Creative problem solvers are providing some real special opportunities to experience social activities these days. Remaining connected while keeping our friends and families safe is a win win!
The ‘Padres del Puente’ (Parent Club of El Puente) arranged a special night for families to enjoy some socially distanced fun with their first ever drive-in movie night. About 50 cars showed up to the school parking lot ready to get cozy in their vehicles and enjoy the double feature for the night.
The movies included Coco and Addams Family, and clear sound was available through the FM tuning on car stereos.
The excited movie goers included students who are part of in-person classes as well as those who are Extended Traditional Learners.
There was at least one battery that needed some friendly help but in the end, movie reviewers of all ages gave this event many thumbs up!
These days, I am continually amazed (not surprised) at the lengths our teachers have gone in order to uphold the integrity and tradition of an education from Jenison Public Schools. I, along with the school board, am proud to support them however possible and today I’m happy to highlight the extreme excitement and importance of continuing our music education programs during this time.
As a result of Covid-19 and all the challenges that come along with in-person instruction and hosting public events, some districts – even those in our own local area have decided to defer music education this year. I am truly grateful that we have the dedication and capacity to continue our remarkable music program.
Since the beginning of the school year, our band and orchestra directors have continued to work with and teach their students throughout some unusual circumstances. Over the last few weeks, families were given the opportunity to enjoy concerts live and in person.
Impeccable logistical planning allowed the High School Orchestras to perform 4 individual concerts on the evening of October 29. With more than enough appropriate spacing on the stage and in the auditorium seats, the strings filled the JCA with beautiful, soothing music. Dan Scott and Josh Zallar led their musicians in an amazing evening that seems to have touched hearts just a little more than during a ‘normal’ year. It felt so great to be in our beautiful Jenison Center for the Arts and hear it come alive with music again!
The Jenison Junior High Bands also performed an outdoor concert on October 21. Anne Gembis and Marc Palma led students as they took their turn playing underneath the lights at the football field. No specific uniform was required but as the weather was starting to turn, it was encouraged for all to bring hats and gloves. Both evenings went very smoothly with family guests observing safety measures and making it possible for all to enjoy. Watching our Wildcat Musicians perform is a highlight and offered a blissful momentary escape, for the players and attendees alike. We are all hoping this isn’t our last set of concerts for this year.
If you are a parent of a Jenison Musician, you have so much to be proud of. I am very pleased with the staff and students for pushing through these unprecedented times, and I’m thankful to you for choosing to involve your child in the program. Our district is so very blessed to have a brilliant, hardworking staff of directors cultivating their life long musical talent.
I am excited to introduce another group of dynamic teachers who are new to Jenison Public Schools this year. It’s great to welcome folks from within our community and outside the area. A big thank you to principal Holly McGoran and the entire Bursley Elementary School team for a successful beginning to this school year and your daily commitment to show up and finish strong! Our children are blessed to spend their days with you.
We welcome Samantha Anderson to her first year at JPS as a 6th grade Teacher at Bursley Elementary. She is so proud of her students and what they have been able to accomplish together in the short (and somewhat unconventional) year we’ve had so far. The hardworking reputation of our Jenison teachers grabbed her and she’s excited to add her name to the list of those that go above and beyond for her young Wildcats.
Outside the classroom, she spends time as a student herself at Grand Valley State University working towards a Masters of Education in Instruction and Curriculum. Samantha also works with children through ABA therapy. You can also find her enjoying the great outdoors year round in water, snow or by the campfire.
Madison Baker is an Extended Traditional Kindergarten teacher at Bursley Elementary. Her students are learning from home with her as their dedicated online teacher. Growing up in the area, she knew that the values and mission of Jenison Public Schools aligned with her own so she is very excited to start her full time teaching career with us. She has been impressed with the resounding theme of cohesiveness among the Bursley staff members – knowing that she has support around every corner.
As Madison is also personally passionate about mental health, she could see herself working in that field if she wasn’t a teacher.
