Senior Honors Night 2014


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While today marks the last day of school for most of our Jenison students, the Class of 2014 has donned their caps and gowns, changed their tassels from one side to the other and said their good byes to Jenison Public Schools, for many of them, their home away from home for the past thirteen years.  On Tuesday, May 27th the High School Administration and Staff took time to honor those graduating students who have gone above and beyond in their academic careers.

Over 200 students were honored for their achievements including four National Merit Scholars for the first time in Jenison history!  Congratulations to Jeshua Hayden, Kyle Vachon, Daniel Wells, Jason Wesseling! And 45 students were honored for their work in a specific department as chosen by faculty in each department.

There was $4.2 million dollars in various scholarships awarded to students and this was due to the diligent work of students pursuing [and qualifying for!] so many scholarship opportunities.  These scholarship funds are provided by the largest group of “Institutions and Benefactors Providing Financial Support” we have ever had and include schools such as Alma College, Hope College, University of Michigan and University of California Los Angeles and local businesses including Gemmens Hardware and Cracker Barrel.  Moving and emotional Memorial Scholarships were also awarded in honor of Bud Kamradt, Tami Lindemulder, Denise Petkus, Joshua Stedman, Erika Marie West, Dean Wierenga and Richard and Doris Weist.

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For some students, they overcame many health, family, financial and emotional adversities to get to this place of honor but Mr. Terry Dykstra, High School Guidance Counselor, would tell them, “I would want the Class of 2014 to always remember from where they’ve come, to treasure the gifts and talents that they have been given, and to cherish each day, as a gift from God.  They are truly special, and from “special” much is expected!”

Students were also honored for joining the Armed Forces after graduation with a long [and loud!] standing ovation from the grateful crowd!

“Honors Night is always an incredible evening, where we reflect on and recognize the achievements of the graduating class.  For some students in the class, they having been receiving periodic recognition throughout their high school career, but for many [just as equally talented and gifted!], this is their moment of “fame” and recognition and an opportunity for us to say “THANK YOU” to them for making Jenison HS a better place!” — Mr. Terry Dykstra

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124 Students achieved a GPA of 3.5 or above


“This is one of the most motivated classes we have ever had at JHS!  They are outstanding in and outside of the classroom and are dedicated to excellence.  These students are very deserving of all the recognition that they are receiving at honors night!  I’m truly proud of the Class of 2014!” — Dr. Brandon Graham, Principal

Congratulations Class of 2014!  We wish you the best as you look towards very bright and exciting futures.  Know that Jenison will always be home…and, no matter what they say, you can always come home again.

International Students Choose Jenison


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When family and friends are thousands of miles and oceans away it seems difficult to imagine that a new, albeit temporary, home can be made but students from China, South Korea, Finland and Spain have done just that this past school year in our community.

These students stay with Jenison Host Families and integrate into the life of Jenison High School.  With open arms, amazing local families embrace these students, sharing with them the love and hospitality that is customary within our Jenison community.  Once settled into home-life, a meeting takes place with one of the high school guidance counselors, Mr. Terry Dykstra.  Based upon interests and academic goals, Mr. Dykstra guides students in building their daily course schedule.  Prior to the first day of school, all are invited to attend an orientation of the building, learning how to navigate as well as meet other students.

As the school year gets underway, international students experience the support each teacher extends to them individually.  From academic assistance in a specific class, to the thoughtful care of asking another student to walk them to their next class, Jenison teachers are always putting students first.  Additionally, the appreciation and awareness of other cultures in each classroom allows for a unique experience with international and Jenison students alike.

One student that chose to attend Jenison High School this year is Mary Wang who has been studying at Longcheng High School for 2 years. “It is my honor to be the first foreign exchange student from Longcheng, to study at Jenison High School. I decided to come to the USA because I planned to study abroad for my higher education as well. Finally, I made my decision to study in Great Britain and I have already received offers from several schools. I am interested in politics, history, and debate so my major will be International Relations & Politics.”


International students pictured with Terry Dykstra, Becky Redmer, Emily Kaminski + Tom TenBrink. Mary Wang is seated in front of Mr. TenBrink.


