and builds confidence and leadership skills throughout the show.

miii4287As so many other theatre students have said in the past, the Jenison theatre community has meant “everything” to Emma and Caden. “You make friends with everyone and they all count on each other. There’s no exclusion.” says Caden. Emma adds, “It’s a really open community. No matter who you are, you are welcome here.”

Mr Avery knows that this group of students is ready and well prepared to tackle this challenging and entertaining show. “I knew this was going to be a particularly challenging show and I saw some great things in [these students] the last couple of years, even back in junior high, and I knew they could do it. And they’ve risen to the challenge and it’s like nothing they’ve ever done before.”

If you’d like to spend some time this weekend getting to know the beginning stories of Peter Pan, Wendy and the rest of the Peter and the Star Catcher crew, check ticket availability and purchase them here.

Break a leg, Jenison Thespians! We can’t wait to see you shine!

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Homecoming 2016

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

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Homecoming King Tom Docsa and Queen Brianne VanDyke

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Say “Hi” to New Teachers!

This year we welcomed 23 new staff members to the Jenison family! Here you can meet some of them and feel free to say “hi” in person when you cross paths!

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Anna Flood  |  Burlsey, 6th Grade

“I grew up in the area and have always heard amazing things about Jenison. As a new teacher to the district, I have noticed the strong community and support that surrounds education. I am excited to grow with my group of 6th grade students, and watch them use their abilities to be successful.”

 

mcelweeAlexa McElwee  |  Bursley Interventionist
“I have grown up in this community.  Living in Hudsonville, attending GVSU and now working in Jenison, I have seen this community from so many sides.  From being a child, to a student, and now as a educator.  This community stands behind you and support you in every way.  When I graduated the one thing I knew I wanted in the school I worked for was a huge community involvement.  When I accepted my position in Jenison, I knew I was going more than a community, I was joining a family.  Jenison is such an amazing school district who wants the best for the students and their families.

On the first day of school I was feeling like most students do when they walk in the door, nervous, anxious and excited.  I definitely had first day jitters.  I was nervous for joining a new team and for meeting new students who have never seen me before.  By the end of they day I was getting high fives and lots of hugs from all the Kindergartners as they walked by my room to head to the bus.  To see their faces light up each morning when they see me in the hall or working with them makes me so excited to see the relationships that are being formed.  This is going to be a great year.”

vandebergJosh VandeBerg  |  Sandy Hill, 4th Grade

“My family and I are very excited to return to the area!  My wife Amanda and I are from the area, but moved to Florida 9 years ago. We have 4 children Ben (10), Abigail (9), Hannah (6), and Levi (3).  All of our extended family lives in the area and my children are thrilled to live by their cousins.

I am a big believer of living in the community that I teach in.  Jenison is an amazing place to live and raise a family.  The schools are top-notch and we can’t imagine a better place to be. I am so excited for this school year because everyone that I work with truly cares about each other.  The district leaders, the team at Sandy Hill, and everyone I meet throughout the district is amazing. Jenison has a lot to offer its students.  I am currently involved in the robotic’s program and we have a blast using what we’ve learned in the classroom to solve a problem.

willieMaura Willie  |  Elementary Music

“I was drawn to JPS because of their excellence in music. I love how the district and community supports the arts in their schools. So far, I’m most excited for the year because of all of the collaboration I’ve seen. Everyone I’ve come into contact with has been eager to help each other and work together. ”

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Jenny Huizenga  |  High School Math
“I was drawn to JPS because my children attend JPS and I love the schools and the community.  I am excited to be teaching in the community where I live.  The staff and students are amazing at Jenison and I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and get involved. “

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Bridget Ehlich  |  Bursley Elementary, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“I was drawn to JPS by the reputation it has in the Greater Grand Rapids area as forward educators. I am excited about the year because I have already felt welcomed by the community and can tell that this is a good place to be as an educator.”

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Dustin Morley  |  Junior High ELA
“I first heard about Jenison Public Schools while I attended Grand Valley State University ten years ago and heard nothing but good things about the district and community ever since. After moving from the Detroit area to West Michigan I was very excited when a long-term substitute position opened at Jenison Junior High. The building and district felt like home for me from the first interview for that position.  After being a long-term substitute for a year and a half, I couldn’t be happier to now be a full time teacher at Jenison Junior High School. I’m particularly looking forward to getting more involved with the school and community this year.”

