Volunteers Keep Elementary Libraries Humming!

Diane Avink, Carolyn DeJong, Jan Staley, Becky Hilbelink

Elementary Media Specialist, Jan Staley, has many amazing superpowers: she can recommend the perfect book for any age, lesson, or situation, she can bring a smile to a student’s face by knowing what they’ll love, and she knows every story in the library inside and out. But there’s one thing she can’t do: she can’t run all five elementary libraries on her own, especially on a part-time schedule. But every superhero knows you need a sidekick, and Jan has 65! Every elementary school in Jenison has dedicated library volunteers who work every week to make sure our students have access to our amazing books!

Bauerwood volunteers, Carolyn DeJong, Diane Avink, and Becky Hilbelink have been volunteering in the libraries for between nine and thirteen years! They all got their start when a note went home asking for parents to volunteer in classrooms and they eventually made their way to the library – and haven’t left.

Becky worked as a special education teacher and took a step back when she had children so she knows the importance of school libraries. She also volunteered in her daughter’s classroom and found herself at home in the library. When she first started, her son [now in fifth grade] was in Kindergarten and he when he wasn’t serving as the library mascot of sorts, he was sleeping the back room. [It takes a lot of energy to be a mascot!] Becky is a dedicated Bauerwood volunteer outside of the library as well. She serves as the volunteer coordinator, organizes Watchdog Dads, runs the recycling program Teracycle, and she still volunteers for the classroom teachers.

Longtime Bauerwood volunteers Nell & Joe Abramajtys

The love of the work is what keeps these volunteers coming back year after year. Diane says, “It’s fun to watch the kids grow up.” And Becky adds that her passion for making sure kids experience an actual book in their hand [as opposed to a tablet or other technology] and has been known to dash over to her house – next door to Bauerwood – and grab a book from her personal library if the school doesn’t have it and a student is requesting it. Carolyn says that she loves getting Kindergarten students excited about reading in the hopes that their passion carries on over the years. And all the volunteers know books to recommend if someone comes to them and doesn’t love reading- yet.

Oftentimes, students will ask the volunteers for recommendations. Becky loves to suggest Harriot the Spy, Mr Popper’s Penguins, and Boxcar Children. Diane loves the Little House on the Prairie books. They love to ask the students when they return the books, “tell me what you thought” and see the excitement in their eyes at having discovered something new – especially the classics.

The library volunteers across the district stay very busy with a variety of tasks. As new books arrive, certain volunteers like Diane are in charge of cataloging them in the computer, checking books in and out, shelving, inventory, occasionally reading to classes, managing library cards, running overdue reports, organizing incentive programs like JPS Reads, and helping every student feel comfortable in the library.

Carolyn feels it’s especially important to help students cultivate a love of books and she takes the time to notice which students might need a little extra encouragement in this area. Becky agrees, saying that the library is a safe place for kids to come and explore. “Kids love coming to the library and it’s a wonderful connection to the community. A love of reading can start with the kids and draw parents in.”

Ms Staley knows that the personality of the library volunteers help shape the experience for children. For example, Sandy Hill parent volunteer Amanda VanMaanen begins each week with a whiteboard drawing straight from a page of a great book. Volunteers spark interest in books for students and make sure they know there is always a story to meet their passions. “Our volunteers love kids and love books. Kids have graduated and come back saying that they loved reading because of their experiences in their JPS libraries.”

Thank you Ms Staley, for dedicating your life to books, reading, and the wonderful ways reading enriches our lives! Thank you to all of the 65 JPS library volunteers who make a class trip to library something to look forward to! You are keeping our students interested and engaged in reading, changing their lives forever!

Dads and Daughters Take a Spin Around the Dance Floor!

Last weekend, the gym at Bauerwood was transformed into a tropical luau for the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance! This year, 280 girls and the men in their lives that serve as fathers (grandparents, uncles, cousins, brothers, friends – anyone!) danced, took selfies, drank fruity umbrella-adorned punch, and had an amazing time!

Last year, committee co-leader, Jean Houghton, talked to other moms about the possibility of bringing the dance to Bauerwood after experiencing it at Bursley before their family moved. It took this dedicated group to plan, organize, decorate, and now, in its second year, it’s the second highest fundraiser for the school! This year, the dance generated about $1000 to school expenses.

There was a DJ spinning the tunes and he also led a limbo contest, and, according to Jean, the dance floor was filled the entire night. “The girls are so excited to be there, they have big smiles, and are happy to be there with their dads.” The girls received a Hawaiian lei when they arrive and a carnation when they leave to cap off their “wow” experience.

This year, the committee was able to provide limited sponsorship to families that needed financial assistance but they plan to increase their capability in this area for next year. “No student should be left out because things are tight at home”. [So if you’re wondering about next year, make sure you talk to your child’s teacher when the time comes around!]