Some International students have the option to attend Jenison High School by applying independently with an agency, while others have the ability to come here by way of a direct partnership.  As more international awareness of Jenison takes place, there has been a desire to partner with schools overseas, specifically in China.  Over the past three years, these partnerships have matured and produced far reaching options for students.

Emily Kaminiski, JIA International Coordinator of Student Services, supports many international students from a multitude of pathways that lead them to Jenison.  “From the two current partnerships, we project our international student population to continue to grow next year.  Jenison is always seeking new opportunities and possibilities. Currently there are initiatives with Scotland and additional schools in China, to allow study abroad opportunities for our JHS students, and to increase our international student population.”

And while it isn’t always easy, sophomore student Mateo Blanco from Spain will tell you, “You have to grow, nobody can tell you, you have to live it to really understand it.”  South Korean sophomore, Hayeong Choi says that she misses her family and the food of her home country but knows that she has matured a lot during her time here.

“These students are so courageous!  At such a young age they leave their families and all that is familiar, to immerse themselves into another culture, because they know it is good for their long term benefit!  It is not the easy decision to make!  It’s incredible to watch them arrive very timid, and over time become a natural fit with their home stay families.”
– Ms. Emily Kaminski

As the program continues to grow the need for Host Families grows as well.  If you’re interested in becoming a Host Family for one of these brave international students please contact Ms. Kaminski at the JIA:  616.457.3400, x3349

We’re so glad these students have made Jenison their home this year and we hope they will take a little bit of us with them around the world!

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Hayeong Choi with her host family.

Junior High Students Get Some Well Deserved Kudos!


On the evening of Tuesday, May 6 hundreds of families of Junior High students filled the Jenison Center for the Arts to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of the over 500 students receiving honors and special recognition.  Students were obviously excited and parents, obviously proud.


According to Mrs. Breen, Jenison Junior High Vice Principal, this is the most students they have ever had at honors night and being a building of just under 700 students total that is an extra reason to celebrate.  One of the special awards given out was the Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award which “allows us to recognize kids that might not be in the spotlight all the time but lets us spotlight some of their efforts that they’ve made this year behavior wise, academically, etc.”  Students are nominated by teachers as someone who has really made great strides in a few different areas.  “That’s one of the great things about Jenison Junior High.  We have a feel for everyone that walks through the building, who they are, what their names are, what their background is, a little about their family.  That’s the great thing about the Jenison culture in general.”

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

  • MEAP 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]

The honorees also included 23 eight graders who received the Exemplary Achievement Award which has a two year requirement period.  In order to be chosen for this prestigious award students must do community service, be on the honor roll every marking period and have involvement in a club or team.  The student athletes award winners had 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.

A handful of the winners of the Exemplary Achievement Award winners.

A handful of the winners of the Exemplary Achievement Award winners.

“I want to thank all the teachers who’ve impacted the students day in and day out with their care, support and encouragement.  I think that goes for teachers Kindergarten through 7th and 8th grade who have worked with this student.  We have them for two short years but there is a lot that’s been invested.”  — Mrs. Heather Breen, Jenison Junior High Vice Principal

Our teachers are amazing and they are some of the best anywhere because they plan such innovative lessons incorporating technology  and challenging students to think more deeply  and tons of lessons that are engaging  for students and most of all, they make learning fun.   They way they build relationships with students and tell them that they care about them is what makes it all happen.” — Mr. Brett Cataldo, Jenison Junior High Principal


Riley Knaak + Haley Westra [both 7th grade] are all smiles on their big night!

Riley Knaak + Haley Westra [both 7th grade] are all smiles on their big night!

Way to go Junior High students!  Whether you still have one more year or are moving on to the High School we are proud of you and can’t wait to see where you’ll go and who you’ll be!

Sandy Hill Families Take Time to Spruce it Up!

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This past Saturday morning while many of us were sleeping in or being lazy in our pajamas, Sandy Hill families were busy volunteering to help keep their school looking great!

