Rosewood Students Break World Record

Karen Ambs is one of those people with a song in her heart and a pep in her step. One of her favorite accessories to go along with her fun personality is ‘jazz hands’! In fact, a group of student safety crossing guards greet her at the door daily with a fun, jazz hand wave.

This prompted a discussion months ago during her music class at Rosewood Elementary. One of the greeter students asked what the record was for the most people doing jazz hands. Her curious and helpful nature drove her to a bit of research, and she discovered the current record is 394, which was set in the UK.

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Mrs. Ambs leading some fun as the kids get into place for their Guinness World Record attempt.

Mrs. Ambs is retiring after 32 years of teaching this June, but you don’t see her resting on her laurels. A dream was born in her students that day and although an official Guinness World Record attempt takes an immense amount of meticulous work, she enthusiastically stood at the helm. Following even more research, school principal, Luke Verbeek, and the Rosewood Parent Club jumped on board and the official application to break the record was submitted.

“Rosewood is a supportive, enthusiastic learning community – parents, staff, and students are eager to jump in and do what it takes to achieve big goals, regardless of whether those goals are academic achievements or world records.” ~ Karen Ambs

Friday, May 17 was a beautiful day when over 400 children, ages 5-13, school staff, and parents gathered on the playground to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the “most people doing jazz hands”.  The event was officiated by State Senator Roger Victory and Georgetown Township Councilman Jason Minier.

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Many additional roles needed to be filled in order to accomplish this goal! There was an official schedule with official timers, witnesses, photographers and ‘people counters’. The participants were divided into 18 different sections – one for each homeroom and one for the parent participants. Each section wore a unique color of gloves, so that the stewards would be able to clearly identify who they were counting.

There was a very intentional plan for everything – where the participants needed to be and how long they needed to do it. But the one thing the students didn’t need instruction on – was the move itself, that comes naturally for a student of Karen Ambs.

Once everyone was in place, the buzzer started the clock and the participants got down on one knee facing the stage, raised their hands overhead with fingers spread out, shaking them back and forth – doing this for the entire 60 second time. At the end of the timer, participants were counted and Rosewood was found to be (upon completion of all validation) new World Record Holders!!! 

I love the positive energy and fun our teachers have with our students! I love the people with the big ideas and the circle of support that lives within Jenison to accomplish these big ideas! What a wonderful memory!

“The amount of time and effort it took for this incredible 60 seconds was SO worth it! The Unofficial World Record for people performing Jazz Hands for one minute belongs to the Rosewood Wildcats! 477 people were able to perform for the full minute (without falling over)!” ~ Karen Ambs

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Senator Roger Victory officiated this record breaking, fun event.

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Photos courtesy of Kerri Jenison Photography and MSB Photography.

Lean on Me: Pink Out 2019

Last week, we were faced with yet another winter storm threatening to interrupt our annual Jenison Pink Out celebration. Regardless of what Michigan tried to throw at us, it gave me chills to see the the walls of our gymnasium stretched with a standing room only audience – just as it has been for eleven straight years.

Since the beginning, I have had the honor of being the emcee of Pink Out. I’ve heard the stories, witnessed firsthand the fight and seen the way families and friends in our community are moved to act. Just four months ago, that experience became very personal to me when my brother called to share that my sister-in-law had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Each year, we recognize community members who are courageous fighters, representing many others battling the war on cancer. All of them are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of bravery and perseverance. We are thankful for their willingness to share their stories and are blessed to walk this journey with them.

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Jenison Pink Out Honorees

Nicole Edward – Linda Ten Brink – Deb Leaf

Karine Rodriguez – Earl Hall – Josh Van Putten

2019 Pink Out Honorees

Linda Ten Brink

I asked my brother Mike and his wife, Linda TenBrink, to join the Jenison community for our Pink Out celebration because every warrior deserves to experience this amazing level of encouragement and support during their journey. And because Linda has embodied a fighter’s personality and a fierce courageousness from her initial diagnosis. She has looked cancer in the eye, called it out for what it is, and is determined to do whatever it takes to rid her body of “Chester” (the name that she has given to her cancerous tumor). Linda has used a tremendous sense of humor,  a “can do” attitude, and her competitive spirit to defeat this cancer that in her words, “invaded her body without her permission.” We are so proud of her warrior spirit!

