Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Sandy Hill]

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!

Cognitive Impairment [CI] Categorical teacher, Betsy Norton:

Jenison is my home and where I grew up.  I had an excellent education and experience as a Wildcat and I choose to teach here and raise my kids here!  We have recently moved back to the area and we are so pleased to be settling back into our hometown with pride and an eagerness for our kids to continue their growth as students, athletes and community members.

I think Jenison is a different school district because Jenison has an amazing support system for kids with disabilities. The special education staff is absolutely incredible. They have such a passion for creating a quality environment for all kids.  Jenison is where I developed an interest in teaching kids with special needs through the CAL tutoring program in high school. I did my Student Teaching in Jenison, and it is so good to return [after being in many districts] to the supports that were my foundation in Special Education.

My building exemplifies this by supporting our self-contained program like a family.  Sandy Hill teachers open their doors to our students and treat them as their own.  The networking, communication and “Kids First” attitude is evident every day at Sandy Hill.

I look forward to enjoying my time with my family over the summer.  We will be regulars at the ball fields, neighborhood pool and hopefully find some time to hit the local beach towns.  

Next year, I look forward to continuing my career at Jenison and getting to know more teachers and families in the community.  I hope to continue the growth of a Parent Group we started this year, and possibly starting a Special Olympics/ Unified Sports team at Sandy Hill with my amazing teaching partner, Katie Bremer.  

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

Mrs Norton was chosen for this story by Sandy Hill Principal, Sara Melton

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Rosewood]

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!

1st Grade teacher, Danielle Sampo:

I choose Jenison because this was the community I was raised in and the school district I attended.  I wanted my children to have the same experience that I was fortunate to have.

I think Jenison is different school district because it provides opportunities for all students to grow and learn while having a safe, caring community around them.

My building exemplifies hard-working, caring, selfless teachers who go above and beyond for their students. I consider my colleges my family who are always their to support and encourage one another. This positively impacts the students we work with.

I look forward to summer because I love to re-connect with my two boys and my husband all while doing what we love – boating and spending time up north as a family.

If I wasn’t a teacher I would probably be a social worker/counselor working with at-risk children because I love making a difference in the people’s lives. I would teach them that their challenges do not define them as a person but only help to mold them into who they are today.

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

Ms Sampo was chosen for this story by Rosewood Principal, Lloyd Gingerich

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Bauerwood]

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!

4th Grade teacher, Craig Westra:

As a 1986 graduate of JPS, Mr Westra has continued to make sure Jenison is part of his life! “I chose Jenison because I grew up here and attended Jenison Public Schools. Jenison teachers and coaches have been a large part of my life, helping me through difficult times, improvement after struggling academics, and experiencing athletic success.

I think Jenison is a different school district because we encourage children to be multifaceted, yet accepting, while providing them opportunities to explore many different activities.  

Mr Westra sees the support given to students every day at his school. “Bauerwood exemplifies this by being a child-centered building, teaching our students how to encourage, support and respect their peers.”

And don’t think Mr Westra will be kicking back in his hammock this summer! I look forward to summer because I love to work at the high school pool and teach backyard swim lessons. He is also excited to get going again in the fall! “I’m looking forward to working with another group of awesome fourth graders next year.”

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

Mr Westra was chosen for this story by Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Bursley]

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!

Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] Categorical teacher, Kate Walker:

I choose Jenison because Jenison’s program for students with Autism is excellent.  I had the opportunity to work here briefly as a long term substitute and was so impressed with the building leadership and teamwork within the program, when I had the opportunity to come back one year later, it was a “no-brainer.”  While I loved my job within another district, I knew I wanted to be part of this tight-knit, supportive team, which has stretched me and supported me both professionally and personally.

I think Jenison is a different school district because of the support.  I see the community step in and support the district. I see students step in and support each other, especially our students with special needs.  The peer program at the elementary level and the LINKS program at the secondary level allow our students with autism to be supported in unique and tangible ways.