Each spring and fall Sandy Hill hosts Spruce it Up, an event dedicated to maintaining the curb appeal of the school.  According to Mr. Mroz, Principal:  “Activities range from: cleaning up leaves and trash, fixing plow damage, pickup up sticks or other debris, trimming shrubs/trees, spreading of bark and planting of shrubs.”

A couple of young helpers take a break to chat.

A couple of young helpers take a break to chat.

It’s a laid back morning where volunteers jumped in wherever they were needed and the jobs were decided up on by the parents club throughout the year.  They have also been generous in supplying funding for various needs (shredded bark, removal of yard waste, or parts and assembly of gaga pits for the playground).

Rather than base this around a fundraising element Mr Mroz and the Parent Club see this event as more of a “morning together in the yard” in order to take pride in the property the district provides.

Mr Mroz mans the leaf blower!

Mr Mroz mans the leaf blower!

“Thank you to our volunteers!  The time and effort that has already been spent in the past, and going to be spent in the future, is greatly appreciated.  Taking pride and respecting the property helps instill a sense of ownership for the students that attend Sandy Hill.  Additional time provided by staff outside the school day helps continue to strengthen our sense community at Sandy Hill.” — Mr Mroz

Thank you to all the participants who sacrificed a spring morning to help keep Sandy Hill looking great!
We appreciate you and all you do!

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Jenison International Academy Partners with GRCC to offer Biology Labs

This past February the Jenison International Academy [JIA] had the opportunity to visit Grand Rapids Community College and integrate online learning with some hands-on experience.
The Jenison International Academy currently serves eight counties in the West Michigan area providing full-time online education for students in grades 6-12 and is in its fourth year of operation. JIA continues to expand its programming, acting as a curriculum provider for local districts in West Michigan.
Kristin Graham, JIA Principal shared the details of their February 7th lab and the students experience at GRCC:  In an effort to provide hands on opportunities for students who participate in virtual courses, JIA has partnered with the Biology faculty at Grand Rapids Community College to provide lab opportunities for our students.  Ninth grade Biology students met on the campus of GRCC to complete a DNA fingerprinting lab. Biology faculty and current GRCC students hosted the lab in order to teach students the basics of restriction enzymes and how they are used to cut DNA samples in order to determine DNA sequences. This process, called DNA Fingerprinting is often used in the judicial system.  Students were provided with a simulation in which they performed a gel electrophoresis to see which of the suspects was most likely to have committed the crime based on DNA evidence collected at the crime scene.

Following the completion of the crime simulation, students were challenged to isolate a DNA strand from their own saliva. A buffer solution was used to extract a visible mass of DNA cells and students used toothpicks to pull a thin strand of DNA from their test tubes.

In the future, JIA students will visit GRCC science labs once per semester in our Biology courses to complete activities relating to their online coursework.
Another exciting milestone for the Jenison International Academy is their new home!  The first week in April, the JIA officially transitioned into their new facility at 7506 Church Ct., the building formerly used as the temporary offices for the Administrative offices during the construction of the Jenison Center for the Arts building. The new facility houses our administrative and instructional staff offices as well as a teaching lab/conference room and learning lounge for students to utilize throughout the day.
New home of the JIA!

New home of the JIA!

The Jenison International Academy is an unique and important element of the fabric of Jenison Public Schools and we’re proud to watch it grow and continue to impact our community and beyond!

Junior High Student Showcase & Soup Dinner

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It was a special night at Jenison Junior High last Thursday, one that was meant to highlight and celebrate the amazing talents and passions of our Junior High Students and continue an eleven year tradition of hosting the Student Showcase and Soup Dinner and it did not disappoint!  Many of the school’s incredible groups took part in the Showcase, allowing guests to be entertained, educated and, of course, fed!

A small sampling of the hundreds of bowls created by our art students!

A small sampling of the hundreds of bowls created by our art students!

The Ceramics and Sculptures class created 225 one-of-a kind, keepsake bowls for diners to choose from and take home as part of their dinner ticket purchase!  “Initially, this event was originally intended to be a part of the Empty Bowls Project, a national fundraiser that pairs organizations and schools with local soup kitchens in order to help raise money for the hungry in their communities” and they continue to support the local organization, God’s Kitchen, in Grand Rapids, with their profits, says Vice Principal, Heather Breen.

