Sandy Hill Third Grader and His Class Teach the World About Love and Laundry

miii3995At elementary schools all around the country there are kids earning points and rewards for trying to improve their behavior or work on particular skills. The rewards are usually specific to the student’s interests such as additional technology time, reading with a friend, eating lunch with their teacher, etc. but these average rewards were not enough for one Sandy Hill third grader. Kamden VanMaanen wanted more. Kamden has a unique interest in laundry detergent and one of his teachers, Olivia Kool, found a way to capitalize on that passion and make life a little easier at home too.

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Mrs. Kool, Kamden & his rewards

“Kamden started off by earning ipad time which did not seem to be a big enough incentive for him. As his classroom teacher Mrs. Ryan and I got to know Kamden better, we quickly learned about his love for Gain laundry detergent. Students with autism often have high interest areas and Gain detergent is something that Kamden is passionate about and talks about on a daily basis. He has even gotten many teachers and students to switch to using Gain for their laundry. He can tell you everything you would ever need to know about laundry detergent and the different scents. When I noticed that the ipad time was not really an incentive for him, I started thinking about what could we do differently to help him have good days at school. One day, I asked him if he had a good day would he like to earn some Gain laundry detergent. His face lit up when I asked him this. The first couple of days I went out and img_3509-1bought laundry detergent and he was highly motivated to earn that reward. Mrs. Ryan and I definitely noticed a difference with Kamden when he was earning the laundry detergent.”

Kamden’s mom, Amanda, decided to continue the reward at home and was also buying Gain for Kamden, which was adding up for both mom and teacher! This fall Mrs. Kool got an idea: “I wrote a letter to Meijer and Procter & Gamble. In the letter, I told them that I was a special education teacher who had a 3rd grade student who was obsessed with Gain laundry detergent. I told them how he tells everyone that Gain is the best detergent because it “has a wonderful scent and makes you open the world of fragrance.” Mrs. Kool told the companies in her letter that Kamden earns ipad time to watch Gain commercials on YouTube and asked if they’d be willing to send detergent samples as his rewards.

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Kamden dressed as a washing machine for Halloween!

“About a month later I got an email from Michael Kadzban the Buyer for Laundry and Cleaning Supplies for Meijer. He told me that he and Todd Vishnauski from Procter and Gamble secured some Gain supplies for Kamden along with some other things for him. They personally wanted to come meet Kamden and drop off the goodies they got for him. Michael and Todd were amazing! They brought tons of Gain samples for Kamden as well as Gain t-shirts, notepads, water bottles, and an official certificate from the Gain team.”

img_3503Michael and Todd “were amazed at how well the students in Kamden’s class embraced Kamden’s passion for Gain detergent and how happy the students were to see the excitement in Kamden’s face when they came to their class.  Todd from P&G said it best when he told the class that the makers of Gain have a term for people who love their product. These people are called Gainiacs. That is what Kamden is, a true Gainiac.”

img_3507Amanda VanMaanen, Kamden’s mom is grateful for the support of the teachers and staff at Sandy Hill for their love and care for their family. “Kamden was thrilled to have Todd and Michael visit him in the classroom. He couldn’t stop grinning and talking about it constantly for a long time. He told every person he knew about it. I think it was wonderful to get his class involved. They were all so excited for Kamden and it made his love of detergents a little more relatable.  I think Kamden felt so proud and excited to spend a little part of the day sharing his favorite topic with everyone. The staff has been so supportive of his fixation, even sending pics of their detergent purchases.  Mrs. Kool went above and beyond to send out the request and to set this up for him! It certainly helped with our budget for supplying laundry detergent incentives for Kamden too. We are so proud to be a part of a school that truly cares for and supports our son!”

Kamden loves his teachers and friends and he really likes science. He says he loves all the subjects in school except math, which many of us can relate to. He thinks that Mrs. Kool is a good teacher because “she’s really nice and she does nice things for me like asking the guys [from P & G and Meijer] to come to school.  She’s a good listener and she likes laundry detergent too. She has a cool down corner that I really like.”

img_3493Sandy Hill principal, Jon Mroz, knows that Kamden’s story has already impacted the students in Kamden’s class and the entire school. “This story is important to share because Kamden is an amazing young guy, with a one-of-a-kind personality.  With the help and support of the Sandy Hill teachers, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth with Kamden in many areas over the years.  Kamden’s story has allowed other students an opportunity to understand that everyone has differences, and that we can accept those differences with an open mind and open heart.”  

Thank you Mrs Kool, Mrs Ryan, Mr Mroz and the many other teachers, staff members, and students that have gotten to know Kamden and supported him. Your love and encouragement of Kamden has made a huge difference for this amazing student and his family!

