Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JJHS]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

English & Language Arts teacher, Jeanna Watson

I choose Jenison because of the positive environment and the amazing reputation the school has created for itself. I truly love my job! The staff, students, and administration are amazing people to be around every day. I think Jenison is a different school district because it doesn’t only feel like a school, it feels like a family. The staff, students, administration, and community truly care for one another and work together to make Jenison a welcoming, fun-filled learning environment. My building exemplifies this by always remembering we are here for the kids first. We are dedicated to supporting our students in anyway possible. Also, we know how to have fun. Jenison Junior High is a high-energy place where every day is a new adventure.

I look forward to summer because I love to travel and visit friends and family. It’s a great season to spend time with family and re-energize for the new school year. I am also looking forward to chaperoning the East Coast trip with Jenison Junior High.

I am looking forward to next year because it will be my second year teaching at Jenison. I can’t believe my first year is already here and gone. I’m also excited to build new relationships with upcoming students and get to know my current students even better.

If I wasn’t a teacher, I would want to be a geologist so I could travel the world and see amazing landmarks. I also think it would be fun to own a bookshop with a cafe because then I could be around my two favorite things: books and coffee.

Something my students would love to know about me is I once went skydiving to try to conquer my fear of heights. I’m still afraid of heights.”

Thank you, Ms Watson, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Ms Watson was chosen for this story by Junior High School Vice Principal, Heather Breen

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JJHS]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

7th Grade Social Studies teacher, Joe Roper

“I choose Jenison because it is a student-focused school district and a supportive community. I also really appreciate Jenison’s focus on fine arts as well as athletics.

I think Jenison is a different school district because it provides all of the opportunities of larger school districts but is still small enough that students have opportunities to take part in sports, clubs, theater, and musical performances.

I also value the combination of rigorous academics with a fun and inviting learning environment. My building exemplifies this by placing focus on the well-being of students and positive relationships alongside high academic expectations.”

As you read this, Mr Roper is enjoying a productive summer! “I look forward to summer because I love to write and am able to spend lots of time writing [and reading] during the summer. I also love spending time with my family and getting outside.”

And not unlike some of our other teachers, Mr Roper would be serving the community in a different way if he wasn’t teaching. “If I wasn’t a teacher I would probably be a police officer because I have always wanted to serve the public and help people.”  [Did you know that Mr Roper is already a published author?! Check out his books here for your summer reading!]

“Something my students would love to know about me is that I love Harry Potter, coffee, and dark chocolate and secretly, Sour Patch Kids.” [It’s not a secret anymore, Mr Roper!]

Thank you, Mr Roper, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Mr Roper was chosen for this story by Junior High School Vice Principal, Heather Breen

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JJHS]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

Math teacher, Jason Gort:

“I choose Jenison because I believe we have a great community of teachers, administrators, students, and community members!  We also have great programs in place for the fine arts, athletics, and many extracurricular activities.

I think Jenison is a different school district because we do a great job promoting and presenting all the efforts of our students within our hallways, gymnasiums, and our Fine Arts Center.  Jenison is a large school district that offers an exceptional education, along with a rigorous courses to ensure our students are ready for the next step.  

My building exemplifies this by being a tight knit community of educators that support all students that walk through our hallways!”

Of course, like all of us, Mr Gort is enjoying the break from school. “I look forward to summer because I love to…go camping, visit the beach, spend time working on house projects, hanging out with my kids, and doing electrical work!”

He is also looking forward to starting his 15th year of teaching and getting to know the new 7th graders! But, if he wasn’t teaching, he’d be your “go to guy” because of his love of the outdoors and working with power tools and trucks.  “If I wasn’t a teacher I would probably be… in the construction field, a walking mailman, or a garbage man!”

When asked what his students would be surprised to learn about him, shared some truly shocking information! “Something my students would love to know about me is that I have been shocked by electricity over 100 times in my lifetime!”

Thank you, Mr Gort, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Mr Gort was chosen for this story by Junior High School Vice Principal, Heather Breen

 

Junior High Honors Night!

Last week students from the Junior High were honored for their academic achievements! Their teachers, administrators, and parents stood by proudly as students accepted their awards.

