Online Learning with Community

Through Jenison International Academy, the Jenison Public School district has had the privilege to offer unique education choices. For the last decade, this fully accredited option has allowed us to partner with families of elementary, middle and high school students throughout West Michigan and even around the world. While it is indeed an online program, there’s much offered locally to create, and enhance a blended experience through community. Families find Jenison International Academy to offer mainly online options, with a community experience that doesn’t leave one feeling isolated or remote.

(*Some photos taken prior to Covid-19 protocols)

Many opportunities for students and families are available to touch base in a face-to-face capacity. Some of these include field trips, student led activities to promote social engagement and in-person learning centers/lab time for homework help.

One innovative program for high school students is called, ‘Transportation & Safety Applications’ and is taught in partnership with Century Driving School. This helps students learn about the safe use of the technology that is now prevalent in all aspects of our life. This includes learning about the responsible use of cell phones and other internet devices, from online safety to understanding digital footprint. One of the tasks is for students to go a full day without their cell phone – a daunting endeavor for a modern teenager! Students also learn about the steps needed to earn a driver’s license in the state of Michigan and about other concepts related to safe driving, especially the importance of avoiding distracted driving. At the end of the semester, they will have completed the requirements of the first segment of driver training education and driving practice, and will be allowed to apply for their learners permit.

Some subjects really come to life in an in-person setting, and Engineering and Science are definitely two of those subjects. Through a series of face-to-face labs, students work with our awesome Engineering and Science teachers on hands-on projects, including items such as creating their own longboard, flying drones, building robot “delivery trucks”, and many other cool activities that bring the learning to life! Complementing these labs are other exciting opportunities that JIA students can participate in, including the Drone Flying Team (competing against other schools) and Science Olympiad. 

Students learning to use Python code language to code a smart robotic arm.
Computer Integrated Manufacturing applying processes to building longboards.

If you would like to investigate additional educational choices, such as completely online or blended learning, please join us for our upcoming informational meeting.

A virtual Informational Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 26 from 6-7pm. Complete the form to register for the meeting. This is intended for families who are interested in enrollment for all K-12 programming for the 2021-2022 school year.

Capstone class: Engineering Design and Development. Seniors returned to a project from Engineering Explorations (a middle school elective) to enhance simple battery buggies with Arduino control structures and hardware.

Our mission is to provide an engaging,

personalized learning experience,

bringing the home, school and world together.


Jenison International Academy

The entire Jenison Public Schools district is full of education professionals working day in and day out to make sure our district continues to provide the best educational programming possible. We are committed to working closely with the families who choose to partner with Jenison Public Schools in educating their children. For nearly a decade, we have proudly offered educational choice through the Jenison International Academy.

Jenison International Academy is a fully accredited blended and online school educating elementary, middle and high school students throughout West Michigan and around the world. As an integral piece of our educational offerings, JIA stands by their mission to provide an engaging, personalized learning experience; bringing the home, school, and world together through K-12 Full Time Online programming, K-6 Blended Program, and Part Time Homeschool Partnership. JIA also works to plan, develop, implement, and oversee international projects and programs.

The JIA teaching staff excels at numerous educational challenges including creating curriculum and building online courses with user experience in mind. Planning in a way that provides students a quality online learning environment with high caliber content and giving them the ability to schedule themselves a week or more at time. As another campus in the district, the JIA staff is also working hand in hand with other building administrators and counselors to make sure the programming complements the traditional schooling experience.

While a student’s education can be largely online, there is the availability of a physical Learning Center at the local JIA campus, providing a quiet space or teacher guidance to complete school work. As teachers in our traditional buildings are available to students for content clarification or relationship building, JIA teachers also have open office hours and participate in Virtual Learning Centers. They know the value of working diligently to develop relationships with each student as there is typically much less face-to-face than in the traditional environment. They are seeing the fruits of their labor as they continue to guide students through their online learning during the current COVID-19 school closure.

JPS Robotics Family: Ian, Adam, Rebekah and Alex Timmer

Alex and Ian Timmer joined JIA at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year after coming from the traditional program. Alex is a junior and has really appreciated the smaller class sizes and his streamlined day. Getting his work done without distractions of other students in the morning and then participating in the Tech Center for Diesel/Heavy Equipment Mechanics program. A freshman, Ian, was really intrigued by the Engineering program at JIA and he is involved in the Jenison Robotics and J-Stem programs. He also likes focusing on his work to complete in his own time and has been pleasantly surprised by how much he is on the JIA Campus. Although the shift of owning their daily schedule required some getting used to, both brothers agree that the flexibility is something they have grown to love.