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Karine Rodriguez and Earl Hall

Karine Rodriguez and Earl Hall are both cancer victims, living in the same home. Karine was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017, she went into remission the following year for 4 months. Sadly, the cancer returned this past summer. The after effects of chemo often leave her exhausted with scarce energy for work or social outings, so much that she was contemplating forgoing the treatment. However, since Pink Out came into her life – she has a renewed vigor to push through the treatments and is feeling supported (emotionally as well as financially) like never before. Keep on fighting, Karine! We’re with you every step of the way!

Karine was joined by her mom, Terri, who also attended Jenison, and Terri’s boyfriend Earl Hall. Earl had bladder cancer and is looking forward to a check up soon to confirm that the recent removal surgery was successful. Karine’s diagnosis flipped their world upside down. He expressed immense gratitude for the ongoing support from Pink Out and the manner of genuine care and kindness they felt. Earl has taken this kindness to heart and wishes to remind everyone that you never know what your neighbor might be experiencing. Kindness and respect go a long way. Thank you Karine and Earl for your positive spirit. It’s an honor to walk beside you.

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Nicole Edwards

Nicole Edwards is a survivor! Her husband, Brad and son, Brody (Jenison, class of 2017), some friends and family members stood by her side as she shared her story. With no family history, Nicole wasn’t too concerned about missing a few routine mammograms, however at the suggestion of her doctor, she finally decided to go in. Just over a year ago, she was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma, stage 0, but aggressive grade three). She described feeling alone and isolated in those first few months but came to quickly realize that the Jenison community was on her side. The Pink Out team and relationships her family had built with other Jenison families through her son’s sports teams really carried them through the physically and emotionally tough times. Nicole feels very fortunate to be so close to one of the best health care systems in the United States! And she wishes to acknowledge and thank Lemmen Holton Cancer Center with their amazing doctors and support staff. We couldn’t agree more! She also wants to use her journey to remind women to make time for routine checks and conversations with physicians!!

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Deb Leaf

Deb is a 1985 Jenison graduate and has been on a long, courageous cancer journey including multiple diagnoses and surgeries. She is the guardian of her grandchildren, Stevie and LJ Leaf, who both attend Bauerwood Elementary. Deb was unaware of what Pink Out was and now considers them to be an amazing asset within our community, for which she is very grateful. Among other things, support from the organization and Jenison Schools helped provide tires for her vehicle and create some delightful memories this past Christmas. Deb was escorted by her grandchildren, her parents, her sister & her husband and her sister-in-law. Thank you Deb, for your fearless and brave demeanor as you continue your journey.

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Josh VanPutten

“Van Putten Strong” is embroidered on the back of Kim Van Putten’s denim shirt. She wore it one year ago when the family gathered on the Jenison gym floor for their son, Shawn. Shawn was a 2014 graduate of Jenison, and last year he shared about his cancer journey. Harnessing that strength more than ever, they tackled the last year and she wore the shirt this past Friday night as the family stands on the Pink Out floor AGAIN this year. This time, celebrating the remission of son, Josh, Jenison class of 2010.

While the family was participating in the 2018 Pink Out ceremony, 11 months after Shawn’s diagnosis, older brother Josh had spent the day in the hospital about to receive his own life changing diagnosis.

Josh opened his remarks with the phrase, “An individual does not get cancer, a family does.” In the first moments of the diagnosis, his thoughts went to his infant daughter and his family – would they be ok? would they be strong enough to go through this all again? And here they stand in 2019, celebrating 4 months of remission for Josh, wanting to share the news that cancer did not win this battle, THEY did.

Their spirits were constantly lifted by the presence of the Pink Out team. The motto “No One Fights Alone” is a perfect description of their experience with Pink Out. Josh appreciates the assistance he received to keep his daughter and newly purchased home taken care of – and cherishes the support his extended family received as they cared for him.

“Pink is not a color I normally wear but I wear it tonight with pride and gratitude. Thank you for supporting Pink Out so they are able to support the Warriors.”