My building exemplifies this by living life like a family.  As staff, we do not hesitate to step into both the personal and professional situations we find ourselves in.  We come around the families of our students to care for them in times of crisis and we do not hesitate to support students with kind words and extra encouragement on a daily basis.

I look forward to summer because I love to spend time with my 3 kids.  We enjoy trips to the beach, the ice cream shop, and many hours at the baseball fields and the pool.  We work to strike a good balance between being busy with friends and activities, and having time to rest and relax.

I am looking forward to continuing to work with my students next year.  One of the best parts of my position is that I typically work with my students for 3 to 4 years.  This allows us to build very close relationships and I get to see their growth across time. It is always amazing to get to the end of their 6th grade year and look back at how far they have come since the beginning of 3rd grade!

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

Ms Walker was chosen for this story by Bursley Principal, Brent Huck

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Pinewood]

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!

1st Grade teacher, Kelsey Radvansky:

I chose Jenison because of the great community and phenomenal teaching staff. I had the opportunity to student teach in Jenison 5 years ago. As soon as I walked in, I knew this was the district for me! The teaching staff, administration and students were all so inviting and warm. It felt more like a “family” environment than a work place. After a few weeks of student teaching, my beliefs were confirmed by the daily conversations with other staff members, the obvious care and concern for every student, and the interactions and support from families. It truly is a dream environment to thrive in!

I KNOW Jenison is a different school district because of its environment. I’ve been in numerous other districts and none have compared to what I’ve felt here. The level of love and support to all kids and staff in this school community is unmatched! Jenison really takes the time to teach the whole student: academically, socially, emotionally and physically. All aspects of education are truly embraced in Jenison.

Pinewood exemplifies teaching the whole student in so many ways. Our building constantly strives to present our students with top of the line curriculum. We are constantly reviving curricula to best meet our students needs. Teachers here are willing to do whatever it takes to give the best material to our students and present it in an exciting way! In addition to that, we have adopted a Social Thinking curriculum. With that, students are exposed to how to be socially self-aware, take on new perspectives, self regulate, and further develop their executive functioning skills. These lessons help students socially and emotionally grow with each coming school year. Finally, at Pinewood, it is not uncommon to see staff attending student events and volunteering outside of the school day. Our staff really wants to build meaningful relationships with each and every child and it shows!!

I always look forward to summer time because I love to go for morning walks with my little yorkie, Cooper. I start my day with a cup of coffee, then him and I hit the trails! I also love to lounge on our back deck and curl up with a good book. Summer is the best time to catch up on house projects, too! I love seeing what I can renovate, decorate or paint in the summer time!

If I wasn’t a teacher, I would probably be the next Joanna Gaines! If you haven’t heard of her, you need to turn to HGTV and watch the show Fixer Upper immediately! I would love to buy and fix up old, run-down houses and make them new again! I love getting my hands dirty with a project, as well as design, decor, and everything about her farmhouse style. Luckily, with being a teacher and having my summers off, I get a glimpse of the lifestyle in my own home with new projects.

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

Ms Radvansky was chosen for this story by Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown

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

 

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JHS]

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!

Science teacher, Alice Putti:

“I choose Jenison because it is a supportive and caring community that values values education.  There is a tremendous amount of parent support at home and in grades K-12. I think Jenison is a different school district because from the administrators to the parent volunteers, meeting student needs are the priority.  Student success is important to everyone in the district.

This attitude is exemplified in the ways that every teacher and administrators spends countless hours working with students in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities.  

This is summer I am looking forward to attending conferences and running summer workshops for AP chemistry teachers.  Teaching is my passion but I also love to learn too. During the summer I attend chemistry education conferences, so I can learn new content or teaching strategies. I am part of the Biennial Conference Committee and help plan a national chemistry education conference that runs every other year in various locations around the country. In addition to teaching at JHS,  I also am a consultant for College Board and I run workshops to help train AP chemistry teachers. Most summers I run 2-3 workshops and they are usually four days long.”  