We are excited to be able to offer a world-class education that prepares ALL students to achieve their goals and chase their dreams. The JPS Fine Arts programming is recognized nationwide for its excellence in performance. Our athletic offerings provide numerous opportunities for students to be part of highly competitive teams. The Jenison community has generously provided our students, educators, directors, and coaches with incredible facilities to train and perform. I’m so grateful that we are able to offer these resources to ALL our students. No matter their experience (blended or traditional), or which environment is hosting the learning (home or on campus), we are all WILDCATS! We are Jenison!

Whether students are receiving instruction face-to-face or through online learning programs, JIA has created an atmosphere of community through traditional school experiences. Including talent shows, spirit days, classroom parties, or other outings. Check out their happenings on Twitter @JIAOnline or Facebook.

Look for the Helpers

It was something offered to calm children during times of catastrophe and most of us have probably heard the famous quote from Mr. Rogers.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster”, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers

It’s a great piece of advice and definitely not surprising that it has stood the test of time. Finding the helpers and even joining them, offers each of us hope in times of chaos and uncertainty.

When I look around our community, I’m beyond proud to see Jenison Public School teachers, staff, coaches and even students showing up to support others in a variety of ways.

I’m thankful for all the efforts we are already witnessing. This is uniting us in ways that we don’t always see and bringing hope and joy in a new way. There are many ways to be neighbors and helpers, here are some local examples I’d like to share with you.

I’d also like to extend an invitation, how might you join the helpers? Possibly make donations, support small businesses, finding a way to pay-it-forward, or even just extending an encouraging word or smile of support to a fellow shopper or hard working essential employee. We’re all in this together and together we’ll make it through this.


Sunrise Ministries is a local church in the heart of the Jenison Public School district. In response to the school closure and the expected effects COVID-19 would eventually have on families, they opened their doors as a drive-thru food/personal care distribution site.

They started with their first distribution on March 16 serving 41 families and have seen an exorbitant increase in demand on a weekly basis. They are preparing to serve 750 families in the coming week. A large amount of the volunteers are JPS employees. Sunrise Ministries Pastor, Dan Fisher has really appreciated their help and he is witnessing first hand the passionate, hardworking individuals our students get to see in their classrooms. It’s so exciting to have each one of our buildings represented by the caring hands that are packing and distributing these necessities to our neighbors in and outside of our immediate community.

Volunteers spend hours sorting donations and packing bags in preparation for the Monday and Wednesday distribution nights. Even though many of the teacher volunteers are back to the books with their students while operating their online learning schedules, they have remained committed to their helper role. Bursley First grade teacher, Rhonda Johnson; Rosewood First grade teacher, Kelly Osterink and El Puente Second grade teacher, Jenna Kragt were part of the crew that were busy serving this week. Spanish speaking volunteers have been incredibly helpful in the last few weeks.

The line for the drive-thru distribution at Sunrise Ministries is sometimes full a few hours before they even open. This week they even needed to discontinue services early due to running out of items to distribute.

As the need continues to increase, Sunrise Ministries relies on donations from companies and individuals to keep their food bank running. Donations dropped off to Sunrise Ministries directly are most appreciated!  If you are able to do so, please consider donating to help. Below is the list of items that are needed and the location where they can be dropped.  


There is another crew of volunteers assisting the families that are part of Hand2Hand Ministries. Hand2hand partners churches with schools to provide food for students facing weekend hunger. This is an amazing program that has worked with Jenison Public Schools for years, and has proven an unwavering commitment to their families – through debilitating snow storms and now a global pandemic. However, the distribution model of their service is through the school buildings. This left a number of families in the position of not being able to get their meals. Starting day 1 of the COVID-19 school closure, Jenison teachers filled that gap and loaded up their own vehicles to make deliveries. Now a few weeks later, the supporting churches as well as the JPS teachers are delivering weekday meals and weekend meal kits to over 50 families. This is an exciting example of resources being pooled and collaboration at its finest. We are so thankful for these organizations remaining committed to the students they are supporting right here in our own community.