137500997d1b3a07dbb560673023caa4562c90131375010333b7e7bea1bb04a709824f6835b37009Without the community members, business partners and students of our community being deeply involved, we couldn’t do what we do for those who need help in their fight against cancer. Jenison has shown up for eleven straight years and given tremendous support. From the depths of my heart, I say, Thank you! Your presence, your generosity, and your willingness to walk alongside the courageous fighters in our community is a wonderful gift! There is no gesture too small – purchasing a shirt, donating funds, volunteering, and just showing up at Pink Out says we care and we have your back!  That is their gift; this is our legacy. In our community, nobody fights alone!

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The Jenison Men’s Basketball teams have been very busy this month as well. Varsity Coach, Dominic Allen detailed a new free throw shooting competition they hosted as a fundraiser opportunity. The players secured pledges and proudly presented $6,300 to Pink Out, over double their original goal! The players also braved the beginning of the polar vortex at the end of January to get the Pink Out flags up along Baldwin Street.13749889a4c39321ee7e5510451b129d1ee6e294

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This year, 3 sophomore girls launched a new Jenison tradition called “Senior Survivor”. Based on the television show, senior students attempt to raise money and compete in challenges to remain in the game. They had an amazing amount of fun and were proud to present a check for $5,419.14 to Jenison Pink Out. Thank you to the school chaperones who spent the night at school with them, the local business who kept them fed and most of all their friends and family who cheered them on and supported their efforts!137501524b250aec81c40c785df4903db57f30d2

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Words cannot express the level of gratitude I have for the leadership of our YEAR ROUND Pink Out committee: Moni Marlink, Katy Hevelhurst, Jean Krzewski, Donna Bergeon and Cindi Covell. These are some caring, compassionate women on a mission to care for their neighbors whenever it is needed; they are making a huge impact! THANK YOU!!137501152a8fc80a74ad4e09f24177e98b6dcf24

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Pink may be the color of the night, but we’re proud to support courageous fighters of all kinds of cancer! The Jenison Pink Out organization makes sure that NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE!!

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Seniors, Zac Avery and Conner Wood, close the ceremony by performing this year’s Pink Out theme song “Lean on Me”.

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Principal, Luke VerBeek accepts the Pink basketball in recognition of best Pink Out Spirit Day at Rosewood Elementary. Way to go kids – Rosewood Rocks!

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Read about past Pink Out Honorees on previous PINK OUT blogs:

2018 |2017 | 2016 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

‘Santa’ is Everywhere!

 

While the ‘man in the red suit’ certainly adds to the excitement of the Christmas season, our community knows that bringing joy and being Santa to others can’t be left to him at this, or any time of the year. The reason for this season gives me hope, direction and purpose! I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas with loved ones this week.

Jenison High School students participated in some pretty outstanding events this month.  Keep reading to learn more about how the students have been busy spreading good cheer!

Thespian Santa Breakfast, November 24

What began 8 years ago as a way to offer a more intimate and affordable Santa experience, has turned into tradition for many local families. For about the price of a mall photo (without the fun of the usual long, boring line); a whole family is able to enjoy being served a pancake breakfast and a variety of other fun activities sponsored by Mr. Todd Avery and the Jenison High School Thespian Troupe.

The Thespian students do a great job taking their roles very seriously and maximizing the authenticity of the experience for their guests. They don their North Pole best, help serve breakfast and do face painting and crafts with the kids. This year, they added a fun story time; and last but not least, kids got a magical experience as they lingered during a relaxing visit with Santa (where he knew their names before they even approached him!) Photos courtesy of Larry Treece Photography.

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Santa’s Woodshop, December 18 

When teacher, Dave Albert joined the Jenison Industrial Arts program this year, he brought with him a wonderful holiday tradition. As a class project, his woodshop students built wood rocking chair airplanes for selected families. It was a lovely evening with the talent of the Jenison National Art Honor Society students on display as well. They teamed up to with the woodshop students to paint details on the airplanes and helped transform Mr. Albert’s workshop into a winter wonderland! 