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Stand By You: Pink Out 2017

miii3935The High School gym was, once again, a sea of pink on Friday night as the Jenison community showed their support for those fighting the battle of breast cancer.

This year, there were eight honorees: Jill Barnes, Jane Carlson, Carolyn DeJong, Dianne Duch, Michelle Gradisher, Shirley Kerkstra, Joni Otto, and Stephanie Tuttle [not necessarily pictured in this order].

miii3411For Michelle [3rd from right], she was overwhelmed by being an honoree but once she arrived to the “pinked out” gym that night and started getting to know some of the other honorees, those fears were gone. Michelle was diagnosed through a mammogram that she desperately wanted to avoid that particular day but chose to go through with it. The office was calling her to return to the hospital before she even got home that day. On March 31 of last year she underwent a double mastectomy which she describes as a “no brainer” based on the test results and family history of breast cancer. She is incredibly thankful for her amazing support team and encourages women not to avoid those important mammogram appointments!

miii3660Joni Otto [1st on the left] was a Jenison teacher for 22 years and is thankful for the science and availability of genetic testing, which she believes is a gift we all need to take advantage of. Joni discovered she had breast cancer and opted for the lumpectomy. Meanwhile, she had genetic testing done which revealed she was at a high risk for breast cancer, so she chose to go a step further and have a bilateral mastectomy to prevent any further occurrences which seemed likely in light of the test results. It wasn’t an easy decision for Joni but she felt that it was the right thing to do to protect herself and her family. She is hoping that her former students will dig deep into their pockets to donate to the Pink Out cause on her behalf!

miii3685Stephanie and Shirley [3rd and 4th from the left respectively] are daughter and mother honorees and Stephanie also says that genetic testing is an essential and lifesaving aspect to her story as well. Her mom Shirley is a breast cancer survivor [and three time honoree!] and Stephanie didn’t want her family to go through another season of cancer. She believes her mom feels guilty for passing on the gene but she also sees genetic testing as a gift, especially when it revealed the BRCA gene which can lead to breast and ovarian cancers. She also urges readers to consider genetic testing if you have a family history of breast cancer as the preventative measures “are much better than going through treatment.”

[If you’d like to explore genetic testing, you can do so locally at Spectrum Health. Please note – this is not an endorsement, merely a local resource.]

miii3680Three of our honorees discovered their cancer through self exams and took a moment in their introductions to make sure and encourage women in the audience to remember to do this. Everyone stressed the importance of regular mammograms and the Spectrum Health mobile mammography unit was in the parking lot, available for tours!

miii3770Finally, High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, introduced Cindi Sigmon as a special honoree. Cindi has been battling Multiple Myleloma since January 2016. “She has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant this summer” and “for the past 21 years, she has shown love to the students, staff, community members and parents that have traversed the halls of Jenison High School.” Cindi was escorted to the floor by her husband and received a standing ovation for her courage, service, and strength.

All of our Pink Out Honorees are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of perseverance and we thank them for being willing to come forward and share their stories. May you and your support teams know how important you are to all of us!

Thank you to all of the Pink Out volunteers, financial supporters, and participants who came out last Friday to make this another great year! It’s a powerful message we send each year to those who are struggling as well as those have suffered a loss. Together, we will Stand By You. We are Jenison!

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High School Students Join County Collaboration on Suicide Prevention!

c23ixoyxcaaovueOn January 23, Jenison High School Social Worker, Kris Faber, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, Assistant Principal Rhonda Raab, Counselor Jenny Riha and seven Jenison High students joined other students from Ottawa County to talk about the realities of suicide and how to help prevent it.

The event (called the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Summit) was on at Zeeland East High Sshool and it was a coordinated effort with OAISD with twelve districts in attendance.  The group spent the day collaborating with local districts to learn what efforts are being utilized to address mental health needs and suicide prevention.

c23rcdlvqaen73uThe Mental Health foundation of West Michigan was a co-sponsor for the day promoting the positive benefits of the Be Nice! program throughout West Michigan.  Ms. Faber adds, “We were also able to hear speaker Rick Chyme share his personal story and challenge everyone to “plant seeds” of kindness and love toward others as you never know how one might positively impact others.”  The team also had time as a JHS group to plan how we might impact our school specifically and work to diminish the stigma of mental health and seeking support.

In a 2013 Youth Assessment Survey of students in Ottawa County in grades 8, 10 and 12, that had seriously contemplated suicide, there was an alarmingly high rate of 16.7%.  “Many adolescents are experiencing increased incidents and greater severity of mental health needs [especially anxiety and depression].  The stigma attached to seeking treatment can, at times, exacerbate the issues. ” Thankfully, JHS is working towards providing help any way they can.