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The 8th Grade Teen Leadership Team was in charge of running the kitchen and serving the all you can eat meal [which included delicious soup classics such as Chicken Noodle, Cheese Broccoli, and Chili], salad, rolls, desserts and drinks. This team also worked hard to decorate the cafeteria, prepare the meal, collect money, collect and package canned goods, and clean the cafeteria following the event.

Each guest was given the option to pay a flat rate of $7.50 or receive a .50 discount if they also brought a canned good.  Families received a discount of $1.50  with four canned goods!  Ms. Breen reports that “We had approximately 250 people attend the event this year and we brought in approximately $1500 in sales from the dinner and $300 from our Be Nice doorway competition.  We also collected 110 pounds of canned goods for God’s Kitchen.”

For the discerning dinner guest who enjoys learning there were plenty of opportunities!  The Junior High Band, Orchestra and Choir performed during dinner and many teams including Science Olympiad, KIK Club [Kids Impacting Kids] & Cooking 101 shared presentations as “a great way to highlight the talents of our outstanding students!” – Ms Breen

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One of the many posters created by the Be Nice campaign.

Additionally, classrooms focused on the theme of “Be Nice” to decorate their doorways. Be nice is a positive anti-bullying initiative designed to spread awareness surrounding the issues of bullying and the importance of treating people with civility community-wide.* Guests were able to vote for their favorite classroom doorway design by giving change that was donated to God’s Kitchen. Any amount was acceptable and the winning classroom won a pizza party!

“We believe that this event continues to be a success due to the support of our students, staff and families.  Our students make this event a success by sharing their amazing gifts and talents.  Our staff and families also make this event a success by their commitment to support our students and our community.” — Ms Breen

Once again, our students, staff and families in Jenison prove that they care deeply for those in and around our community.
Jenison Junior High students;  Way to go!

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*From the website of the Mental Health foundation






High School Production of Wizard of Oz Amazes Audiences!

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The Jenison High School Thespians and Music Department took on a legendary classic for the first musical production in the new Jenison Center for the Arts and they did not disappoint! Performing to a sold out run for the first time in Jenison theatre history, the classic story of Dorothy finding her way back to Kansas was beautifully performed by the hundreds of actors, musicians, crew members and support staff.

Tryouts began after Christmas but rehearsals were thwarted by the many snow days this winter.  Bringing the show together with those set backs didn’t stop the group from being the kind of team required of this massive production. Kim Nagy, Vocal Director, says that is what impressed her most: “The kids have just done an absolutely incredible job, everybody has completely pulled together.  This has been the tightest cast we’ve ever worked with and absolutely delightful to work with from beginning to end.  Mr Avery stresses professionalism with the students and they live up to that.”

Senior Jenna Bassett was thrilled to play the Wicked Witch of the West which is her “dream role”, “I love being the villain; it’s really fun” and plans to try out for roles at the Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids after graduation because “it’s something, that once you get started you never want to leave”.

Will Docsa, a senior originally from a small town in Kentucky, played the great and powerful Oz and spoke about the role and his time with Jenison Theatre with a bright smile and unmatched enthusiasm.  “I didn’t really fit in very well, I was sort of an outcast and loner but I was encouraged by my English 9 teacher, Mr Brossiet, to join theatre and I really just flourished here.” Never having considered theatre before he caught the keen eye of Mr. Brossiet during a class reading of Romeo and Juliet, “I was reading it very dramatically and he recommended it and I thought I’d give it a shot.”  The role of Oz is one of his favorites and was particularly impressed with the culmination of the teams that came together for the pre-recorded pieces such as tech, audio, camera, make up and editing, “it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve seen Jenison theatre ever do.”

Will is also quick to give props to Mr. Avery, not only for his directorial abilities but the important role he plays in Will’s life:  “Mr Avery has always been like a father figure to me and without him I probably wouldn’t have gotten as successful in high school as I am today.”