Sarah Faasse is as a Kindergarten Extended Traditional teacher at Bursely Elementary. Her family chose to move to Jenison for her own children’s education. She appreciates the size of the district and the programs we are able to offer. Between four children, her family was involved in the special education and spanish immersion programs.
She previously spent 10 years teaching. Volunteering in the classroom for her own children for the last 7 years eventually brought her back to the classroom full time. After classes to update her teaching license, she joined the collaborative teaching ranks of JPS. She can’t imagine doing anything else, teaching is one of her greatest joys and no matter what capacity she finds herself, she will always be teaching something!
Kady Hernke comes to JPS from a local community where she spent 7 years teaching. She is excited to teach 2nd grade at Bursely Elementary this year.
Kady sensed that Jenison is a community full of people who want what is best for the students they serve. And she is excited to join our district as we strive to provide students with an excellent education while also developing their character.
An outdoorsy booklover, Kady enjoys arts and crafts and spending time with family and friends, and especially her young son.
Katie Johnson feels lucky that she had the opportunity to fill substitute teaching positions in the Jenison District last year. This meant she was able to experience the comfortable, team focused atmosphere within the teaching community. It was also one of the reasons she chose to officially start her career with us. In joining Bursley Elementary as a 5th grade teacher, she looks forward to continuing the friendships and great working relationships she has enjoyed with so many colleagues.
When she’s not teaching, she might be taking in a sporting event in-person or from the couch with her snuggly cat. She also enjoys time with friends and occasional trips to the east side of the state to visit family. Given the role athletics have played in her life, she might have chosen a career in sports management field if she wasn’t a teacher.
Becca Kelly chose Jenison because of our commitment and clear emphasis to ensure each student is able to achieve success, and that lasting relationships are encouraged with students and their families.
A lifelong Michigan resident and Michigan State University alum for Bachelors and Master’s education degrees, Becca is excited to join Jenison Public Schools this year as a 5th grade teacher at Bursley Elementary School. She previously taught 3rd grade for 6 years. In her spare time she enjoys camping, hiking, biking, and being outdoors. If she wasn’t a teacher, she thinks it would be fun to work as a museum curator!
Tara Kortman joins Bursley Elementary this year as a 4th grade teacher. She chose Jenison because she shares the priorities of relationships in learning, a strong focus on literacy and support for staff and students. She grew up in Hudsonville and is now happy to move back to the area with her husband and 2 young sons, after teaching 10 years in Saugatuck.
When she’s not teaching at school she loves taking walks and spending time with her sons and the family golden retriever. If she wasn’t a teacher, she would enjoy being a stay-at-home mom.
Jennifer Merritt attended Rosewood Elementary and is a proud graduate of JHS. She and her husband (Calvin Merritt, new Sandy Hill 5th grade teacher) live in Jenison with their 4 children who also attend JPS. She previously taught Kindergarten in Grandville.
As a student and a parent of JPS students, she already knows and loves the district. In these early days of her teaching experience at Bursley, she says it is evident that the Jenison district watches out for, and takes care of one another. She appreciates the environment created between staff and students, remarking that is such a positive, respectful family atmosphere.
When she’s not teaching 6th graders, or attending/coaching her kids’ events you might find her shopping, baking or just enjoying some downtime with her family.
Jalynn Mitchell is starting her first year with Jenison Public Schools teaching 2nd grade at Bursley Elementary.
The staff support and the students’ big hearts have made a great first impression. Jalynn appreciates the family culture of Jenison and highly values intentional, positive relationship building.
She loves to go to the beach, watch Hope College basketball, and practice yoga. If she wasn’t a teacher she would probably be an event planner.
Last week, under the Friday night lights, there was a reunion of fans, players, cheerleaders and musicians. Amidst the regulations and protocols for public gatherings in this season of COVID-19, being together brought a little sigh of relief and a refreshing feeling of normal. Last week, in David McKenzie Stadium, the resounding theme of the evening for seniors on the field would be, this night was a dream come true.