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Santa’s Secret Shoppers, December 20

Long before the snow begins to fly, the elves known as the Jenison National Honors Society, get to work organizing a toy drive and arranging sponsors for families in the community. Often, teachers involve their students to become sponsors to adopt-a-family and complete gift wishlists. The high school students do the bulk of organizing for the event which includes facilitating the collection, organizing toys and shopping should there be cash donations. They arrange a pick up night for the families which also includes gift wrapping materials so they can proudly wrap the gifts! No matter the task, these students are committed to making sure these families have a very merry Christmas! This is the 15th year for this event and we’re so proud that over 90 kids were served by the generosity of our JPS community this year.

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KidCAT Players Inspire

On the surface, it may seem like another celebration for the football team but look closer and you’ll see an initiative bringing a community together and modeling some pretty amazing attributes.

The KidCAT program started about 10 years ago when a teacher had the idea to foster a connection between the elementary students and the high school, with community events such as football games. It’s not always natural – especially for families who don’t know any players personally; however it has grown to be something that the varsity players and the elementary students look forward to each year.

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Sully Russ is one of 20 seniors on the team this year. He enjoyed sharing a visit with his Bauerwood friends. Go #24!

Early in the football season, classroom teachers adopt a player; sometimes a teacher is able to choose a player that once sat in their elementary rooms. The teachers and players alike, really appreciate having the opportunity to reconnect. This year, all 43 Varsity players were paired up with an excited classroom of little Wildcats ready to keep this tradition going. Teachers guide the young students in thoughtful exercises as they get to know their KidCAT player, then share notes, cards of encouragement, and small treats throughout the season.

And the Varsity guys get to give back as well. They are able to be a positive role model; sharing their character and work ethic in return. On the big day of the KidCAT football game, all the players go visit their elementary friends and spend some time with them. When the players arrive, the kids are star struck and in awe like a celebrity has entered their little world! It’s awesome to see the guys having a good time with some silly questions and leading the way for future generations as they promote literacy, community and kindness. As October is Anti-Bullying Month, we are proud to watch as the football team has also joined the Stomp Out Bullying, anti-bullying campaign this year. I’m proud of the leaders we have in this team.

The grand finale is when the students and their families rally to cheer on their KidCAT player at the Varsity football game. At game time, students are grouped in sections with their schools and it’s so fun to see our young fans totally engaged in the game while they cheer for their Wildcat. 

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Senior, Kyle Nott leads the pack through the student tunnel at the KidCAT game, October 12. Photo Courtesy of Damion Van Slyke Photography

 

 

 

 

 

Homecoming Dreams Big in 2018

Student Council representatives were very excited to line up for the 2018 Homecoming parade with a few special guests. And they knew the rest of the students would feel the same. This year, Jenison High School Student Council decided to partner with Make-A-Wish Michigan for their Homecoming theme.

Last Thursday, the student body was introduced to these 4 special guests and by the time the Friday parade rolled around – Brody, Sam, Kia and Izzy were practically hometown celebrities! These special people are local Wish Kid Ambassadors and they have had the opportunity to receive a granted wish from this amazing organization.

Jenison class representatives worked tirelessly on parade floats they designed based on each child’s wish. Some of the kids even participated with design and building input for their float over the last few weeks. Members of student council were in resounding agreement that it was the best feeling to be a part of something important, to see their classmates thinking outside of themselves and really embracing their Wish Kids.

Following a cool, dreary parade, families flooded the high school gym to keep the fun rolling at the Make-a-Wish fundraiser Carnival. The students had a goal of raising $15,000 and the carnival was an integral part of meeting that goal. If the rain kept you away from the Homecoming festivities, they are still receiving donations through this weekend at  Jenison Homecoming Make-a-Wish Campaign.

There was plenty of action on the field Friday night; by the players, the band and color guard – however, the folks that stole the show were the Wish Kid ambassadors as they escorted the Homecoming Court during the half time festivities!

Despite a loss in the last minute of the football game that evening (to an undefeated team), I could not be more proud of the team’s performance and the spirit of every fan in the stands. Our guys have the hearts of a champion and they never quit until the very end. Homecoming 2018 was a great time with friends and family and just another reminder of what our Jenison community is made of: talented, hardworking individuals with compassionate hearts, trying to make the world around them a little bit better than they found it.