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Rachel Nichols  |  ECC Special Education

“I was looking for a district that wanted to everything possible to benefit their students. I talked to some friends and they all were so pleased with Jenison and what they are doing.  So far it has been great everyone has been so friendly and welcoming it has been an amazing start to 2016/2017 school year and I am excited to continue!!!”
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Anna Siegel  |  Pinewood + Sandy Hill Special Education

“What drew me to JPS is the success of the district and the sense of community. I am in two different elementary buildings throughout the day this year, and so I am excited to interact with many different staff and students this year!”
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Kristen Dantonio  |  Pinewood, 5th Grade

“I was drawn to Jenison because I was told that it was a district that cared about people. It is a district that puts relationships first and I knew that I wanted to be part of that. I am most excited to get to know my students and coworkers at Pinewood. It has been a great year so far and I am excited to see how those relationships will grow.”

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Christina Salinas  |  Rosewood, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“The wonderful Jenison community and Spanish Immersion program drew me to JPS.  This year I am excited to see students continue to grow in their literacy skills in Spanish and English.  I am also excited to work with the supportive teachers and staff at Rosewood Elementary. I have learned so much from them already. Their dedication and passion for teaching is contagious!”

We’re so thankful for all of our teachers and all that they do for our students and families! Thank you to the new teachers for bringing your talents and passion to Jenison!

The Marching Band Goes Nordic!

miii0169If you’ve been to a Jenison football game at home you’re no stranger to the impressive talents of the marching band! This year is no exception as the band tackles the theme of ‘Valkyries’ who, according to Norse mythology, are female figures who fly over battles and decide who lives and dies. Those who are chosen to die are welcomed to the afterlife, or Valhalla.

miii0105The color guard will play the role of the Valkyries choosing their “victims” from the 153 members of the band. Director, Dave Zamborsky, develops, choreographs and arranges the performance from scratch. The first part of the show is set on a battlefield, the middle portion is when the soldiers are being slain and the first fallen soldiers being chosen and the show concludes with the final soldiers ascending into Valhalla.

But, of course, a production of this size can’t come together overnight. While you may have been sunning yourself at the beach this summer the Jenison marching band was busy training. They did a two day camp in June to learn marching basics and some show music. In July they spent their Monday and Tuesday evenings for three weeks learning music while the color guard worked toward a dance recital that was performed at the JCA. The first week in August they spend in pre-camp camp at Jenison [4 days, 8 hours a day] and then they travel to Hope College to spend another week training and bonding as a group. And finally, they spent 4 days in post-camp. Exhausted yet? Thankfully, the members of the band are happy to work hard and be part of the team. “The band gives a lot of students a community of belonging here at Jenison High School that they might not find elsewhere.”

miii9435The football schedule was a little unique this year with the first home game on August 25 – well before school began – but the marching band was there, debuting the first portion of their Valkyries performance. In fact, each home game, the band will reveal a little more of the performance as they continue to learn and develop the choreography and musical content.  “Part of what makes the fact that we’re a competitive band different [is that] we’re working on one show over the course of the whole season, really trying to enhance it and increase our production value throughout the season and, obviously, perfect it by the time we’re finishing our season.”

“We work on dance and body movements with the kids in the band because we’re expecting them to move in ways that are not traditional marching band; we’re expecting them to emote and put character into the show in ways that are more like theatre.”

The marching band has already begun it’s competition season with the Rockford Marching Band Invitational where they took home 1st place in their class in the categories of music, visual, color guard and they were named Grand Champion! On October 1 they are travelling to Toledo, OH for the Regional competition before moving on to Indianapolis for Nationals. But before they can conquer Nationals they will be at Detroit’s Ford Field on November 7 for state championships where they are looking to avenge their nail biting, second place loss [.05 points!] to band rival, Reeths-Puffer.

miii9582Marching band is about more than learning music; it’s a place for students to learn life skills.”I think the kids tend to form a very strong bond. As much as our focus is on music, it’s also on building a team and learning how to work together, be disciplined and mature. One of the things that make us different than groups that are playing a sport is that [the students] have eight and a half minutes of pretty complex musical and visual responsibility that all has to be memorized and if you zone out for a minute, we’re going to see it.”

miii0131Of course, none of the band activities would be possible without the support of the Jenison Band Boosters. Props used by the band and show flags used by the color guard are being built and sewn by parents. They chaperone camps and trips as well as organize and run the Jenison Invitational in mid-October which is the largest marching band competition in the state outside of state championships with 44 performances. If you’d like to find a way to support the Boosters’ efforts please visit their website here.

Be sure to check out the Valkyries performance at Homecoming – the last home game of the season – on Friday, October 7! Go Wildcats!