“The show is bittersweet because it’s my last show here but our first show in the space”, says Katherine Searcy, playing the role of Dorothy. Amazingly, Katherine had not seen The Wizard of Oz until two years ago, but she was excited for the opportunity nonetheless. For her, singing and performing in the new space “is a little scary but it makes me really happy, it really does.”

The new theatre really got to stretch its wings by showing off the special effects required of this show such as a tornado, flying monkeys, a flying witch and even Miss Gultch riding her bike while flying through the air!  Of course, Toto [played by Lulu Byrne] stole his fair number of scenes as Dorothy did her best to keep him close.  The musical accompaniment led by Orchestra Director Dave Zomborsky, was positively professional and the entire musical team were the hidden stars of the show.

“The community came together to give us the wonderful gift of the new performing arts center.  With our production of The Wizard of OZ, our hope was to take that gift and give one of our own in return.  We love our gift and hope everyone enjoyed their gift, as well.  It was a joy to work with my fellow directors and this great cast, crew and orchestra full of talented young people.  History was made with this production, and it was an honor to be a part of it.”  Mr. Todd Avery, Director

Congratulations to the team for a fantastic run and an incredible job well done!  As always, you make us proud!

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Dorothy played by Katherine Searcy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

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Glinda the Good Witch played by Marysa Miller floats to Munchkin Land

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Sean Daley playing The Cowardly Lion

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Scarecrow Gerrit Veldt, Tin Man Nate Altena, Dorothy and The Cowardly Lion are off to the see the Wizard!

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Sean Daley and The Wizard of Oz, Will Docsa

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There's no place like home!

There’s no place like home!





Nothing But Fun at Bursley Fun Night!


With more than a dozen events like Cake Walk, Worm Crawl, Ring Toss and Ladder Ball Bursley students and their families had plenty to do to keep them busy this past Friday at Bursley Fun Night!

Bursley parent, Tim Guikema is the Chairperson for Fun Night and is in charge of bringing together the entire staff to manage the many details of this exciting night.  “We have a great team that work well together and make this event run smoothly and continually for many years now.” Tim says.  In fact, Bursley Fun Night has been part of Bursley life for more than twenty years!


Ann Winkle, Fun Night Volunteer Coordinator, is proud of the many ways that kids and families could be entertained, “Along with having many carnival type games, we also sell popcorn, have a candy store, an open kitchen where families can have dinner at a great price, and a silent auction featuring collaborative student art.”  Each game “cost” 2 tickets to play per person and tickets were sold at school prior to the event for 5 tickets for $1 and 4 tickets for $1 at the door.  But in an effort to make sure every student was able to attend and participate, all students were given 10 tickets in their Friday Folders for free!


The ticket sales go to fuel the event as well as support school projects throughout the year.  According to Ann, “Much of the ticket sales goes to buying prizes for games, food for the kitchen, popcorn, candy, etc, however, Bursley does end up with some profit at the end of the evening.  This goes to the Parent Club and is used for approved purchases/expenses that benefit the school and/or students”.

Tim adds that “We have tried to keep the cost down as much as possible and get a lot of help from local companies to donate their goods to keep cost down and affordable. Parent Club was able to pay for some needed tree service to remove hazardous trees from the playground area that JPS could not afford. There are so many needs for the school, that without Fun Night, there would be a short fall and our kids could miss out on some great things. ”

And because there is great teacher involvement in the event it was a fun opportunity for students and their families to get to know each other in an informal setting as everyone gets out of the house for a little late winter fun.

Both Tim and Ann are proud to be Bursley parents and are especially thankful for the staff that have encouraged their children to always do and be their best.

“Spending any extra time in the school and around the school is enjoyable and a blessing for my kids. Many schools have eliminated Fun Night, but we are here to keep it going as long as possible. ” – Tim Guikema

These brothers are a dynasty!  They both won the Grand Prize in Ladder Ball!

These brothers are a dynasty! They both won the Grand Prize in Ladder Ball!


Choosing the winning sucker is an important decision!

Choosing the winning sucker is an important decision!

Two, separate ring Toss games for K - 3 and above ensured everyone had a fair shot at one of these fun prizes!

Two, separate ring Toss games for K – 3 and above ensured everyone had a fair shot at one of these fun prizes!

