Reading Radio Drama

A mission of Jenison Public Schools is to encourage and enable our students to gain a lifelong love of reading. The month of March has been designated National Reading Month and it’s something all of our Wildcats love to celebrate. This national movement is also meant to motivate family and community members of all ages to read every day as reading regularly has been linked to development of positive mental health throughout our lives. No matter your age, we believe that readers are leaders!

March is particularly fun for reading as students spend time finding new and interesting things to read, through goal setting and special projects. Sadly, with the current school year changing due to the COVID-19 closure, students didn’t get to complete many of their reading programs with their classes.

As National Reading Month kicked off this year, Jenison International Academy students had just put the finishing touches on a really neat project. JIA English and Language Arts instructor, Cameron Kuiper, tasked the 9th grade students with a new project to create Reading Radio Dramas. Radio drama is a dramatized, acoustic performance with dialogue, music and sound effects to relay a story. The objective of their work was to connect with younger classmates and share exciting literary moments to get them potentially hooked on a new book. Working individually or in a group, students chose tell a story using one of several classic Roald Dahl books.

Many of the 9th grade students are familiar with technology and this is a great opportunity for them to apply it further while learning additional life skills such as working in a virtual group. Another unique component of this English assignment is working with awareness of digital creative copyright claims and finding available resources in the public domain. The Radio Drama production process required work on the script, sound effects, recording and editing. Some students even ‘managed a cast’ while they recruited family members and friends to add more diverse character voices. 

While originally intended for the younger JIA students, I’m excited to share this unique project more broadly for you all to enjoy! Each Radio Drama provides a glimpse into an enchanting Roald Dahl book for a few minutes. Maybe it will be enough to get you interested in picking up a copy and reading more!

Gather your family around the ‘radio’ (or other device) and enjoy the performances of the JIA Students in JIA RADIO DRAMAS. Maybe you’ll get hooked on a new book too!

The platform used for the Reading Radio Dramas is called Check it out, maybe you and your family would like to learn about producing a story or podcast!

American Teenage experience – 6,563 miles from home

Just as the school year was getting underway for our community, we greeted a new group of friends for a brief exchange student program. While Jenison Public Schools has a rich and diverse history of welcoming international students over the past 30 years to Jenison High School, this short term experience is fairly new and slightly different.

In the 4th year of our partnership with the Rotman Education Technology Group, it was an absolute privilege to welcome 23 students from Beijing#12 school. These students are in their Junior year and already part of an international program, giving them some amazing global study abroad experiences. They arrived on September 27 and met the families with whom they would live. In true Jenison fashion, these amazing, hospitable folks embraced them with open arms. We cannot thank these families enough for opening their homes and caring for these students so deeply!

Between choosing and attending classes, field trip events and Homecoming celebrations, the Beijing students had a packed (but fun) schedule. Attending American high school gave them a taste of American teenage culture and they learned alot about the cultural differences between America and China. The Beijing students also felt that they gained confidence in speaking English with their new American friends, which they think will be beneficial in continuing their studies in China. A huge thank you to our Jenison students who took the time to get to know their global peers and help them along during their days.


Beijing #12 students at the start of a very busy two weeks. Many use this short term trip to decide if they’d like to return to the states for a long term exchange program.


Beijing students visiting downtown Grand Rapids for ArtPrize. Another favorite outing was shopping at the local mall for souvenirs to bring home.


The enjoyed participating in Spirit Week leading up to Homecoming. Here they are, all dressed up and very excited to experience the 2018 Jenison Homecoming dance.

There’s no doubt that the students from Beijing benefit greatly from this program; but what about the students that call Jenison “home”?


Emily Kaminski and a Beijing student at the closing ceremony.

Emily Kaminski, International Coordinator for this program through our Jenison International Academy shares, “Our exchange programs provide an opportunity for the Jenison community to experience and learn about a different culture, both in and out of the classroom. We believe it breaks down assumptions and preconceived notions we may have about a specific culture, and helps us see our similarities as well. At the core we are all people – and we see Jenison students being stretched and enlightened.”