Michael Care, wide receiver felt the opportunity to not only have a fall season but to celebrate on their home field last week with their cheerleading and marching band counterparts was a big relief. Michael and his teammates appreciated being surrounded by the community and hearing all the normal sounds that accompany their games. Time spent together as a team and the rallying of Friday nights, especially with a great win, is something that cements the bonds of everyone. For this senior, he hopes this is an indication that life will be slowly returning to normal.
Shelby Monday, Varsity cheerleader was elated to be given the chance to continue her final Varsity sideline cheer season. Training and cheering with masks as an accessory to her uniform is something she never thought she’d have to do, but felt it was definitely worth it. Time seems to be on fast forward for Shelby these days, and she’s looking forward to enjoying the rest of her senior year with more glimpses of normal, while embracing other unique memory making opportunities as she can.
For Madelyn Schab, Head Drum Major for the JHS Marching Band, it was an absolute dream come true to be given the opportunity to be under the Friday night lights. The marching band students experienced a great disappointment when their competitive season was cancelled 5 months ago, along with their football performances. Yet, she and the entire marching band and crew relentlessly pursued excellence as a team. Hopeful for a performance, they pushed forward perfecting their show. They have been so grateful that that approval for parent performances and this final football game became a reality.
Madelyn felt that this season was a reminder of the simple, pure experience of coming together as a group. Combining their passion and love for music, diligently pursuing perfection as they create an amazing show together, while supporting each other along the way, was a pretty great thing too. However, being able to support the football team and cheerleaders one last time as seniors, is something none of these musicians, (or this community) will soon be able to forget.
I’ll forever be proud of this class of students and teachers for the obstacles they have endured and the magic they have achieved. Go Wildcats!
Sandy Hill Elementary has welcomed two new teachers and embraced them with open arms. We’re excited to put their passion and experience to work for our students.
A first year teacher, Hannah is very excited to be off to a great start in her teaching career with 3rd graders at Sandy Hill Elementary. The reputation of Jenison Public Schools and the community drew her in and we’re so glad to have her. She has already enjoyed her students and the cohesive community with her new colleagues.
Hannah enjoys spending time outdoors, running/being active, and spending time with family/friends. If she wasn’t a teacher, she would probably be teaching fitness classes or traveling the world.
Calvin is no stranger to Jenison or the wonderful world of 5th graders. He spent 20 years teaching in Grandville, but has always been a Wildcat at heart. He is a resident, alumni and parent of children in the Jenison district.
As he leads a 5th grade class at Sandy Hill Elementary, he has been overwhelmed with how welcoming everyone was and he really appreciates the respectful, positive, family atmosphere. He feels the commitment of colleagues watching out for each other and taking care of one another.
A few hobbies Calvin enjoys are cooking, yard work, spending time with family, and coaching baseball/softball. If he wasn’t a teacher, he might take that yard work hobby a little more serious and own a lawn care business with his son.
This school year has presented many challenges to traditional teaching methods but the Pinewood team has forged ahead with giving their students every opportunity possible.
Our teachers are the best and are really showing their relentless spirit this year! Among many other unique ideas: outdoor learning and reading sessions have been a welcome break by students in all grades. Michelle U’Ren’s 5th grade students were able to visit the Gerald R Ford Museum virtually and they really enjoyed the very timely lesson of learning about the importance of Character in Campaigns.
A few weeks into the school year, Pinewood Elementary students received a great donation of new playground toys donated from local church, Chapel Pointe. We are grateful for all of our community partners.
Introducing Judy Ko
Formerly a youth pastor, Judy Ko became a JPS substitute teacher in 2018, returned to school for her teacher certificate and completed her student teaching this past spring. This year, she is taking the position of 5th grade long term substitute (for Kristen Carpenter) at Pinewood Elementary. Growing up in Jenison, and raising her kids here, she describes this as her dream job.
She has fallen fast for her colleagues and students, appreciating their friendly help and welcoming attitudes. When she’s not living her dream with her students at Pinewood, she enjoys being outside and spending time with friends and family, taking walks and bike rides. If she wasn’t a teacher, she could see herself being a stunt driver!
