Safety, a Community Effort

Our building principals, teachers, and paraprofessionals come to work each day prepared to meet the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs of each individual Jenison student. We are a team committed to building meaningful relationships so that we will be able to instill the knowledge that students need to be successful in life. However, it’s a harsh reality that we must also address the safety in today’s learning environments. Students and staff must feel safe before they can focus their energy on learning and as such, security has become a top priority for our community.

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Officer Brad Bennett and Officer Scott Davis 

I am pleased to introduce our Community Police Officers, they are an integral part of the team of professionals listed above. These guys are two fine men with law enforcement in their blood. Officer Brad Bennett is a west Michigan native and has worked in Ottawa County for the last 6 years and at the high school for 3 years. He is one of 7 police officers in his family, including his dad and sister. Brad really loves the opportunity he gets to present himself as an approachable person who cares about the students – he calls it “humanizing the badge”. He likes that he can educate the students and be a resource for them. Brad is married with two young children and he says that integrity is everything. He knows that his kids at home and the students at school are always watching.

Officer Scott Davis represents the 4th generation of police in his family. Growing up surrounded by law enforcement and first responders, he knew at a young age that this was the profession for him; he also enjoys helping people and serving his community. With 9 years Police experience, he joined Jenison this year and will spend most of his time at the Junior High, while also sharing duties and coordinating efforts with Officer Bennett. Scott is married with a young daughter and is a sports fan, he also coaches some football. Growing up, Scott remembers the officer at his school as a positive person who worked to be involved with the kids. That reinforced the idea that it is important for him to be more than just a stern uniform in the hallways. He strives to be a part of their community and someone the students can count on.

They are both thankful to the community for the dollars that allowed us to invest in the safety of our students. I wholeheartedly echo that gratitude – accomplishing many facility security updates in the last few years and adding an additional community police officer is a huge positive investment for our district and I hope the students, staff and parents feel safe and secure each school day.  

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About two years ago, planning and work from the 2016 Bond had begun. This included beefing up the security for our buildings. I’m proud to say that the beginning of this school year brought the final step of those security measures:

  • Security cameras throughout all of our schools and on our buses
  • Secure vestibules with locked entrances into our school offices for all buildings
  • Revised Crisis Manual – Professional training focused on security for administrators and district teachers
  • Two Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies + a retired Kent County Sheriff’s deputy at the high school and a security guard in our high school parking lot

 

 

 

Student Directed Plays Make a Big Splash!

41432736_692829421085471_1502936192197328896_oTeaching, acting and directing is second nature to Mr. Todd Avery, our very own Teacher/Director of Theatre Arts, and he’s always eager to share his love of the energetic, fast paced world of performing arts. When he joined our community 24 years ago, he dreamed of providing students with an outlet where they could create something on their own; with guidance, and inspire other students. He is beyond excited that he witnessed the dream come true and so proud that 24 years later, the program is still going strong.

41517292_692826804419066_4401504762936164352_o.jpgThe annual Festival of Plays kicked off the 2018-19 theatre season this past weekend. However, behind the scenes work has been going on for months. Student directors go to work on the project before school even adjourns for the summer. Mr. Avery acknowledges that directing a play/musical is no easy task and knows the students will be challenged and stretched in many ways. As one who has over 50 outstanding Jenison productions under his belt, he should know.

The student directors are charged with choosing a play, analyzing it, developing a concept and then persuasively presenting it to be chosen as part of the festival. If their play is chosen, they move forward with developing an audition plan, sit through a 3 hour audition process, negotiate with other students regarding casting decisions, and ultimately choose and notify the cast. That all sounds like a huge undertaking, but wait – learning lines and countless hours of rehearsals hasn’t even made the list yet!41477438_692828077752272_3499005213468000256_o-e1536801411220.jpg Student directors and stage managers for 2018 include Brandon Zink, Emma Byerwalter, Caden Hembrough, Hailie MacKay, Drew English, Isabelle England, and Alyssa Sumption. Most agreed that developing a summer rehearsal schedule and working around the 40+ cast members with time conflicts was the most challenging piece of the puzzle. They were also tasked with finding rehearsal space (usually a location in the director’s home), then worked to perfect their performances by the show deadline. 