We were also honored to receive a good amount of attention from the local press last week. Having them partner with us to help spread the word about this special campaign is so appreciated! Check it out!

Homecoming Assembly Coverage from WZZM

Sunrise Sidelines from WZZM

Enjoy reliving the experience of Homecoming 2018 with photos from Missy Brandt.

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Princess Izzy was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Senior Class. The seniors also happened to win the float design competition at the end of the night!

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Kia was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Junior Class.

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Sam was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Sophomore Class.

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Brody was the Wish Kid Ambassador for the Freshmen Class.

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8th Graders Go East!

For the past ten years, each June, 8th grade history teacher, Kevin Fales, boards a charter bus with Jenison 8th graders to venture to the east coast to bring history to life, but to teach students so much more!

During his second year of teaching, Mr Fales was invited to join East Kentwood Middle School on their own East Coast Trip to get a feel for the experience and consider running a similar trip for Jenison. Now the trip averages 125 students each year and, along with twelve to fifteen school employees serving as chaperones, the trip is a mainstay for the 8th grade class.

This year, the 130 students will board the bus on Thursday, June 15 and head for their first stop: Niagara Falls. For most of the students, this will be their first experience outside of Michigan, let alone, outside of the country! The stop in Niagara Falls not only breaks up a long day of driving, but it allows students to begin to have their eyes opened to the wide world outside of West Michigan.

Day two finds the group in Boston visiting Fenway Park, Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, and take a ride on the infamous Duck Tour where they will ride the “duck truck” into the Charles River. Of course, the group will also visit historic sites throughout the city, along the Freedom Trail.

From Boston, the students will travel to New York City and play the role of tourists and visit Central Park, Times Square, and Rockefeller Plaza. The next day they will visit the 9/11 Memorial, ride a double-decker bus around the city to learn history and fun facts and wrap up their time in the city with a boat ride on “The Beast” which will take them past the Statue of Liberty.

After their two-day whirlwind of NYC, the group will journey to Philadelphia to visit Constitution CenterIndependence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both signed. “We’re standing in the room where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were all in.” They will also visit Thomas Jefferson’s apartment where he wrote the Declaration of Independence. To end their time in Philly, they will channel their inner-Rocky by running the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

On the way home, the group will stop at Gettysburg and receive a guided tour of the field and experience the Cyclorama, a painting created in the late 1880s which measures 377 feet in circumstance and 42 feet high** and immerses the viewer in the battle itself.

The final stop on the way home is Hershey Park to enjoy the amusement park and celebrate the end of their trip.

Mr Fales says that there are multiple goals for the students: it’s an opportunity to leave home, to build relationships with fellow students, and to connect what they’ve learned in class to real-life history. “As they are getting ready to go to the high school, it’s time to learn for themselves, the trip provides a chance for self-discovery, learning to advocate for themselves and grow up a little bit.”

Thank you, Mr Fales and chaperones, for planning this trip each year and giving your time and energy for ensure our students have the best possible learning experience! Students, soak up every aspect of this experience and feel the wind beneath your newly spread wings!

*Photo courtesy of RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation
**Courtesy of the Gettysburg Foundation

Groundbreaking Celebration for New School!

Last Monday evening, not even the gray skies couldn’t keep spirits down as the Board of Education and Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, broke ground on the new school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

The Early Childhood Center [ECC] and Spanish Immersion program currently housed at Rosewood and Bursley Elementary Schools, will both be housed in the new building located near the corner of Baldwin and 28th Ave.

The new school – Jenison’s first new school since 1970! – will be a two-story, LEED certified building with 36 classrooms. It will also include modern security features as well as, assisted listening systems in each classroom, two playgrounds and two full-size ball fields.

Becky Steele, Rosewood and Bursley STEM teacher was on hand to capture student Samantha Eriks tell those in attendance what the new school means to hear and future Spanish Immersion students. Becky says, “Samantha has been a Bursley Spanish Immersion student since kindergarten, and is headed off to the Junior High in the fall.  Her fluency [as well as her poise, confidence, positivity, kind and helpful heart…the list goes on and on] certainly speaks volumes about the quality of the language immersion education that students get in JPS.”

This is a very exciting season for JPS and we can’t wait to monitor the progress and celebrate when our students and staff are filling the halls!