“Concluding the visit, the students celebrate with their host families with a Closing Ceremony. I (Emily) saw families tearing up knowing their new family member was departing the next day. After just 2 weeks I heard the term ‘love’, and witnessed it many times between students and their host families! These interactions help me remember why we put all the work in for these exchanges…  Bringing people together, and creating meaningful, heartfelt relationships, that would not otherwise exist!”

There is much to gain and so many life lessons to be learned from each other through programs like these. We are eager to broaden horizons and build meaningful and lasting relationships with the students we are privileged to serve – domestic and abroad. As Emily said, when we take the time to see each other as fellow people, it simply puts us in a position to make the world a better place, that’s a win-win and worth every effort.

To see many more photos and videos of the Beijing #12 visit, check out the Rotman Education facebook page.

As the Jenison student exchange programs continue to grow, the need for Host Families (short and long term) grows as well.  If you’re interested in learning more or becoming a Host Family for one of these brave international students, please contact Jessie Clay at or (616) 228-4495.

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China Comes to Jenison for Winter Camp!

MIII9973On Saturday, February 27 Jenison and the Jenison International Academy welcomed 33 high school students from China for a three week “winter camp”!

Beijing No 12 is a partner school of the JIA and a few years ago they started an international program for their high school students whose intent it is to eventually study in the United States for college. Within the program these students learn almost exclusively in English and all of the current students agreed to spend three weeks in the US to expand their education. They are joined by their Asst Principal Mr. Jin, Head Principal Mr Li as well as a math teacher.

JIA Executive Director, Rebekah Redmer hopes during their time here “…that the students can participate and share in the classrooms that they’re in and be able to infuse themselves into the community.”

MIII9961In order to be as immersed as possible all of the Chinese students will be staying with gracious Jenison host families. For many of the host families, their Chinese student is the same age as their Jenison student, making for a special opportunity for peer-to-peer connections. “The Jenison students are excited to not only share with them our culture and their home but they’re also really excited to learn from them too.”

The Chinese students are kept very busy during their stay! The cohort is split into two groups for their school day to make it more manageable for teachers.  Half of the group will be in JPS classes for the first half of the day and the second half will be meeting with JIA teachers doing their English course and after lunch they flip flop. Every day from 3 – 4 pm they are visited by guest speakers from the community, students on various athletic teams and clubs, and teachers and professors from GVSU. All of these visiting speakers give the students an opportunity to connect with and learn from various aspects of American culture. Additionally, from 4 – 5 they participate in SAT prep.

The success of the first Chinese Winter Camp has been a team effort by JPS administrators, teachers and our transportation team which has been “phenomenal” running a special route home at 5:00 for all of our students. “I think everybody is excited to have the opportunity to share because that’s what we do really well in Jenison but then also learn from [the Chinese students]. If the Jenison community wasn’t as open and as heartfelt as they are there is no way we would be able to do this. ”

MIII9929In the Chinese educational system students aren’t given many options when it comes to their classes and learning paths. However, this program allows the visiting students to choose Jenison classes that would be new to them such as “America at War” and “World Religions”. They are also giving glimpses into their personalities by perhaps choosing all social studies classes or all art or science. “They’re selecting classes that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn.” The adults will also have unique learning opportunities. Assistant Principal Jin will spend time with JPS Asst Principal Joe DeVries and both he and the visiting math teacher will attend the Macul Technology Conference with JPS teachers at the Amway Grand Plaza.

MIII9909Amidst all the learning, snow days and 71 degree weather, the students are also able to participate in some fun, West Michigan activities such a Jenison vs Grandville home basketball game, a visit to Rivertown mall and lunch in the food court, dinner downtown and a Griffins game as well as seeing the Jenison High School musical, Shrek.

Mrs Redmer says that this type of experience is important for our students to give them the opportunity to make connections with same-age peers and “open up their perspective a little and appreciate other people for who they are.  It does tear down stereotypes and open up opportunities to get to know people.” As a host of a Chinese student over the past school year, Becky says that as a mom, she has been able to see the experience of hosting grow her children and learn that “people are people, we’re all human and we’re all equal and we all have different talents and abilities, to learn to appreciate everyone for who they are and I’ve really enjoyed watching that in my own family.”