Rosewood Elementary is proud to welcome some amazing teachers this year. It’s always exciting to attract new talent to our district as well as see Jenison teachers take on a new challenge and shift to a different post. Check out the new additions to the Rosewood teaching team.
We are thankful for each of them and everything they bring to Jenison Public Schools!
Stacey starts her 5th year teaching as a Special Education Interventionist at Rosewood. In the first few weeks of school, she has been impressed by the kindness and respectful attitudes of her students. She comes from the Grand Rapids area and chose Jenison based on the reputation of the district. Stacey enjoys traveling to see friends and explore their new diverse cities. She also loves reading, drinking coffee and loving on her young niece.
Kelsey officially joined the Jenison District this fall after spending time at Bauerwood for her student teaching and a long term substitute position at Sandy Hill. After these experiences, she couldn’t imagine officially beginning her career anywhere else and we’re excited to have her in the role of Special Education Interventionist at Rosewood. She has really enjoyed the inclusive team atmosphere at each school and is looking forward to getting to know her students better. A few of Kelsey’s hobbies include basketball, volleyball, and painting. If she was not a teacher and the ocean was not so far away, she might have been a marine biologist studying ocean animals.
Amanda kicks off her 17th year of teaching in an Extended Traditional post for Third Graders. Extended Traditional students are learning from home with a dedicated online teacher. Amanda and her students are embarking on a new type of learning this year and we’re grateful for her efforts. Amanda loves spending time outdoors, hiking, kayaking, rock hunting, and reading. She loves horses and if she weren’t a teacher, she might have been a large animal vet.
The Rosewood Kindergarten teacher position gave Cindy a reason to return back to her hometown. She taught for 18 years in Indiana and is happy to be back. She wanted to be a teacher ever since she was in Kindergarten herself. When Cindy is not at school she enjoys spending time with family, bike riding and spending time at Lake Michigan.
Randi is no stranger to JPS as she has previously filled teaching positions at Bursley and Rosewood; in Spanish Immersion and General Education. After a few years home with her son, she is now choosing Jenison again and is excited to become reacquainted with the “Let’s work together” attitude that exudes Rosewood Teachers. Randi is now a Spanish Specials teacher at Rosewood.
In her spare time, she is learning a third language with her son through LAMP Words For Life (a program used on a communication device for those who are unable to speak or those who have difficulty speaking).
Melanie is not exactly new to Rosewood but after 6 years of short substitute teaching posts, we’re happy to add her as a long term 2nd grade teacher. She has chosen Jenison because she feels decisions are made with a perspective of what is best for the kids and she really appreciates the sense of unity among her colleagues. She truly has a passion for kids that even if she wasn’t a teacher, she is confident she would still work with kids in some capacity. Her hobbies include reading, sewing, and camping.
Kari taught for 18 years before joining Jenison Public Schools at Bursley in 2019. This year, she comes to Rosewood as a sixth grade Extended Traditional Teacher. As someone who may have been a starving writer instead of a teacher, she is pleased with the district’s commitment to quality literacy instruction through reading and writing workshops and has been very excited to join the welcoming staff of Rosewood. Kari enjoys cooking, traveling with her husband and children, writing, and reading great books.
Jenison High School’s ‘Green Bean’ coffee shop and ‘Cat’s Corner’ spirit store offer more than just a place to snag a tasty snack and the latest Wildcat wear. They are both self-sustaining, student run, school-based enterprises providing real life business experience. Students develop plans for the shop and are responsible for the operation, including details like ordering products and even dealing with the Health Department.
The Career and Technical Education classes in the business department at Jenison High School are relevant and help students gain valuable insight and skills for college or future careers. Through both levels of her Marketing Studies classes, Jordan Whittecar leads groups of students as they manage the operations for the storefronts. The student groups represent six different business ‘departments’ including Visual Merchandising, Operations, Digital Marketing, Human Resources, Finance/Inventory, and Promotion.
After an abrupt closure in March, the business students now face reopening both operations in a completely different business atmosphere. As the school year resumed, the marketing students have been part of the preparing and planning for this new business climate. Tackling the current challenges include restaurant trainings sponsored by the Governor’s office, writing their own Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan and planning a shift in distribution for the sale of retail items.