Some awards are given based on the student meeting particular academic benchmarks, but others, like the Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award, is given to students who are nominated by their teachers for making strides in areas that includes areas outside of academics such as marked improvement in behavior. And while some awards mark one-time victories, the Exemplary Achievement Award has a two year requirement period.  In order to be chosen for this prestigious award students volunteer through community service, be on the honor roll every marking period and be involved in a club or team.  The student athletes award winners are required to participate in four seasons of a sport, maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, have zero Level Two disciplinary issues and have all ones and twos work and class conduct marks on their report cards. Phew! That’s a lot of hard work!

Honors were given to students for achievement in the following areas:

  • M-STEP Award
  • Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award
  • Perfect Attendance
  • Honor Roll
  • Presidential Academic Awards
  • Science Olympiad Team
  • Student Council
  • Reading Award
  • Spelling Bee Room Finalists
  • Above and Beyond [awards for Art, Life Skills, Tech, Music + Student Athletics]

All of the students awarded at Honors Night should be excited about their accomplishments, not only during their junior high years, but for the years that prepared them as well. Throughout their elementary and junior high years they have displayed strong character, strength, and perseverance. They’ve demonstrated time management skills and the ability to problem solve. And they’ve made the decision over and over again to never give up. All of them have worked hard, possibly working through a subject or project that wasn’t their strong suit to succeed and be recognized by the teachers that care about them so deeply.

Thank you to our creative teachers who continuously go above and beyond to make sure our Jenison students are learning in a way that works for them but is also challenging. These stellar students may not be done with their educational journeys, but they have certainly set the bar high for themselves that those around them.

We’re proud of you, Junior High Honorees! These are the life skills that will take you into high school and beyond showing the world the value of a JPS education!

 

 

Star Students: Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock, + Christine Duch

Christine Duch, Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock

Jenison Junior High Vice Principal couldn’t select just one star student this year. There were too many to choose from so she skirted the “rules” and nominated three: Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock, and Christine Duch.

They are all eighth graders this year and are involved in so many activities it’s hard to image they also go to class, but of course they do!

All three of these hard-working ladies are involved in student congress, be nice, choir, they give the morning announcements every day, and all served as ambassadors for the Chinese Winter Exchange Program. Additionally, Hannah pays volleyball and participates in 4H. Christine plays basketball, softball, and is planning on joining 4H.  Taya also plays softball and basketball, plays the tuba in the band, participates in 4H, and is in theatre [most recently she played Skipper the Penguin in Madagascar!].

While they each have different connections to each other outside of school [Taya & Hannah attend the same church, Taya & Christine played basketball together], the three of them became friends last year in seventh grade.

Hannah admits to being “very, very unsure” about going into Junior High two years ago. But, with encouragement from her parents and teachers, and a helpful orientation process she felt more comfortable. Christine adds that junior high “isn’t as bad as you think it will be. You get to choose your electives which gives you more responsibility.” All three are excited about next year and heading across to the High School. “There’s more classes you can take like business and working in The Green Bean which sounds really fun”, says Taya. Christine is looking forward to the opportunities at the high school, and being prepared for college.  Taya hopes her future after high school includes a degree in Agriculture from MSU so she can own her own farm one day. She would also like to exercise her love of being social by working as a receptionist, she says, giving a nod to the amazing people who manage the Junior High office. Hannah sees a future as an athletic trainer and Christine hopes to be a teacher or coach. “I like kids and I feel like I have the personality to be a teacher who can handle the kids who need extra help.”

Mrs Breen nominated the girls because of their leadership qualities but how do the girls perceive leadership? Christine says that a leader is someone who “takes someone else under their wing and takes the lead when no one else wants to.” Taya adds that being a leader means you “be yourself and stand up for others.” Echoing that idea, Hannah says that she sees leadership as “doing what is right and standing up for what is right.” These ideas are clearly informed by their participation in the anti-bullying program, be nice. Hannah says that being part of be nice means that she seeks out someone who might be alone [especially at lunch] and invite them to join her, and Taya says that be nice is about kids helping others.

They all know their teachers have worked hard to prepare them for high school and beyond. Taya would like to acknowledge that Mr McCarty is an amazing teacher. He teaches social studies and she admits this is not her “strong suit” but Mr McCarty makes it fun and interesting. Hannah would like Mr Ohman to know that he makes math easier and clear, even though she “absolutely dislikes math”. Christine adds that Ms Gerber also makes math fun even though it’s the last hour of the day!