Thank you to everyone involved in making this a safe, challenging, educational and fun experience for our guests! We couldn’t do it without all of you and it’s been a great way for the students of Beijing No 12 to get to know the US!




What’s New at JIA?

JIA Edits-1013Whether you’re new to JPS or just always been curious about JIA, we are excited to bring you some of their highlights for Fall 2015!  The Jenison International Academy is a fully accredited online school providing to elementary, middle & high school students throughout West Michigan and around the world.  All courses have a state certified, highly qualified teacher instructing and issuing credit.

As the school year is kicking off, JIA Principal, Kristin Graham, is proud to share some of their news:

•   Jenison Public Schools, with the approval of the Michigan Department of Education, operates a local district seat time waiver program operated through     Jenison International Academy. This gives us the opportunity to provide a unique and individualized online learning program for our community and surrounding counties. In past years, JIA has served students in grades 6 – 12, but this past summer the State of Michigan approved JIA to offer an elementary program as well.  For the 2015-16 school year, JIA will serve grades 1 – 12, adding kindergarten programming in the following year.  Benefits of our online program include participation in Jenison athletics, fine arts programs and clubs.

•  JIA strives to produce students that are prepared for future college and career experiences.  We are pleased to announce that all core HS courses were recently approved by the NCAA, indicating that our courses will prepare college-bound student athletes for the rigor that they will face in college. All courses meet NCAA eligibility requirements to allow Division 1 and 2 athletes to participate in our online courses.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 11.59.29 PM•  By promoting local development of courses with local teachers accessible for students, JIA continues to work to enhance the quality of online courses for our students. To do this JIA staff continues to develop original curriculum using the Blackboard Learning Management System.  JIA now has all core curriculum and the majority of elective courses hosted on our personal Blackboard platform for grades 8 – 12. ( This allows teachers to modify and personalize curriculum, while providing great and enhanced access for students.

Also, during the Fox 17 Football Blitz show that previews High School football, JIA aired its own commercial!  Be sure to check it out here!

Being a student at JIA does not mean you are learning alone!  “Students are welcome to take courses on campus and secondary students can use our drop-in lab.  The only mandatory on-campus attendance is for required Michigan State assessments.  Monthly activities are planned and organized through JIA such as enrichment activities and field trips.  Additionally, all secondary students have weekly live interaction within their virtual classrooms.  Finally, students may participate in school clubs, groups, music & performing arts, and school sponsored events.  This year JIA is also offering MHSAA athletics to all participants that meet the weekly grade requirement.”

Thank you to the team at JIA for working to provide a unique and competitive learning environment for our students in Jenison and beyond!

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Jenison Secures Accreditation from Scottish Qualifications Authority

Our Jenison High School students are already offered challenging curriculum with talented teachers, state of art facilities, and rigorous athletic opportunities. And now, they may also select the option of pursuing a course of classes approved by the Scottish Qualifications Authority [SQA], with the choice of studying abroad after graduation.

The SQA is a globally respected organization that sets forth various requirements for accreditation, similar to the Advanced Placement system that operates nationwide.  The existing business courses at Jenison High School already boast articulated credit with area colleges and universities; the SQA endorsement is simply one more layer of credit opportunity for students taking business courses, now having an international selection.

Led by Rebekah Redmer, Executive Director of the Jenison International Academy and Dr Brenda Clark, Career Technical Education Director, the district application process was completed over the span of many months.

We are very proud to share that Jenison is now the 1st operating center approved by the SQA in the United States and is the first High School in the world!

“The fact that Jenison High School is the 1st center approved by the Scottish Qualification authority in the United States and is the first High School in the world is a rare distinction and one of which we are extremely proud. Commendations to Becky Redmer, JIA Executive Director, for all of the work that she put forth to work through the processes of meeting the high demands for educational excellence that is required by SQA.” — Tom TenBrink

IMG_1773For the first year of operation, Jenison students interested in pursuing business as a course of study, may begin the SQA added certificate by taking one or two courses in business their freshman or sophomore year. During the years that follow, students could take a succession of elective business courses that range from Marketing, to senior level math Accounting.