Laurie is a busy mom with 3 children attending Jenison International Academy. She is also a very essential frontline medical worker at a local hospital. Feeling the exhaustion of these uncertain times alongside tiring, long shifts, Laurie liked the idea of making things at work as comfortable as possible. There was also the real possibility of increased exposure to germs through irritated skin from wearing a face mask all day. She had heard about 3D printed plastic straps that were created to hook the mask straps as opposed to wearing them around the ears all day long. Laurie reached out to Mrs. Krista Osterberg, Principal of Jenison International Academy for help. Unfortunately, during the stay-at-home order, the school building was off limits – which meant the 3D printers that are part of the JIA STEM and Engineering programs were unavailable as well. Mrs. Osterberg connected Laurie with another JIA family who owns a 3D printer. The family was happy to use their supplies to print a few dozen mask straps for Laurie, her colleagues and some of her family members who are also hospital workers. Simple acts of kindness make us big helpers!


Everleigh Schuster is a hard worker with a big heart! As schools closed due to the Corona virus, some grocery staples also started to dwindle. This Pinewood 3rd grader noticed a problem and wanted to help. Before the official stay-at-home directive had been given, she was baking bread with her grandma, Mary Mapes almost daily. They were willing to bake bread for anyone who needed it. Click here to watch the story.

Following her bread efforts, Evy turned her attention back to the veggie seedlings she had been preparing for her spring/summer veggie stand.

She hopes to sell veggies and gift excess food and seedlings to help others start growing their own food. Growing and giving back is something Evy has been working for since she was 4 years old! Thank you Everleigh for stepping up and being a great example to our community!


On a grander scale, very exciting possibilities are being worked on in response to the COVID-19 virus, one of which is being worked on by a Jenison Alumna. You make us proud, Deborah Heydenburg Fuller (Class of 1982) – and we are pulling for you and your team! Click here to watch the interview.

Reading Radio Drama

A mission of Jenison Public Schools is to encourage and enable our students to gain a lifelong love of reading. The month of March has been designated National Reading Month and it’s something all of our Wildcats love to celebrate. This national movement is also meant to motivate family and community members of all ages to read every day as reading regularly has been linked to development of positive mental health throughout our lives. No matter your age, we believe that readers are leaders!

March is particularly fun for reading as students spend time finding new and interesting things to read, through goal setting and special projects. Sadly, with the current school year changing due to the COVID-19 closure, students didn’t get to complete many of their reading programs with their classes.

As National Reading Month kicked off this year, Jenison International Academy students had just put the finishing touches on a really neat project. JIA English and Language Arts instructor, Cameron Kuiper, tasked the 9th grade students with a new project to create Reading Radio Dramas. Radio drama is a dramatized, acoustic performance with dialogue, music and sound effects to relay a story. The objective of their work was to connect with younger classmates and share exciting literary moments to get them potentially hooked on a new book. Working individually or in a group, students chose tell a story using one of several classic Roald Dahl books.

Many of the 9th grade students are familiar with technology and this is a great opportunity for them to apply it further while learning additional life skills such as working in a virtual group. Another unique component of this English assignment is working with awareness of digital creative copyright claims and finding available resources in the public domain. The Radio Drama production process required work on the script, sound effects, recording and editing. Some students even ‘managed a cast’ while they recruited family members and friends to add more diverse character voices. 

While originally intended for the younger JIA students, I’m excited to share this unique project more broadly for you all to enjoy! Each Radio Drama provides a glimpse into an enchanting Roald Dahl book for a few minutes. Maybe it will be enough to get you interested in picking up a copy and reading more!

Gather your family around the ‘radio’ (or other device) and enjoy the performances of the JIA Students in JIA RADIO DRAMAS. Maybe you’ll get hooked on a new book too!

The platform used for the Reading Radio Dramas is called Check it out, maybe you and your family would like to learn about producing a story or podcast!

China Comes to Jenison for Winter Camp!

MIII9973On Saturday, February 27 Jenison and the Jenison International Academy welcomed 33 high school students from China for a three week “winter camp”!

Beijing No 12 is a partner school of the JIA and a few years ago they started an international program for their high school students whose intent it is to eventually study in the United States for college. Within the program these students learn almost exclusively in English and all of the current students agreed to spend three weeks in the US to expand their education. They are joined by their Asst Principal Mr. Jin, Head Principal Mr Li as well as a math teacher.

JIA Executive Director, Rebekah Redmer hopes during their time here “…that the students can participate and share in the classrooms that they’re in and be able to infuse themselves into the community.”

MIII9961In order to be as immersed as possible all of the Chinese students will be staying with gracious Jenison host families. For many of the host families, their Chinese student is the same age as their Jenison student, making for a special opportunity for peer-to-peer connections. “The Jenison students are excited to not only share with them our culture and their home but they’re also really excited to learn from them too.”