Rosewood Principal, Lloyd Gingerich, along with SI teachers!

ECC Principal, Lee Westerveldt, joined by two ECC students

High School Students Join County Collaboration on Suicide Prevention!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Photos courtesy of Kris Faber and @benicemi]

Readers are Leaders!

MIII0041Don’t be surprised if you start to see stickers all over the Jenison community soon declaring, “JPS Reads” and you’ll probably want to join in on the fun!

Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, Media Specialist, Jan Staley, Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz are partnering to capitalize on the excitement and popularity of the James and Giant Peach initiative. With this next phase, all Jenison citizens will be challenged to set their own specific reading goal and when it is reached, they receive their own cling-on letting everyone know they did it!

MIII9995According to Ms Schultz, “It will be great to drive through our district and notice all the paws displayed in the front of homes.  Our community will shine with the importance of READING!” Of course, you can also brag about your reading skills by putting your sticker on your car and give a little wave to others who’ve done the same!

But if you think this is just for our students, think again! “This is not just a school based reading program, but a way to get everyone in the community excited and involved in reading. We have talked to business leaders and also our senior citizen community members to join in the fun of showcasing our love of reading here in Jenison. Our students and community members will even have the opportunity to share favorite authors, favorite books, or even share reading photos on Twitter at #JPSReads.”

Parents – you play a critical role in your child’s interest in reading! “Together…We are Jenison!! We believe that the love of reading often starts inside of the family and as a school district we are here to grow, build upon, support, and encourage that love of reading!  Together with our families and community we are committed to continuing to foster a love of reading and learning in ALL our children.”
“Not all readers are leaders, but…All Leaders are Readers.”  – Harry Truman

This phase of JPSReads runs from January 16 – February 27 and will kick off all this week.

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#JPSReads!

1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsWhen Junior High theatre director, Holly Florian, chose James and the Giant Peach for this year’s winter performance fifth grade teachers, Michelle U’Ren knew that she wanted to read the classic story aloud to her class. She knew it would help them appreciate the show even more to be familiar with the story.

But it didn’t stay specific to Ms U’Ren’s class! It didn’t take long before a district-wide project was born! Other teachers were interested in reading the story to their classes as well and and soon, Holly, Michelle, and Jan Staley, media specialist, were organizing the first ever district-wide read aloud, which came to be known as JPS Reads!

All of the teachers are encouraged by the response so far. “The feedback from teachers, students, and parents has been really positive.  Perhaps the most exciting part is hearing the connections being made at home!  There are many stories of families discussing James and the Giant Peach during dinner and younger kids begging older siblings to tell them what happens next in the story.

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Story brainstorming in Mary Veldink’s 3rd grade Pinewood classroom

When Ms Florian was considering scripts for the junior high performance she was excited about the visual and production challenges posed by James and the Giant Peach. “[It] stood out to me right away as being a fantastic option – the story is so wonderful, and the stage version has many featured roles, which gives lots of students a chance to show off their performing skills. It will also be a technical challenge! Figuring out how to create a giant peach that rolls off the cliffs of Dover and into the Atlantic ocean is going to be a creative challenge for the entire production team.”

Not all teachers had a copy of the book but thanks to a grant from the Jenison Public Education Foundation, those teachers were provided a copy. Even our Spanish Immersion classrooms are reading the story in Spanish! In order to empower teachers, weekly emails are sent to participants offering suggestions for activities and ways to connect with other teachers in the project.  Each individual teacher can choose which activities they would like to implement within their own classroom. Lori Barr, Pinewood 6th grade teacher, is engaging students’ writing skills by having them write blog posts with their thoughts and questions. Check out their Letters to Ms Florian here

If you have ever wondered if reading at home matters, it does! “Statistics have shown that a powerful predictor of reading success is having a parent who personally reads aloud to their child 5–7 days a week. Our community read aloud, JPS Reads, will hopefully ignite the joy of reading and the community bond it builds within the classroom family…the hope is that this will then be talked about and become part of our individual family habits also.”

Congratulations to all the teachers, students and families who participated in the first JPS Read Aloud! We can’t wait for the play this January!

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*Photo courtesy of goldstar.com