When they complete the seven required high school courses, of which also count toward Jenison graduation requirements, they will earn a Higher National Certificate (HNC) from the SQA.  The HNC is the equivalency of the first year of college in Scotland.  At graduation, these students will receive their formal certificate from Scotland, along with a Scottish crest on their gown.  As a next step, students may elect to go directly into year-two at any of the SQA international centers that have been approved throughout in the world, or enroll at a US college or university.  All of the centers offer the exact same qualifications.  In Scotland specifically, the cost of higher education is very affordable as students and parents have already saved on the first year.

Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, Brenda Clark, and Rebekah Redmer made the journey across the Atlantic for a brief trip this summer and were able to meet SQA leaders and visit a Scottish College and University: Glasgow Clyde College located in the city center of Glasgow, and Perth College located in the highlands.


“When we met with the business instructional staff and leadership of both Perth College and Glasgow Clyde, those instructors were so excited for their students to be able to have more global exposure as well.  They wanted to learn about DECA and all of the organizations that work with our business students, as well as how we deliver this type of content and systems we use.  At the same time, they want to share everything.  It was just a great collaborative opportunity.  The more you partner, the stronger your instructional staff becomes and it’s so much better for our kids.” — Rebekah Redmer

Ten Jenison High School students participated in an Induction on September 15 and next semester there is an anticipated 10 additional students joining the cohort.  They will work under the guidance of Dr Clark, who acts as the Internal Verifier with teachers, assessments and mentoring, and Rebekah Redmer who will act as a liaison between Jenison and Scotland.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for students to gain globalized educational exposure.  The students are so exited to learn and connect with others. [It] is just one more amazing program Jenison is [continually] creating, providing new opportunities for our kids” — Rebekah Redmer

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Becky Redmer [2nd from left], Tom TenBrink [3rd from left] and Brenda Clark [far right] with SQA staff in Scotland this summer.




International Students Choose Jenison


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When family and friends are thousands of miles and oceans away it seems difficult to imagine that a new, albeit temporary, home can be made but students from China, South Korea, Finland and Spain have done just that this past school year in our community.

These students stay with Jenison Host Families and integrate into the life of Jenison High School.  With open arms, amazing local families embrace these students, sharing with them the love and hospitality that is customary within our Jenison community.  Once settled into home-life, a meeting takes place with one of the high school guidance counselors, Mr. Terry Dykstra.  Based upon interests and academic goals, Mr. Dykstra guides students in building their daily course schedule.  Prior to the first day of school, all are invited to attend an orientation of the building, learning how to navigate as well as meet other students.

As the school year gets underway, international students experience the support each teacher extends to them individually.  From academic assistance in a specific class, to the thoughtful care of asking another student to walk them to their next class, Jenison teachers are always putting students first.  Additionally, the appreciation and awareness of other cultures in each classroom allows for a unique experience with international and Jenison students alike.

One student that chose to attend Jenison High School this year is Mary Wang who has been studying at Longcheng High School for 2 years. “It is my honor to be the first foreign exchange student from Longcheng, to study at Jenison High School. I decided to come to the USA because I planned to study abroad for my higher education as well. Finally, I made my decision to study in Great Britain and I have already received offers from several schools. I am interested in politics, history, and debate so my major will be International Relations & Politics.”


International students pictured with Terry Dykstra, Becky Redmer, Emily Kaminski + Tom TenBrink. Mary Wang is seated in front of Mr. TenBrink.


Some International students have the option to attend Jenison High School by applying independently with an agency, while others have the ability to come here by way of a direct partnership.  As more international awareness of Jenison takes place, there has been a desire to partner with schools overseas, specifically in China.  Over the past three years, these partnerships have matured and produced far reaching options for students.