During their time with the Chinese Winter Exchange Program, all three girls helped individual students visiting from China for two weeks. They were together during the entire school day, introducing them to their friends and trying to get to know them. They were able to learn about the differences in Chinese and American schools, the impact of China’s One Child Law, and what it’s like to live with heavy pollution in China’s major cities. They all learned about Chinese culture and different ways to communicate when there was no common language.

It’s clear that these students are leading the way as they head into their freshman year! They are looking toward their futures, learning to value differences in others, and working hard to take advantage of all JPS has to offer.

Congratulations Taya, Christine, and Hannah! You are definitely all superstars with bright futures! Your hard work and commitment to learning all you can is inspiring! We’re proud to call you Wildcats!

Bee I-M-P-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!

Champion Emily Price and Runner-Up Owen Ballor

Last week, 33 Jenison Junior High students participated in the school wide spelling bee!

Students who took to the stage at the Jenison Center for the Arts, were the winners of their in-class spelling bees in each of the Language Arts classes. Teacher, Deb VanDuinen says, “We encourage all our students to participate and we try to keep it a fun, non-threatening atmosphere. We recognize that students do feel some anxiety, so we talk about that and the fact that it’s a “national competition” and we’re proud of them for being a part of it.”

But the anxiety and spelling does stop in Jenison! “The winner and the runner-up are invited to the next competition at the regional level in February. There are other levels—Greater Grand Rapids and State, with the national competition that most people are familiar with in Washington DC at the end of the year.”

Words are chosen by the Scripps National Spelling Bee organization and students prepare by participating in word studies and vocabulary lessons in class. They also have access to study websites and printed lists to study on their own.

Standing in front of your peers and teachers can be nerve-wracking and elimination is inevitable for most. However, Ms VanDuinen sees the support and encouragement offered by Jenison students as an important factor for participation. “Students generally take elimination quite well—I’d say they are resilient and encourage each other.  In fact, if you walk the halls on the day of the spelling bee, whether it’s the classroom level or school wide competition, you will overhear students talking about the words and sometime laughing together at their mistakes. We do take the competition seriously, but everyone knows that spelling—especially in the English language, can be challenging! We work hard to make sure all students feel encouraged and comfortable, even when they make mistakes.”

In a modern world where we all rely on the benefits of spellcheck, Ms VanDuinen knows that valuing the spelling bee continues to be an essential aspect to education. “[The spelling bee] allows an opportunity for some students to shine when they might not otherwise get a chance, it demonstrates the fact that we value academics as much as any other competition and it celebrates language.” The longstanding tradition of the Scripps Spelling Bee is also an important part of this event; “something that can easily get lost in the technology of today’s society.”

Congratulations to all of our participants and especially Champion Emily Price and Runner-Up Owen Ballor! We think you are F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C!

PS If you think you have what it takes to compete on the national level, you can take the test here! Good luck!

Junior High Theatre Gets Wild in Madagascar!

What happens when a lion, a zebra, a giraffe, a hippo, and a handful of penguins dance their way onto the Jenison stage this weekend? Adventure, of course! [With a side of silliness.]

Based on the animated motion picture, Madagascar – A Musical Adventure JR. follows all your favorite animal friends as they escape from their home in New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves on an unexpected journey to Madagascar.

Muscial Director, Holly Florian says she is excited to bring this family-friendly story to Jenison audiences. When she was looking for this year’s musical, she was looking for a story that would incorporate a large cast and feature less separation between the leads and the ensemble. “It tells the students and audiences that everyone is important.”

And while the story is filled with music and fun, Ms Florian says the real story is the fact that the entire show is student-led. The stage managers are junior high students with high school students serving as coaches [a high school freshman “calls” the show with junior high students as her assistants]. The lighting crew and sound board are run by students with a faculty adviser present as a back up, but the students are responsible for what you see happening during the show. The set design and building is also done by students and Ms Florian says they usually have the best ideas for solving tricky problems with set design.

Last night parents of cast and crew members were invited to dress rehearsal and Ms Florian lets them know that, if they return for a show over the weekend, they won’t believe the amount of changes they’ll see between the different performances. Students are always looking for ways to improve, she says. “Students see the journey they’ve been on, how far they’ve come, and they see how they make each other better over time.”

Ms Florian says that she is intentional about giving students more opportunities to take ownership of the production.  In one instance, students were split up into small groups and one student was given responsibility to coach the others based on the directors ideas and critiques. They all came back having done exactly what she asked and was looking for. “They are capable, why not give them these opportunities? An important part of JPS Theatre is that kids are given the chance to take on leadership roles.”