Last week, students representing the Operations team met with high school principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, and presented their plans to reopen both storefronts and safely move forward. Approval was given and they are very excited to be back serving customers soon.
The Green Bean coffee shop is located in the High School Media Center. This was an important part of their original intent to provide a central location for students to enjoy a beverage or snack and relax or get some homework done in a casual environment. However, current social distancing practices and limiting the gathering of people throughout the school building makes it impossible for students to visit the Green Bean. The students went to work figuring out what would be needed to shift to a ‘take-out’ and ‘delivery’ model. They will be putting technology to work for them and utilizing a website order form. This will allow students to pick up their order or receive a delivery.
Students, Sophia Velez and Alyson Scholten have been stepping into leadership roles getting both stores open. They recently represented the students in a virtual brainstorm session with Erin Mitrzyk, a designer from the Visual Merchandising team at Wolverine Worldwide.
They came away with some real life application and ideas to reopen and encourage sales to continue. The marketing students will proceed to evaluate the ideas, which include a possible new reward and incentive program for both students and teachers, a program to schedule automated orders (managing workload of orders and minimizing classroom disruption), and a possible alternative payment method suitable for students of all ages (reloadable payment card or account).
Cat’s Corner is also located inside the high school and is following social distancing and mask protocols as you see in other retail locations around town. Currently, customers who are not students and/or teachers are not allowed in the building. This has required the students to investigate other ways to keep business moving. Online ordering has already been an option so they will continue to evaluate ways to make that a seamless process with affordable shipping options. Something new for this year is a tent sale scheduled for next week. It’s really exciting to see these students embracing the current challenges and coming up with some creative ideas. If you’re able to support either of these student businesses, please do – and be prepared to be impressed at the professional level of service and goods!
The Cat’s Corner Tent Sale outdoor tent sale is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (September 30 and October 1) from 7:30am – 5:00pm both days. Stop by for some great deals on Jenison merchandise.
The Jenison school nurse role derived from the daycare component of our Early Childhood Center when it opened 16 years ago. Expanding on the district’s commitment to meeting the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs of each student; we also believe that the ECC program helps to establish a healthy foundation for families. This is the first ‘school’ experience for the majority of our students and parents. These beliefs combined with state licensing requirements paved the way for a school nurse to be part of the original ECC programming.
Since the beginning of the ECC in 2004, the program has grown exponentially. Today, we offer daycare, 13 preschool classrooms, 8 Transitional Kindergarten classes and provide services for all early childhood age kids in the Special Education program.
I’d like to introduce you to the ECC Nursing staff and acknowledge the ways they support their students as well as families around the district.
Early Childhood Center School Nurse
We’re delighted to welcome Leslie to the Early Childhood Center as a school nurse this year. Previously, she spent 8 years as a cardiac nurse in the Meijer Heart Center of Spectrum Health and then was a District Nurse Supervisor for Wayland Union Schools for 4 years.
Her role as a nurse at the ECC includes daily caring for our youngest students and offering procedural support to other buildings. This includes annually training district personnel in medicine administration, training secretaries, administrators and bus drivers regarding allergic response and EpiPens.
Leslie is a Jenison High School alumna and she credits the Jenison community for shaping her life in a positive way, she is excited to put her passions to work for the families of JPS.
Her interests include hiking, traveling anywhere tropical, and owning the role for her kids’ biggest cheerleader through softball, volleyball, baseball, and basketball seasons! She and her husband Ryan have three children, all attending JPS at Bauerwood Elementary.