Students are hopeful to continue the conversation in district and develop some tangible ways to provide support for existing mental health needs, as well as prevention of suicide.  We are hopeful to create a culture of kindness toward others as well as a place where seeking support is seen as a strength.  Sharing existing resources with students was one way we are hoping to be helpful to our students immediately.

Students! If you, or someone you know, has thought about or talked about committing suicide, there are people who care about you and are willing to help! You can visit Ms Faber or talk to any of your teachers, administrators, staff, or counselors. You can also call the Ottawa County Crisis Helpline: 866-512-4357.

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[Photos courtesy of Kris Faber and @benicemi]

The Grand Rapids Griffins are Serenaded by the Bobcat Choir!

miii2587The Bobcat Choir from Bauerwood cannot simply be contained by the borders of Jenison! Last week they traveled to VanAndel Arena to serenade the Grand Rapids Griffins, their opponents, the Iowa Wild and the hometown crowd with the National Anthem. They were supported by 300 Bauerwood family members who came to cheer on the choir and the Griffs!

miii2555Bauerwood music director, Diane Schrems, says that fifteen years ago the Bobcat Choir started signing the National Anthem at the Whitecaps games and then reached out to the Griffins as well. “Most recently Grand Valley contacted me to see if I would bring the Bobcat Choir to a Grand Valley Women’s basketball game.  It’s wonderful to get out into the community and perform for everyone.”

miii2559Rehearsals for the big performance have been taking place weekly after school on Thursday’s and the choir has watched post-game tape and agree they did a great job. Of course, they also got to stay for the game and had a wonderful time cheering with their family and friends.

“The kids gain a sense of school pride when we go out into the community and represent Bauerwood and Jenison Public Schools.  It’s important to share your talents with others in a meaningful way like singing our country’s national anthem.  Being a member of  Bobcat Choir builds strong character and commitment in our kids.  When we sing together we build a bond through the music that sounds and feels great.”

Even though the Griffs couldn’t pull of a win that night (they lost 1-2), the Bobcat Choir certainly won for their talent, courage and showmanship! Jenison is proud of you! Go Wildcats!

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#JPSReads Comes Alive on Stage!

miii2248As a partnership to #JPSReads, the Junior High theatre department presents, James and the Giant Peach starting today and running through Sunday afternoon. We hope that families all over the district participated in the Read Aloud, JPSReads, earlier this school year and read the classic Roald Dahl story but if it’s new to you, don’t worry, it’s a heartwarming tale of an underdog you’ll love.

James is orphaned early in life and goes to live with his aunt who treats him as a servant, rather than a young boy. He soon meets a mysterious old man who offers him a magic bag of crocodile tongues that will make his life better. When James accidentally spills the tongues all over the ground, he is surprised to see an enormous peach grow on the sidewalk! The giant peach becomes a magical place of fantasy and friendship for James and, of course, you’ll need to read the book or buy a ticket this weekend to hear the rest!

miii2237When Director, Holly Florian, was anticipating this years musical, she considered the amazing batch of talent her students bring to the table. While the audience is aware that the actors on stage are junior high students, what they may not realize is that by the end of the weekend, the entire show is student-run. They are in charge of the lights, sound, stage management, direction, and set changes. They are assisted by a couple of high school students in their tasks but they act mainly in the role of mentor to these ambitious junior highers!

The cast auditioned back in mid-October and at the end of that month they began their rehearsals. Near showtime, they are rehearsing from 5-9pm every weeknight! Prior to the holiday break they have memorized all of their lines but Ms Florian encourages them from this point on to really let the characters become their own; to have fun with the lines and the story. She sees their potential and wants them to have the opportunitiy to shine as a result of their hard work and dedication.

miii2102Just like our high school students say year after year, Ms Florian believes that her students love being in the theatre program because it provides a sense of belonging and community. Students are able to meet new people and make friends with other students they may have never met otherwise. Because of this, she is especially pleased with the journey that James makes in this story. As the director, she is able to see the journey of students, their progress and self-confidence throughout the rehearsal season. By the end “it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come and that’s what this story is all about: self-confidence.”

If you’d like to see these talented students live, in action, you can purchase your tickets here. It’s a great opportunity to bring the book to life and remind your kids of the importance of and meaning found in reading and stories!

Break a leg, Junior High students! We know you will be incredible, not only this weekend, but always!