The Chinese students are kept very busy during their stay! The cohort is split into two groups for their school day to make it more manageable for teachers.  Half of the group will be in JPS classes for the first half of the day and the second half will be meeting with JIA teachers doing their English course and after lunch they flip flop. Every day from 3 – 4 pm they are visited by guest speakers from the community, students on various athletic teams and clubs, and teachers and professors from GVSU. All of these visiting speakers give the students an opportunity to connect with and learn from various aspects of American culture. Additionally, from 4 – 5 they participate in SAT prep.

The success of the first Chinese Winter Camp has been a team effort by JPS administrators, teachers and our transportation team which has been “phenomenal” running a special route home at 5:00 for all of our students. “I think everybody is excited to have the opportunity to share because that’s what we do really well in Jenison but then also learn from [the Chinese students]. If the Jenison community wasn’t as open and as heartfelt as they are there is no way we would be able to do this. ”

MIII9929In the Chinese educational system students aren’t given many options when it comes to their classes and learning paths. However, this program allows the visiting students to choose Jenison classes that would be new to them such as “America at War” and “World Religions”. They are also giving glimpses into their personalities by perhaps choosing all social studies classes or all art or science. “They’re selecting classes that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn.” The adults will also have unique learning opportunities. Assistant Principal Jin will spend time with JPS Asst Principal Joe DeVries and both he and the visiting math teacher will attend the Macul Technology Conference with JPS teachers at the Amway Grand Plaza.

MIII9909Amidst all the learning, snow days and 71 degree weather, the students are also able to participate in some fun, West Michigan activities such a Jenison vs Grandville home basketball game, a visit to Rivertown mall and lunch in the food court, dinner downtown and a Griffins game as well as seeing the Jenison High School musical, Shrek.

Mrs Redmer says that this type of experience is important for our students to give them the opportunity to make connections with same-age peers and “open up their perspective a little and appreciate other people for who they are.  It does tear down stereotypes and open up opportunities to get to know people.” As a host of a Chinese student over the past school year, Becky says that as a mom, she has been able to see the experience of hosting grow her children and learn that “people are people, we’re all human and we’re all equal and we all have different talents and abilities, to learn to appreciate everyone for who they are and I’ve really enjoyed watching that in my own family.”

Thank you to everyone involved in making this a safe, challenging, educational and fun experience for our guests! We couldn’t do it without all of you and it’s been a great way for the students of Beijing No 12 to get to know the US!




Jenison International Academy: School Without Boundaries

It used to be that occupying a seat in a traditional classroom was the only way to emerge from school with a quality education.

It used to be that learning was centered around a blackboard and a pile of books.

Learning still happens that way. Books and blackboards still open minds and chart pathways into new futures. But for some, learning works better if it can happen another way.

It was for those students that Jenison International Academy was created.

Jenison International Academy (JIA) is an online school that offers a personalized education program to students who are looking for an at-home learning experience with their parent acting as a learning coach. JIA students might include those who have struggled in a traditional classroom or those whose academic gifts have outpaced their classmates. Whatever the reason for enrolling in JIA, students find the opportunity to spread their wings in a new way, in a new place: at home!

JIA students have the extra benefit of having access to guidance counselors, school-to-career pathway support, ACT preparation, connection with a mentor teacher, and earning a Jenison Public Schools diploma to name a few. Students also have the opportunity to participate in Jenison’s outstanding fine arts programs.

Students looking for an alternative educational experience may also be encouraged to know that Jenison International Academy plans monthly outings to allow students to build community and enrich the overall learning experience. This year JIA has enjoyed volunteering at Mel Trotter, visiting a local radio station, ice skating at Christmas, tailgating at JHS football games, and visiting ArtPrize in the fall. Activities and updates are shared using Facebook and Twitter.

JIA director, Mrs. Rebekah Redmer, is proud of the tremendous academic achievement of the academy, and feels their success is the outgrowth of the three years of planning and research done by the district before launching.

“[Our achievements are]…directly attributed to the support of the parent(s) in the home (i.e., the learning coach).  We enter into an educational partnership with each family, working together to ensure academic goals are achieved.  JIA is just one of many outstanding programs that JPS has put in place for our students.”

If you or someone you know is interested in a different kind of educational experience, Jenison International Academy would welcome a conversation. Call Colleen at 616.457.8477 or check out their website at

School is changing and Jenison is changing with it. If you have a student ready for change, we hope you’ll consider Jenison International Academy.