5th Grader, Samantha, wasted no time in choosing this when she won the Cake Walk!

5th Grader, Samantha, wasted no time in choosing this when she won the Cake Walk!

Jenison Grads Contribute to MSU Rosebowl Win!

MSU Rosebowl

Josh Hoogendoorn [JHS ’12] and Luke Klawiter [JHS ’11] have lots of reasons to be smiling! Both are current students at Michigan State University, each following different academic paths but both found themselves coming alongside this year’s Championship football team at the Rose Bowl!

Josh is an accounting major and is acting as student-manager working with the defensive coaching staff, a role he plans to continue in next year.  Luke is an Athletic Training major [an offset of Kinesiology] who “got the lucky hand” by landing a role with the football team this year as part of his regular team training rotation.

Luke & Josh traveled with the team during their entire 13 – 1 season [8 – 0 in the Big Ten] including the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.  Luke said that while it was definitely a lot of work, he most enjoyed the behind the scenes nature of his job.  He was able to arrive at the Rose Bowl Stadium early and was awed by the empty 90,000 seats that would soon be filled with cheering MSU and Stanford fans.  One of the most important aspects of training the football team for the game in Pasadena, CA was hydration.  After being with the team for five months and building relationships with the players, Luke and his fellow student trainers had built the necessary rapport required when the athletes needed to be told to drink more water, especially when they themselves didn’t even realize.

Preparation for the game that was played in 70 degree temperatures was key for this Mid West team used to playing in much colder temps.  At the MSU practice field they pumped the temperature up to 110 degrees to get the players acclimated to the heat and need for extra water.

For Luke, being part of the Championship Team was “awesome” and his favorite team rotation so far.  However, he is quick to give credit for his success at MSU to the education he received at Jenison.  “I sing Jenison’s praises for how they prepared me every chance I get and I’m remembering things I learned in high school in upper level classes.”  He feels far ahead of his classmates and “wouldn’t trade the education I received for anything.”

“Josh and Luke were both exemplary students at Jenison High School!  They are dedicated and extremely hard working young men.  We are proud of them and excited to watch them achieve continued success.”
Dr. Brandon Graham, Jenison High School Principal

The entire district is proud of both of you!  Go Wildcats! Go Spartans!

It’s Always a Good Day at the ECC!

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“School is really playful and where I want to go!” says five year old Paige.  Her face is bright and smiling and she happily returns to her diligent coloring.

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Paige is not alone in her opinion; the Pre-K teachers and assistants all had amazing things to say about the Early Childhood Center and the work that is done there every day to shape the futures of the students in their care.

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Mr. Harig has been teaching for more than ten years and he likes the fact that he’s “getting [students] early on so you can have a huge impact on them, that they don’t have to leave here behind.”  A typical day for Pre-K students at the ECC consists of small group instruction three times each day, an hour of free play which is important because it provides the opportunity for three important elements to learning:  “By allowing them to play they learn to develop relationships with their peers, learn how to play and share and it allows us to work with students one on one.”  

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Students are also given time with the two Interventionists [Blake Smolen and Mary DeJonge] in groups of one or two where they concentrate on Language Arts and sometime math skills.   Teacher Janet Schultz acknowledges that having these interventionists is different than other schools and is an important part of their success. “We have a lot of extra support for kids to get them ready to go to the other elementary buildings.”

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At the ECC teachers concentrate on the whole child incorporating signing, activities to teach fine and gross motor skills as well as the necessary academic studies in small groups as well.  The contagious spirit of love for kids and excitement for learning and teaching is evident throughout the hallways and each classroom. When asked why she loves the ECC, Mrs Poquette put it simply, “I love my students!”

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Thank you to all the teachers, staff and families at the Early Childhood Center!  Because of all of you “The kids leave here prepared for Kindergarten, prepared to succeed and the collective success of our whole team is what I celebrate the most.” [Mr. Harig]

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Emily loves school because “there’s toys and I learned math.” Great work Emily!

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Free play in Mr Harig’s class means self-directed reading for these bright girls!

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Look out Jenison! Andrew is already preparing his Halloween costume he says!