Emily Kaminiski, JIA International Coordinator of Student Services, supports many international students from a multitude of pathways that lead them to Jenison.  “From the two current partnerships, we project our international student population to continue to grow next year.  Jenison is always seeking new opportunities and possibilities. Currently there are initiatives with Scotland and additional schools in China, to allow study abroad opportunities for our JHS students, and to increase our international student population.”

And while it isn’t always easy, sophomore student Mateo Blanco from Spain will tell you, “You have to grow, nobody can tell you, you have to live it to really understand it.”  South Korean sophomore, Hayeong Choi says that she misses her family and the food of her home country but knows that she has matured a lot during her time here.

“These students are so courageous!  At such a young age they leave their families and all that is familiar, to immerse themselves into another culture, because they know it is good for their long term benefit!  It is not the easy decision to make!  It’s incredible to watch them arrive very timid, and over time become a natural fit with their home stay families.”
– Ms. Emily Kaminski

As the program continues to grow the need for Host Families grows as well.  If you’re interested in becoming a Host Family for one of these brave international students please contact Ms. Kaminski at the JIA:  616.457.3400, x3349

We’re so glad these students have made Jenison their home this year and we hope they will take a little bit of us with them around the world!

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Hayeong Choi with her host family.

Jenison International Academy Partners with GRCC to offer Biology Labs

This past February the Jenison International Academy [JIA] had the opportunity to visit Grand Rapids Community College and integrate online learning with some hands-on experience.
The Jenison International Academy currently serves eight counties in the West Michigan area providing full-time online education for students in grades 6-12 and is in its fourth year of operation. JIA continues to expand its programming, acting as a curriculum provider for local districts in West Michigan.
Kristin Graham, JIA Principal shared the details of their February 7th lab and the students experience at GRCC:  In an effort to provide hands on opportunities for students who participate in virtual courses, JIA has partnered with the Biology faculty at Grand Rapids Community College to provide lab opportunities for our students.  Ninth grade Biology students met on the campus of GRCC to complete a DNA fingerprinting lab. Biology faculty and current GRCC students hosted the lab in order to teach students the basics of restriction enzymes and how they are used to cut DNA samples in order to determine DNA sequences. This process, called DNA Fingerprinting is often used in the judicial system.  Students were provided with a simulation in which they performed a gel electrophoresis to see which of the suspects was most likely to have committed the crime based on DNA evidence collected at the crime scene.

Following the completion of the crime simulation, students were challenged to isolate a DNA strand from their own saliva. A buffer solution was used to extract a visible mass of DNA cells and students used toothpicks to pull a thin strand of DNA from their test tubes.

In the future, JIA students will visit GRCC science labs once per semester in our Biology courses to complete activities relating to their online coursework.
Another exciting milestone for the Jenison International Academy is their new home!  The first week in April, the JIA officially transitioned into their new facility at 7506 Church Ct., the building formerly used as the temporary offices for the Administrative offices during the construction of the Jenison Center for the Arts building. The new facility houses our administrative and instructional staff offices as well as a teaching lab/conference room and learning lounge for students to utilize throughout the day.

New home of the JIA!

New home of the JIA!

The Jenison International Academy is an unique and important element of the fabric of Jenison Public Schools and we’re proud to watch it grow and continue to impact our community and beyond!

Jenison Welcomes Chinese Teacher Team to Michigan

Last week, a team of five Chinese teachers were welcomed in grand, white Michigan winter style, to the halls and classrooms of Sandy Hill and Bauerwood Elementary Schools. For eight days, these teachers were invited to participate fully in the learning opportunities that Jenison Public School students enjoy each day they walk through our doors.

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In cooperation with JIA Director Rebekah Redmer, Bauerwood Principal Crystal Morse, and a team of others, this group of eager professionals observed and taught Jenison students in preparation for a possible partnership between their Beijing school and ours.

“We’re exposing our students to new cultures, giving them a greater global perspective and increasing their understanding of diversity. The kids have been so conscientious while our guests have been here. We’ve seen a greater amount of citizenship because they know that they’re not just representing JPS, but the United States of America! They’re demonstrating a lot of respect for our Chinese friends…it’s been wonderful to see,” said Mrs. Redmer.

