Graduation 2019

The Class of 2019 overcame some crazy weather this year and graduation day was no exception. While dodging the downpours that morning, our seniors returned to their elementary halls one last time for a final send off by the younger wildcats. It’s a tradition meant to inspire the younger students but also, a chance for graduates to acknowledge how far they’ve come and what they have accomplished during their student career. Seniors always look forward to this and many have a great time seeing some of their favorite former teachers. Thunderstorms continued to threaten the outdoor ceremony tradition until just a few hours before the processional began. In the end, thankfully, our seniors and their loved ones were able to enjoy a beautiful evening.

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After four hardworking years of academics as well as life lessons, the class of 2019 confidently entered the stadium to recognize all they have achieved at Jenison Public Schools. This is a group of remarkable, talented, caring young men and women of great character who have already made an impact on their world! I am so proud of them and I am sure that we will be hearing great things about this class in the years ahead! GO WILDCATS!

Keep scrolling to enjoy some beautiful photos that were captured that night, along with a few amazing and inspiring student speech videos. 

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Anna Norton Senior Address – video courtesy of Rich Conflitti

JonJon Conflitti Student Address – video courtesy of Rich Conflitti

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Elementary School Visits

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Bursley Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Rich Conflitti)

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Pinewood Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Rachael Postel-Brown)

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Bauerwood Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Crystal Morse)

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Rosewood Elementary – Class of 2019 (Photo by Amanda Moerdyke)

SH Senior Walk Through

Sandy Hill – Class of 2019 (Photo by Sara Melton)

Trading Textbooks for Broomball and Bunk Beds

Milestones abound with each school year and grade completed. Arguably, 6th grade seems to be one of the most exciting and transformative. For the last 20 years, leaving the classroom and going camping with classmates has been one of those much anticipated experiences for our Jenison 6th graders.

All students are given the opportunity to attend camp at some point during their 6th grade year. Each student comes with a unique life story; and we find time and again that the shared social and experiential education aspects of camp helps draw the students closer, allowing friendships to develop and compassion and understanding to grow.

1383307166f1e61842c61877dd33d4ec3d7faff9Although, this year’s Bauerwood trip was scheduled for the end of February and they started their camp week at 29 degrees upon arrival; the class experienced an amazing 4 days together with their classmates and teachers.

Bedtime came pretty easy at the end of some very busy days. Outdoor activities included broom ball, snow tubing, archery, team-building exercises and campfires. Indoor fun included ropes courses, group games like capture the flag and glow dodge ball and so much more!

In true Wildcat fashion, our amazing Jenison staff goes above and beyond to invest in their students. Enjoying the experience alongside them, encouraging them to have fun and be fully engaged while they unplug from technology and escape the average routine of their every day lives. Some camp activities are just plain fun, while others are challenging and require that the students stretch themselves and give their best effort. All while in a supporting environment – getting to know each other (and themselves) better with each task they accomplish.

Many students are stretched beyond their comfort zone, often making the experience a pivotal moment for students as they grow leaps and bounds in self-confidence. If you know a Jenison 6th grader, share in their excitement and ask about camp!

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The Bauerwood staff had a great time connecting with their students at camp.

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The junior counselors are former Bauerwood students. The current Jenison High School students were very excited to partner with the teachers and Grace Adventure staff to create an awesome camp experience like they had when they were 6th graders.

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Surfing with Sharks

img_1691In January, the fifth grade ACT students got busy diving into their exciting new learning exploration; and I’m quite pleased to report it goes much deeper than that popular earworm song that has swept the nation!

They were introduced to their ‘Surfing with Sharks’ unit and transformed themselves into Icthyologists (ik-thee-OL-o-jist). ACT Teacher, Dr. Julie Clark, aims to provide a rich environment of full immersion in their topic and these few weeks of being a “person who studies sharks” has been an exciting and engaging experience for all. Not to mention, this is an opportunity that most students wouldn’t have exposure to until high school or college!

One of the first activities included “adopting a shark” from the Ocearch website to track and watch throughout the unit. The class also read the book, Shark Lady, a true story that highlights the life and work of Eugenie Clark, a renowned ichthyologist known for both her research on shark behavior and her dedication to changing the common misconceptions people have about sharks. 

This was a great way to lay the groundwork of learning about these fascinating, and often misunderstood, creatures. After spending some time introducing their “adopted” sharks to the class through a short Google Slides presentation, the students enjoyed an opportunity to watch an Eyewitness movie about sharks in class.img_1689

Taking their research a little bit deeper, the students set off to learn about a specific species of shark and create a Weebly website on which to display what they learn. They also used Khan Academy to begin some computer coding lessons; skills they would use to include their own animation that they create using Java Script.

Current events informed the unit as well; students recently watched this news story about how research into the shark genome is helping scientists with cancer research. They have 50% more DNA than we do, and because of this, the shark’s DNA is constantly repairing itself to prevent gene mutations that can cause disease, like cancer. Helping students to see the relevance of their study and connecting those learnings to real life inspires students to become activists and learn more.

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 5.09.02 AMThe shining moment of wearing the Icthyologist ‘hat’, is the dissection at the end of the unit. In order to be prepared for this, the class spent time learning about the external and internal anatomy of the dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias). To start, the students learned about the anatomical directions that scientists and those in the medical field use when referring to different areas of an organism’s body. Then spent time exploring the shark’s internal, external anatomy and special sensing mechanisms (helping them detect movements in the water). Students were also challenged to put together a three-dimensional model showing the various internal organs. All of this laying the groundwork for a successful dissection.

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img_1690Dr. Clark loves to push the comfort level of her students in the name of learning new things,  and for some, dissection day itself was a challenging experience. As the classroom transformed into a laboratory, she takes the opportunity to remind the class of the ACT theme this year: Challenge Accepted!…being committed to finding learning in all experiences, and ultimately, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. The challenge was accepted and curiosity took over.

All of the shark specimens that were dissected were females, thus, students learn about reproduction in these animals as well. Spiny Dogfish sharks are ovoviviparous — meaning that the embryo develops from an egg inside the mother and is nourished by the yolk sac, not the mother, but the mother still has a live birth.  With parent volunteer helpers, the students took their knowledge and identified the body parts they had studied and were so excited to find the surprise of little shark pups when they were dissecting! One group found 5 baby shark pups! As sharks do not chew their food – students also discovered a fully intact fish! After they completed the students could also do some extra exploration on the gills and eyeballs.

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Intact Fish – Baby Shark (Doo Doo) – Yolk Sac

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I am thankful for devoted educators like Dr. Clark, who strive to open the minds of students to an array of learning possibilities, while challenging them to grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Our academically talented students are constantly provided learning opportunities that present them with the chance to explore, create, problem solve, and above all, try new things. I am so pleased that we have continued to invest in providing unique and thought-provoking learning opportunities for these children. It is always very exciting to see what she has going on in her classroom. Learn more about ACT here.

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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