Jean feels that this type of event is important for families because it “shines a spotlight on the girls’ relationship with their father figure. They are encouraged to feel beautiful, they feel important on that day, it gives them confidence, and makes a special moment to share with each other.” She added that it’s encouraging to hear from teachers and other parents how excited their daughters are before and after the dance. “They can’t stop talking about it!”

This is clearly a special treat for our daughters and their dads and we are thankful that parents take this time to make special memories with their kids! [Moms! Be watching for Mother – Son Bowling at your school!]

Thank you to the dance committee: Alyssa Fennema, Candace Bennett, Jean Houghton, Liz Opatic, Sara Reilly, and Missy Brandt!

Parents make all the difference and this event is so much more than a fundraiser! Thank you to all the dads and daughters who brightened the gyms around Jenison with your beautiful smiles and amazing dance moves!

Pinewood Moms Serve Up Healthy Snacks!

img_8641Pinewood moms, Tanya Hawley and Emily Larsen, have set out to expand the snack horizons of our young students! After working with their child’s classroom teacher last year they sought and received a grant, along with enthusiastic permission from Pinewood principal, Rachael Postle-Brown, and are now serving healthy snacks once a month to the entire school!

Each month there is a featured vegetable that may not be very familiar to students but Tanya and Emily see serving these snacks as a way to help kids see that vegetables can taste good and be fun to try! In October they introduced pink and purple radishes and November’s snack was spaghetti squash served with marinara sauce.

img_8634Taking on a project of these size has not been easy but both Tanya and Emily bring valuable experience and passion to the program. Emily is a registered dietitian and Tanya say, “Emily has been able to add a ton of nutritional facts and information to our program. My focus is on connecting MI farms to families, and connecting kids to real food and farms, and where the food comes from. Emily’s focus on nutritional impact.  Together we make a good team, and we are passionate about helping our community make healthier snack and food decisions in their everyday lives.”

Tanya says that she notices that when some students are willing to try something new, their friends will try it too. Their goal is for kids to be exposed to new foods, broadening their horizons and helping them learn about healthy options. This is also an opportunity for kids to learn about local farms and where our food comes from. Parents are encouraged to participate at home and a handout is provided each month for the “healthy snack” lesson to continue. Kids are also asked to participate in a brief quiz that allows Tanya and Emily to track students interest in the food prior to trying it as well as afterwards. Tanya says that she is pleasantly surprised by the number of kids who are willing to try a new food (parent: take note!).

Teachers have been welcoming of the addition to their school day once a month and these moms hope that parents are taking advantage of the interest as well. Kids who insisted they didn’t want to try “something green” ended up liking kale chips and even last month’s radishes!

Thank you to these moms and the local farms helping supply the new foods! We hope the Pinewood students will continue to try new things and teach us all about what they’re learning!





Bank Tellers by Day, School Volunteers by Holiday!

miii0180Earlier this month, the staff at Rosewood was treated to a team of twelve volunteers from Chemical Bank who used their bank holiday to serve their community.

miii0191According to Matthew Kroon, Customer Service Rep at the Byron Center branch and point person for the Jenison project, “The twelve employees came from various locations in the area, and from many different areas of the bank such as retail, Mortgage Sales Manager, Collections, Wealth Management, and Commercial Lending.  Many are based in Byron Center, Cascade, Holland, and Hudsonville.” Seven out of the twelve have children at Rosewood, Sandy Hill, Bursley and Pinewood.

“We did many things such as repairing blocks in the courtyard that were damaged, stuffed folders for Mrs. Ambs, helped count money for the 5th grade pizza kit fundraiser, and even formed a “Sani-Squad” that sanitized entire classrooms while the kids were at recess, or on their special.  We had a helper in the STEM classroom, a helper in each of the English speaking Kindergarten classrooms, and we helped pick up trash and sticks on the playground.  We even had a short time to play with kids out on the playground, as well.”

miii0212As you can imagine, the volunteers were very well received. “The staff LOVED it!  Not only were they treated to Post Family Farms Donuts and On the Border Fajitas, but they had help when they asked, and MANY appreciated having a clean, sanitized classroom with all the germs and illness going around. ”

Thank you, Chemical Bank, for choosing Jenison and Rosewood to give of your extra time and energy. Our schools and teachers are better with our volunteers!  “Chemical Bank is all about giving back.  We are determined to promote a “Chemical Reaction” through Strengthening our CHEMunity.”



Rosewood Rocks the Read-a-Thon!

MIII8519 copyLast week, Thursday, Rosewood students and teachers took on the all day Read-a-thon challenge!  Organized by the Parents Club, the Read-a-thon was a fundraiser intended to raise money for the school media center “in a purposeful way”, according to first grade teacher and parent club board member, Kelly Osterink.  “We had a financial goal of $12,000 but more importantly, is that we do this type of event to get the kids invested in their own school.  They take ownership of things for which they do the work.”  Principal, Lloyd Gingrich adds, “Rosewood’s media center is literally at the very center of our school.  The doors are never locked, classes walk through it to get to other parts of the building throughout the day and kids have access to our books all day, every day.  Our Read-a-thon raised $11,781 to purchase new furniture and books to make our media center an even better spot to find a great book and curl up to read it.”