And just like their counterparts in the High School, junior high thespians report that being part of the theatre community is a safe place to find belonging, make mistakes, learn together, and encourage one another. “Students always feel uncomfortable in the beginning so we only do team building exercises the first week. It creates an atmosphere of support, students feel safe, and relationships are built.”

We hope you will take time this weekend to witness their hard work on stage! If you’d like to see the show, you can get your tickets here!

Thank you, Ms Florian, for your dedication and leadership! Our students are stronger and more confident because of your belief in them and their abilities! Thank you, Jr High Musical cast and crew! We are inspired and encouraged by your willingness to be challenged and, because of that, shine on stage! Break a leg!

Celebrating New Teachers in the New Year!

This September, JPS welcomed 36 new teachers to our team, district-wide! And while it’s hard to imagine that the year is nearly half over already, these teachers have been giving their students and the district their all! These 36 teachers are all along the spectrum from brand new teachers to seasoned professionals bringing their talents to JPS.

We’ll spotlight a few of them here but we encourage you to make sure to take a minute when school opens up next week to tell these new JPS teachers they are doing a great job!

Jeanna Watson is teaching 7th grade language arts at the Junior High after completing her education at Arizona State University and GVSU. While she is thrilled to be a Wildcat she also admits to being a Packers fan! When she’s not teaching, she loves reading, spending time with her husband and volunteering. “It has been such a blast to be a part of the Jenison community this year. Getting to know all the students and staff so well has made this job an incredible experience already. I am most looking forward to continuing to get to know everybody for the second half of the year and continuing to grow as a teacher to better serve my students.”

Dina Mitchell teaches Transitional Kindergarten at the ECC. She graduated from Hope College and Central Michigan University and taught for 28 years with Holt Public Schools. She has taught Kindergarten, 1st grade, Transitional Kindergarten and as a reading interventionist. Ms Mitchell stays very busy keeping up with her 4 children – three of whom are currently enrolled at Hope and the 4th just graduated! She also love visiting the beach, watching crime shows, and reading. She loves being part of the Jenison family: “The best part of teaching in Jenison has been the relationship piece.   It is very apparent to me that the time, resources and energy that the district puts into building and maintaining strong relationships with colleagues, parents, students and the community is what makes Jenison so successful. They truly are like a family!!!  I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Zach Mosher is teaching 3rd grade at Sandy Hill Elementary after receiving his degree from Central Michigan University. Although this is Mr Mosher’s first year as a classroom teacher, he worked previously as a reading interventionist in Wyoming Public Schools. When he’s not teaching, Mr Mosher enjoys fishing and hunting. He says that the best part of teaching in Jenison has been “the awesome and supporting staff that I have so heavily had to lean on and the family atmosphere.”

We wish all of our teachers and staff a very, happy new year! Thank you for all you do each day for our students and families! We hope everyone enjoys the last few days of winter break and we’ll see you back in school on January 8!

Choir Concert Wows Packed House

This past Tuesday night, the Jenison Center for the Arts was packed with friends and family members ready to be amazed by the vocal stylings of the Junior High Choir and the Elementary Honors Choir.

The Junior High Choir performed some great arrangements of familiar Christmas songs and some non-Christmas songs as well. Director, Steven Waters, says, “We always start the concert with all the choirs performing two songs from the Home Alone movies: Somewhere in my Memory [featuring our Elementary Honors Choir] and Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.”

Each of the individual Choirs then present their own two-song set and finally, the choirs came together again to close the concert with Silent Night/Night of Silence. Again, this features the Elementary Honors Choir and also features three soloists from the Bel Canto Choir [8th grade girls] and Male Chorus. The 7th and 8th grade girl choirs performs from out in the audience with the Elementary Honors Choir. “This concert features a unique audience experience in that they get to participate in the concert through the sing along songs and they get to “be” in the performance of the final song as the entire auditorium becomes the performance space.”

The Junior High Choirs are composed of students in separate grades, and divided by gender. The classes meet each day as part of the regular school day which helps them be particularly well prepared for this performance. They are also a wonderful group to work with and Mr Waters is proud of the characteristics they display as part of this team. “They are all very joyful in their music making on a daily basis! When each of the choir hours begin the energy is amazing and so fun. Our choir students are very affirming and encouraging to their choral staff [directors and accompanists] too. They are a wonderful group of students to work with and get to know on a regular basis.”