Mrs. Redmer first met these Chinese teachers last June when she, Superintendent TenBrink, and a handful of others first traveled overseas. This initial visit was followed by a second trip later in the summer which gave a team of JPS teachers the opportunity to lesson plan, teach, and interact with Chinese students in their environment.

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Bauerwood kids learning taekwondo in gym.

Jenison Public Schools, Chinese teachers, JIA

Mrs. Morse recalls a very different learning atmosphere in the Chinese schools than what our children experience:

“In China the teachers do not collaborate or work in partnerships, so for them, seeing how we “do school” is very different. They’re learning new systems and methodologies by watching our teachers prepare lessons and differentiate their instruction. 

Chinese teachers in each grade level are instructed (by the government) to teach from the same page on the same day. So for example, if you teach 4th grade, all the 4th grade teachers must be on page 89 together, regardless of the needs of their classes. They typically don’t know the names of their students, either, and instead just point to individuals who want to answer a question. There is a high suicide rate because of the pressure put on children to perform and succeed.”

Jenison Public Schools, Chinese teachers, JIAMrs. Jun (pictured right) is a teacher determined to change the atmosphere of Chinese schools. Her sweet demeanor and kind smile are hints at the heart she has for children. During the time she spent with JPS host families in Michigan, she and the others enjoyed home cooking, a trip to the symphony, ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle, and more.

“I’ve loved the atmosphere here. People here are very kind and helpful. It is very easy-going. In China it is very serious. We have many more examinations. Children here are happier. They learn abilities and skills — not just bits of information,” Mrs. Jun reflected.

Because many Chinese parents are noticing the same, there is currently a big push to internationalize schools. That’s where JIA comes in: we believe that our schools possess the level of excellence demanded by the Chinese, and in today’s world of information technology, we have a way to bring our expertise to their doorsteps.

Just as importantly, we also believe that the way we seek to capture kids’ hearts each day can revolutionize the classroom experience of Chinese students who are waiting to be transformed by the efforts of personalized education.

We’re excited to see what the future holds!

Jenison International Academy: School Without Boundaries

It used to be that occupying a seat in a traditional classroom was the only way to emerge from school with a quality education.

It used to be that learning was centered around a blackboard and a pile of books.

Learning still happens that way. Books and blackboards still open minds and chart pathways into new futures. But for some, learning works better if it can happen another way.

It was for those students that Jenison International Academy was created.

Jenison International Academy (JIA) is an online school that offers a personalized education program to students who are looking for an at-home learning experience with their parent acting as a learning coach. JIA students might include those who have struggled in a traditional classroom or those whose academic gifts have outpaced their classmates. Whatever the reason for enrolling in JIA, students find the opportunity to spread their wings in a new way, in a new place: at home!

JIA students have the extra benefit of having access to guidance counselors, school-to-career pathway support, ACT preparation, connection with a mentor teacher, and earning a Jenison Public Schools diploma to name a few. Students also have the opportunity to participate in Jenison’s outstanding fine arts programs.

Students looking for an alternative educational experience may also be encouraged to know that Jenison International Academy plans monthly outings to allow students to build community and enrich the overall learning experience. This year JIA has enjoyed volunteering at Mel Trotter, visiting a local radio station, ice skating at Christmas, tailgating at JHS football games, and visiting ArtPrize in the fall. Activities and updates are shared using Facebook and Twitter.

JIA director, Mrs. Rebekah Redmer, is proud of the tremendous academic achievement of the academy, and feels their success is the outgrowth of the three years of planning and research done by the district before launching.

“[Our achievements are]…directly attributed to the support of the parent(s) in the home (i.e., the learning coach).  We enter into an educational partnership with each family, working together to ensure academic goals are achieved.  JIA is just one of many outstanding programs that JPS has put in place for our students.”

If you or someone you know is interested in a different kind of educational experience, Jenison International Academy would welcome a conversation. Call Colleen at 616.457.8477 or check out their website at

School is changing and Jenison is changing with it. If you have a student ready for change, we hope you’ll consider Jenison International Academy.