This coming school year marks and important milestone for science at JPS. “Next year will be the first year that elementary school girls who participated in the Girls in STEM club will attend high school.  I am looking forward to seeing them in the building and learning if the program has made a lasting impact on their lives. The last three years have been a tremendous success for Girls in STEM and I hope this will continue in the future.  

Be a guide for a company that leads hikes/bike rides etc or a guide for a city tour or historical location.  When on vacation, I love to go on tours and learn about the area, history and culture. As a guide, I would be able to share my knowledge with other people. [Sounds kind of like being a teacher, huh?]”

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

Mrs Putti was chosen for this story by High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [JHS]

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, Caroline Clement:

I was born and raised in Jenison – and I love Jenison.  My husband Dana was also raised here, and we are graduates of Jenison High School.  We are very proud of the education that we received at Jenison High School, and how the educators and the curriculum have shaped who we are as human beings.  We learned many lessons during our time here – both academically and life lessons from some of our legendary teachers during the 70s and 80s.  I want to continue that legacy during my time here at Jenison.  We have raised two children who have also graduated from JPS, and they are also very proud of their experiences here.  They received a great education, have created lifelong memories, and their time here has helped build a foundation for the rest of their lives.

I think Jenison is a different school district because of the community that the teachers build with the students.  I taught previously in another district, and it was a great experience that I enjoyed very much.  But Jenison High School has created a climate where the teachers are not friends with the students, but are friendly with the students.  The culture is one of respect, and the students and teachers are able to effectively work together in a friendly and comfortable climate.  Everyday I look forward to coming to teach my students.  I thoroughly enjoy their attitudes toward school, toward their teachers and toward their peers.  I attribute this to the climate and culture that has been created since Kindergarten.   I  also believe Jenison is unique because of the academic focus.  We are driven to be the best, so that when our students graduate, they can have many doors open to them.  The teachers invest a great amount of time in creating curriculum that is beneficial to all of the students.  Also, the teachers truly care about the performance of their students. There is constant sharing of ideas between teachers to help improve the academic successes of our students.  Teachers are willing to give up personal time to work with struggling students to help ensure their success. 

My building exemplifies this by being visible in the hallway, working with students during lunch and after school and showing a true interest in the students’ lives.  Teachers are always visible in the hallway, allowing us to chat with students in between classes.  It allows us to speak with current students and past students in a more casual manner.  We also care about our students lives outside of the classroom.  Teachers are very visible at sporting events and concerts and plays.  We like to know how our students our doing in sports, the arts, and at their jobs. Also, there are many student led clubs that are monitored by the teaching staff to ensure that all students can find a place at Jenison.

I look forward to summer because I love to read.  During the school year I am busy prepping for my job and I also coach swimming for seven months, so I do not have the opportunity to read as much as I would like.  During the summer, I read as much as I can.  I teach Summer School  and do some part-time coaching in the summer, but I love to read in my spare time.  I write down names of recommended books from my avid reader friends, and I try to read as many as I can during the summer months.

At the end of every summer I look forward to the start of the new year because of the opportunity to meet new people.  My job remains similar every year because I teach similar content areas, but I am fortunate that my job also changes every year because I get new students.  This is a job that allows me to form new relationships every year, and that is a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, I do get sad at the end of every year too, because those relationships, especially with seniors, are coming to an end.

If I wasn’t a teacher, I would probably be a lawyer.  In my mid-twenties I was a banker, and I decided to make a career change.  I was choosing between law school and education, and I chose education.  My husband always tells me I should have been a lawyer because he believes he has never won a fight in our 28 year marriage!

There are a lot of things that my students don’t know about me:  I am a first generation American.  I am varsity letter winner from the University of Michigan for swimming.  I took organ lessons for 11 years and have played in churches and in weddings.  Lots of little odd and interesting things in my life.

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

Mrs Clement was chosen for this story by High School Principal, Dr Brandon Graham