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
High School Reading Specialist, English and Social Studies Teacher
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.
High School Physical Education and Health Teacher
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.
Junior High Choir Director
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.
“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!
Music Teacher for Sandy Hill and Rosewood Elementary Schools
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.
Bursley 3rd grade teacher
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!
Bauerwood 3rd grade teacher
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.
Sandra Strobel Johnson
High School Social Studies Teacher
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.