 

festival-of-plays-7At the conclusion of this year’s Festival, Mr. Avery says, “The opportunity to problem solve, develop friendships, and build self-confidence are a few of the many benefits that a theater experience can provide and every year, I am pleasantly surprised by the independence demonstrated by the student directors. They take their jobs seriously and treat their actors with respect. I always stress that the rehearsal process should be fun, useful, and efficient. If the process is good, a good product is bound to follow. These kids grow together and support one another as they create some really good theatre. I couldn’t ask for anything more or be more proud of their work.” 

 

The students enjoy the process and learn so much. We are all very honored to have Mr. Avery in Jenison building up our students and helping them succeed on and off the stage. Keep reading to see what some of the students had to say about their experience…

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Jenison High School cast of “21 Chump Street” by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Director: Brandon Zink and Stage Manager Emma Byerwalter)

Brandon Zink, Senior – There’s no doubt that Jenison is the best when it comes to our theatre program. We are offered countless opportunities to showcase our talents, and the creative independence with these FoP shows is so rewarding. These student directed shows give you a taste of how there won’t always be an adult to hold your hand and guide your every move, we’re given the freedom to do what we want with our shows. I feel so thankful to go to a school that cares as much about the arts as Jenison does. The faith that Mr. Avery has in his thespians and their capabilities is outstanding and so beneficial to our growth as performers and all-around members of Thespian Troupe #5421.

Emma Byerwalter, Senior – We are so lucky to be provided with many different opportunities to learn and grow in the Jenison Theatre program. From plays and musicals, dance workshops, festival of plays, 24-hour play, and State Thespian Festival, our program really has it all! Plus, the other students I work with in this program are the absolute most kind hearted and genuine people I know! We support each other no matter what. I feel as if the students in this program are overwhelmingly inviting, we are brought together by a love of theatre and enjoy sharing it with as many people as possible.

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Jenison High School cast of “Last Night in London” by Kimberly Lew (Directors Drew English & Isabelle England and Stage Manager Alyssa Sumption).

Drew English, SeniorThanks to Mr. Avery and everyone else who has made this program possible.  It’s truly life-changing and I’ll never forget the memories I’ve made in theatre. Directing has taught me so much about all the work that goes into a show and has made me a more detailed person in all aspects of life. Theatre has taught me to slow down and live in the moment and that time goes by fast when you’re having fun.

Isabelle England, SeniorThe JHS theatre department is so amazing and for many more reasons than just one. I feel so incredibly blessed to have such an amazing director running the program. Mr.Avery and his vision for all the shows we do is amazing. He is so kind, funny and caring and he is just one reason this program is so amazing. I have worked on costumes for all 6 shows I have done, the upcoming play being my 7th, and I’ve not only learned how to sew but I’ve learned so many amazing life skills like leadership and conflict resolution, and how to work as a team. I’m really grateful for all the wonderful adults and all the kids that make the program so great.
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Jenison High School cast of “The Customer is Always Wrong” by Ian McWethy (Director Caden Hembrough and Stage Manager Hailie MacKay)

Caden Hembrough, SeniorThere’s no question Jenison Thespians are learning a lot about life from theatre. I think the biggest lesson we learn is responsibility. Theatre is both an individual and group effort. To learn to do your part on or off stage is what benefits everyone involved.
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BRAVO!! Hats off to Mr. Avery, all the student leaders and cast members who poured so much of themselves into these amazing shows! You are an amazing reflection of our Jenison community. Thank you to Bella Van Slyke and Emma Byerwalter for sharing their photos.

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 [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