Mr Waters knows that choral education has many benefits beyond the performance stage. Students learn to develop their ability to work collaboratively and learn to take responsibility for the success of the entire group. “They have to develop the skill to hear whether a note is in tune or not and how to make that note fit into a multi-part chord. Music/choral/instrumental students learn that whatever they do from a musical AND behavioral standpoint has a consequence for everyone in their musical team. No person is an island in a music group, you are directly responsible for the success or failure of the group based on your personal work ethic.”

Choir students also have the opportunity to learn how to sing in a variety of languages: “Spanish, German, French, Swahili, Italian, Latin, the list is endless. When they learn how to pronounce and sing different languages, it definitely gives them an advantage when they go to learn to speak a given language.

They also develop aural skills and physical stamina. “Choir develops the “ear” for singing AND for playing instruments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen professionals who give master classes insisting that their instrumental students be able to sing whatever they want to play. I teach low brass instruments as a private instructor and my students know that they will be singing almost every lesson to some degree. They play better in tune and more accurately. And students with breathing challenges like asthma find that by taking choir, they develop more strength in their breathing muscles and more breath capacity when they learn to breathe as a vocalist. The choral students who participate in the sports programs frequently report improved performance after they learn how to breathe in this way too.”

Mr Waters adds that the musical community at Jenison is a safe place for students to find their place and have that sense of community benefit their entire learning experience. “Music does so much for the individual growth of each student. It also contributes to a feeling of community for many students who don’t always feel like they belong in their daily school day anywhere else. Students perform better in their other disciplines when they have an emotional investment in their school life and also if they have something in which they excel. Music education is a place where many students find their niche in school. When students find success in their music classes, then the teachers of the other disciplines can build on that to get the kids to improve in other areas. Music participation also contributes to the overall climate in the school. Music students are trained to behave in a supportive manner when they go to an event in an auditorium [like a concert] and this helps to build that feeling of community when you gather everyone together for assemblies and other events. ”

Thank you, Mr Waters and the entire Musical Department at JPS! Our students are becoming better learners and community members with you on their team! And thank you to our choirs for your hard work and dedication to learning and performing this valuable skill! We’re proud of you!

Dude, Where’s My Bus?

Mornings with kids are tricky, right? Sometimes they oversleep and you just hope they brushed their teeth before they run out the door. Sometimes you oversleep and the kids are lucky to get out the door at all! And of course, no one can ever find their shoes… Thankfully, the JPS Transportation department is taking one piece of the morning and afternoon routines off your plates and making these transitions easier for everyone! Unfortunately, they can’t help your kids find their shoes but they can let you know exactly when your bus will arrive!

Launched last week, parents can keep track of their child’s bus using GPS both before and after school. Now, if you see that your bus is running a few minutes behind schedule you can take advantage of that time rather than wondering if you missed it. Conversely, if the bus is a little early, you won’t be taken aback by an early arrival. After school when there are appointments to get to and sitters to connect with, the system will help keep stress levels at a minimum for parents and kids alike.

All parents in the district were informed of the option to track their child’s bus through email but sign up is available anytime. You can visit the transportation website or call their office for help. [Please note that you will need your child’s name, address, date of birth, and student ID # to register/log on.]

Kip Medendorp, Director of Transportation, notes that the office has seen a decrease in phone calls from parents this week looking for their child’s bus which is helpful for staff and parents. Also, he is looking forward to next summer when, rather than sending a postcard to every bus-riding family, parents can log on in mid-July to see their child’s bus information!

Forest Hills is currently the only other district in West Michigan using a bus tracker system and Jenison is proud to stay in-step with this type of technology. Mr Medendorp says it make his job easier as he can track buses from his desktop but now, so can parents!

We hope all parents with kids riding the Jenison buses will take advantage of this new program. While it can’t make breakfast or heat up pizza rolls after school, it can help parents feel more informed and secure about their kids transportation!

If you experienced difficulty logging in after the initial email, we have worked out the technical bugs and things are running smoothly. We encourage you to try again if you haven’t already!

Thank you to Mr Medendorp, our transportation department, and bus drivers for keeping us on the edge of technology and, of course, keeping our kids safe on the roads!