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Teachers Begin Year by Celebrating Success!

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year at Jenison Public Schools!
We hope you enjoyed our summer series on student writing and if you’re new to the blog, we hope you’ll subscribe and check in with us every Thursday to celebrate the great things happening in our schools!

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To kick off the year, all JPS teachers participated in three days of professional development centered around the yearlong theme of “Celebrating our Successes”. As parents can appreciate, teachers are so busy during the school year that they often miss out on learning from and celebrating with each other.  According to Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, “With the busy school schedule, meeting kids needs at every level, preparing lessons and meeting the many requirements from the State, we do not always take [or have] the time to slow down and celebrate the amazing happenings and successes at JPS!” Professional development throughout the year will provide opportunities for celebration in an effort to be “more mindful [and] purposeful about celebrating individual and team successes in our buildings”.

img_4255During the year, professional development will continue with Classroom Learning Labs which aim to provide a more consistent and collaborative curriculum. During this first training, elementary teachers attended literacy sessions led by our own experienced, talented and amazing staff!  “All elementary teachers were asked to select three of eighteen sessions to attend to learn or solidify what they know about reading, writing, math workshop, student assessment, literacy instruction, how students learn, and differentiation of instruction.”

Twenty eight JPS staff members across the district from Transitional Kindergarten through Junior High, led the sessions teachers attended.  “The sessions were powerful and dynamic with staff from different buildings and different grade levels sharing and learning from each other!  We ended our day with grade level team time to reflect on the learning and set instructional goals for the year to best impact our students.”

img_4249Additionally, teachers took time to create Literacy Belief Statements which were based on research about the best practices in literacy education and the statements will be posted in a visible location in each elementary building. “Each month we will focus on one of these belief statements and how it fits with literacy instruction.  Teachers are participating in a self-select book study centered around these statements where conversations and collaboration will take place every month.  Leading the discussion and learning is Janet Schultz, our new district Literacy Coach.  Janet has been teaching for fourteen years at Jenison Public Schools and will be supporting the instructional collaboration and literacy learning!”

Teachers are looking forward to seeing more of this type of professional development at Jenison and are excited to start the year: “It was noted by one staff member that “it was one of the most encouraging and motivating three days”!”

Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

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

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

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

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

Michigan Supreme Court Visits Jenison!

MIII9140Last week the Jenison Center for the Arts was the site of an oral hearing of the Michigan Supreme Court. 1300 Ottawa County high school students, nominated by their teachers, were present for the arguments presented by legal council for both parties. Although the state’s highest court will take a couple of weeks to make a ruling this was a very unique opportunity for the students and the community of Jenison to host this important part of the judicial process.

MIII8975The visit came to fruition after the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office applied through Court Community Connections, a public education program begun by the Court in 2007. The case before the Court was Peter Deacon vs Pandora, the online music streaming site, whom Mr Deacon believes violated his state’s privacy rights when they sold his information to Facebook.

Superintendent Tom TenBrink was very proud to host this amazing event. “To see the Supreme Court in action right here in Ottawa County is a tremendous opportunity.” After the oral arguments were presented audience members were invited to ask questions during a Q & A session with the Justices and attorney’s and representatives from each visiting school were also able to join the justices for an intimate luncheon prior to the hearing.

185 Jenison students were invited and Celia Webers, Jenison junior, says that while they learn the basics of the court system in class “this is really good to be able to apply it and be in what we’re learning. We learn the terms but we don’t know how it works.”

Senior Parmida Davarmahesh is considering a future in law and was excited to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. “It really exposes me to how the court works and what my job and future career, if I become a lawyer, will look like.”  And junior James Groelsma adds that in class they are able to study the more well-known cases but this gave them the opportunity to study a case that’s a little more abstract, albeit timely. “It’s cool be part of something that hasn’t been decided yet. It’s not a clear decision; it’s an argument.”

MIII8966Mr Abram Brosseit, Government and Social Studies teacher, sees this as a great opportunity to honor Jenison students who have shown an interest in political science. “We want to give them the chance to see what it looks like in a world outside the classroom. A lot of students have come to me over the last few months as they know more of the facts of the case, they’re understanding that there’s arguments to be made on both sides and I’ve seen students really engaging in critical thinking in a very applied way. This isn’t an abstract question on a test, this is happening in front of them.”

We are very proud to not only host the MI Supreme Court Justices at the JCA, but especially the students and teachers who gained invaluable insight into the judicial process that happens around them every day.

Thank you to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office and the MI Supreme Court for involving our students in your work!

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