“The Read-a-thon was completely planned by the Parent Club.  We wanted a great fundraiser for our school and our purpose this year was to make improvements to our media center.  [In past years we had walk-a-thons and made improvements to our playground.]  A read-a-thon seemed perfect.  The Parent Club found sponsors for prizes and additional funding.  They purchased a new book for each student in the building [chosen by teachers] and created a bookmark to advertise the sponsors.”

MIII8584 copyThey had a very full day beginning with a kick-off assembly and a special visual of the furniture that will be purchased with the money raised.  The students also had the joy of being entertained by the Jenison High School Thespians performing book-themed skits for the assembly audience.  Throughout the day reading was the center of each activity with visits from various groups including the Institute for Cultural Communications which featured home schooled students acting out stories for grade K – 2.  High School students from West Ottawa came to participate in reading activities with the Spanish Immersion classes and Rosewood 5th graders had some quality time with their Kindergarten buddies for special buddy reading time.  The 5th and 6th graders were allowed to relax and spend the day in their pj’s while other classes enjoyed reading outside in the sun!  Special guest, Geronimo Stilton, surprised students at lunch and by 1:30 that afternoon all of his books were checked out of the library!

MIII8608 copyThe Read-a-thon culminated in a special assembly at the end of the day to celebrate not only a fantastic day of reading, but to announce the fundraising winners.  “All students who participated in the fundraising received special “coupons” for free treats from local vendors.  Their names were also put into a random drawing for prizes.  Then, prizes were awarded to the top student in each class, top three students in the building, and classroom with the most participation.”

Mr Gingrich was encouraged by the passions for reading he saw throughout the day:  “I loved seeing how students really got into their books and that they didn’t want to stop reading.”  As for Ms Osterink’s class, they were hooked immediately and asked if they could have another Read-a-thon the next day!  “I want to thank the parents and community for their support of our read-a-thon.  We couldn’t raise the money without them.  We appreciate how much the Jenison community (and beyond) support our school.  At Rosewood, we see ourselves as a family – teachers, students, parents, community – and through an event like this, getting the whole family involved, we are all working together to encourage reading and emphasize the importance of reading; we are working together to grow the next generation. ”  — Kelly Osterink

We love that Rosewood, and all of our schools, are instilling a passion and interest in reading!  Thank you, parents for planning this incredible event and thank you, teachers, for making reading fun!

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“Secret Santa” Lands Sleigh In Jenison

Santa Sale, Bursley Elementary, Jenison Public SchoolsSchools throughout the district have been sneaking and selling and stacking and wrapping for weeks, giving children in Jenison the opportunity to shop for their loved ones before Christmas.

Last week the students at Bursley elementary had their turn, entering a school gymnasium that had been transformed into a virtual mall by hard-working parent “elves.” With gifts ranging from 25¢ to $5, students could shop at a comfortable price point, all the while participating in the joy that comes from giving.

Jen Postema, Bursley parent and mother of four, heads up the Santa Sale, and says the months of shopping and storing goodies is all worth it when she sees little faces light up.

“This is all for the kids — there are just so many students in our school who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford Christmas gifts. It’s awesome to see them enjoy the experience.”

Working roughly seven months out of the year with help from her co-chair, Tara Manciu, these women begin shopping right away on December 27 to scrounge up the best after-Christmas deals on goodies that might otherwise be priced from $30-$40 in department stores. At Bursley, a school of 450 students, deluxe items like bamboo cheese boards and bubbling foot soakers waited to be snatched up for dimes on the dollar.

Santa Sale, Bursley Elementary, Jenison Public Schools

“I love watching the kids and seeing the excitement that they have. A few years ago we sent out a questionnaire to parents and the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. Parents love this. It’s nice that kids can get good items for a great price,” said Tara.

Volunteers help children shop, pay for items, and then ensure that everything gets wrapped and labeled for a true “Secret Santa” delivery. Jen Postema notes that more volunteers are needed for next year, however, with growing class sizes and more kids shopping. There is even talk of re-structuring Santa’s Sale to accommodate the increased foot-traffic and immensity of the undertaking.

Santa Sale, Bursley Elementary, Jenison Public Schools

Santa Sale, Bursley Elementary, Jenison Public SchoolsIn true Christmas charity,Bursley’s Parent Club, who sponsors the event, wants to make certain that all students who want to shop are able to do so. Working closely with Principal Rané Garcia, the parent club was able to set aside $500 in scholarship money this year which was distributed confidentially through the school office.

If you are the recipient of a Santa Sale item this Christmas, will you take the time to thank your child’s parent club for all their hard work? Their efforts help to promote generosity and thoughtfulness in your child and in the hearts of hundreds of students in Jenison Public Schools each year.