Kerri Ten Brink
School Nurse and District COVID Liaison
Kerri joined Jenison Public Schools as a nurse when the Early Childhood Center building opened. It’s an honor to continue to have Kerri on staff and we’re thankful as she has taken on the additional support role of District Covid Liaison. Instrumental in developing guidelines and implementing protocol related to all aspects of the prevention and management of Covid in our schools, Kerri is staying in daily communication with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. It is her desire to serve and make a difference in the lives of everyone in our district as we navigate daily challenges together. She also serves as a medical resource for parents, maintains the AED machines and provides guidance to our administration team and faculty as we work together to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our Jenison students and staff. This liaison role requires great patience and an extreme amount of flexibility as we respond to the recommended health and safety practices in alignment with the CDC. While we work hard to keep our students safe and healthy with continued face to face instruction, it is a gift to have someone who loves, and knows our district so well in this role.
I also want to extend a generous amount of gratitude to our community for adapting to a flexible mindset. The Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) protocols are regularly changing based on the health needs of our community and county. We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe and respond and adjust to these protocols as they are being provided to us.
The resilient Jenison High School thespians have pulled off a totally new experience this year! The “Festival of Plays” is a 26 year old Jenison theatre tradition that hasn’t missed a beat. From student directors choosing their scripts, organizing auditions and casting the parts with fellow students; it remains a largely student led experience, offering each participant unique points of learning about acting, and the direction/production of their own shows. Through ticket sales, it has also been considered a major annual fundraising event.
During early summer, the directors conducted auditions through video chats and prepared for the show to go on! Throughout the next few months, casts would meet virtually, outdoors and in-person while adhering to the appropriate safety recommendations. Now, they are ready to ‘hit the stage’ and tomorrow the public will have the opportunity to view the three shows that have been underway.
Check out the short promo video done by Senior, Brandon Sams.
The YouTube link below will take you to the recorded performances, Friday, September 11 at 7pm.
There will also be an online opportunity to donate to the Thespian program if you’d like as well.
It is really exciting to see these passionate students work hard and be able to complete their goal in the midst of this difficult season. Please join me; mark your calendars and make a plan to watch the students perform three great shows this weekend!
1) 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview
Two college interviewers are tasked with finding another applicant by the end of the day, or else they’ll be fired. Their only option is to look at the waitlist, which has 13 unseen students. Directed by Alex Wood and Carmine Sabatini.
2) The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time
You think your breakup was bad? Eve Tonsil, an employee of the nonprofit company “Relationships for a Better Tomorrow” is here to take you on a tour of the nine worst breakups of all time, from the Cro-Magnon era to the Civil War, to a smattering of modern-day breakups. A comedy that proves that no matter how hard someone has stomped on your heart…it could always be worse. Directed by Liberty Kasper and Katelyn Warkentien.
3) 12 Angry Jurors
A drama in which a jury decides whether to put a 19 year old man on death row for the alleged murder of his father. Directed by Connor Vachon and Maddison Cheyne.
Can’t make it this weekend? The link will remain available online so you won’t miss your chance.
Meet Ashlee DeGraaf
Jenison Theatre Director & English Teacher
This is also a great opportunity to introduce the newest addition to the Jenison Theatre program. As Todd Avery prepared to retire at the end of last year, Ms. Ashlee DeGraaf was introduced at the annual (virtual) student Thespian award show last spring. We’re very excited to have Ashlee accept the position of Theatre Director and English teacher at Jenison High School.
Ashlee is a West Michigan native who made teaching stops in California and then Indianapolis before finding her way back home. She has really enjoyed the school year so far and has been connecting with theatre students while sponsoring the Festival of Plays show alongside Julie Oosterink (Jenison Junior High School Theatre Director).
She enjoys spending time with family and looks forward to more of that now that she’s back in the area. She has made the most of her Covid year while hiking, traveling and reading (with a count of 46 books already)!
Ashlee is grateful for the community support of the arts and is really looking forward to building on our distinguished theatre program.
“Well, this has been a wonderful and strange start to the year with distancing and masks, but all the students I have met have been so kind and welcoming.
I have some big shoes to fill but I also very much appreciate inheriting the gift of an amazing program like Jenison. I also look forward to adding some new elements, possibly some improv projects.
I have been super impressed with the students and their drive to overcome some some really frustrating circumstances. They have worked hard to produce the best shows that they can. We hope you enjoy the Festival of Plays!”