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Georgetown Township Gets Schooled by Pinewood 6th Graders!

img_3621Back in September, we told you about an amazing project being spearheaded by Lori Barr and her 6th grade Pinewood students to restore swimming to Maplewood Lake.  Well, we are happy to say that this year’s class has continued the tradition of trying to solve the real-world problems in their own neighborhood!

img_3598-1Last month, all of Pinewood’s 6th graders presented their research and solutions to the Georgetown Township board and not only were their township reps blown away by what they heard, they have asked for copies of their presentations for further review. Dan Carlton, Township Superintendent, told the students they have “raised the bar so high I can’t even reach my arm high enough to show you how high it is!” The township is setting goals this month and they wanted to read over the resources and recommendations in order to pursue them.

The township had been previously unaware of the mosquito issue at Woodcrest Park [where Maplewood Lake is located] but students’ surveys found that spectators couldn’t even tolerate a soccer game due to the quantity of mosquitoes.  Students presented ideas for fountains, aerators and bat boxes. Fountains would keep most of the mosquitoes off the water, aerators would reduce mosquito populations because they move and clean the water and of course, our native bat friends could sleep all day in their cozy bat boxes and feast on mosquitoes all night.

captureStudents also presented ideas for a “natural playground” with the help of Natural Playgrounds in Canada. Students said in their presentation, “We want a natural playground because, you would feel like you are in the woods. The experience just feels like you are literally experiencing nature. The wood feels nice and smooth on your hands. Unlike metal and plastic.” They also presented ideas for native flowers for aesthetics and native plants for preventing runoff. 

capture2Because of a snow day in December, students had to problem solve another real-world problem: being behind on a project. Mrs Barr asked them to think about what their parents might do if they are behind at work. One student reported that sometimes, her mom has to work through her lunch which seemed to be the best solution to this hardworking crew. They worked through their lunches, they gave up extra class time where they would typically have freedom to chose their own activity – they chose to work hard to make their presentations the best they could be because they knew the township really wanted to hear what they had to say.

img_3631Seeing these amazing accomplishments has been a joy for their teachers. Mrs Barr has been teaching for 33 years and says that the past five years have been the best. “Mrs Brown encourages us to try new things and I’ve never seen anything like it. It takes courage as teachers to try new things, but you can be creative, let the kids have the power chord and let it be a student led classroom.”

Check out the clip below of a handful of students on the Maranda show that aired this week! On the way back to school one student shared with Mrs Barr, “I really feel like we’re a family. This is a year of family.”

6th Graders at Pinewood: You ARE a family and you make us all so proud! We are cheering you on and cannot wait to swim at Maplewood Lake and play at Woodcrest Park because you made it safe and fun once again!

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Readers are Leaders!

MIII0041Don’t be surprised if you start to see stickers all over the Jenison community soon declaring, “JPS Reads” and you’ll probably want to join in on the fun!

Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, Media Specialist, Jan Staley, Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz are partnering to capitalize on the excitement and popularity of the James and Giant Peach initiative. With this next phase, all Jenison citizens will be challenged to set their own specific reading goal and when it is reached, they receive their own cling-on letting everyone know they did it!

MIII9995According to Ms Schultz, “It will be great to drive through our district and notice all the paws displayed in the front of homes.  Our community will shine with the importance of READING!” Of course, you can also brag about your reading skills by putting your sticker on your car and give a little wave to others who’ve done the same!

But if you think this is just for our students, think again! “This is not just a school based reading program, but a way to get everyone in the community excited and involved in reading. We have talked to business leaders and also our senior citizen community members to join in the fun of showcasing our love of reading here in Jenison. Our students and community members will even have the opportunity to share favorite authors, favorite books, or even share reading photos on Twitter at #JPSReads.”

Parents – you play a critical role in your child’s interest in reading! “Together…We are Jenison!! We believe that the love of reading often starts inside of the family and as a school district we are here to grow, build upon, support, and encourage that love of reading!  Together with our families and community we are committed to continuing to foster a love of reading and learning in ALL our children.”
“Not all readers are leaders, but…All Leaders are Readers.”  – Harry Truman

This phase of JPSReads runs from January 16 – February 27 and will kick off all this week.

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A Semester of Celebration

As you dust off the glitter and confetti from your New Year’s reveling, it’s always a good idea to reflect on the past few months and remember where we’ve been. Please enjoy this “semester in review” and your chance to catch up on the excitement and happenings of Jenison Public Schools!

1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsIf you missed your chance to read “James and the Giant Peach” during #JPSReads this fall, don’t worry, there is another chance to celebrate and embrace reading coming up. [Psst! Check back next week for all of the exciting details!]

Our high school marching band wowed audiences all the way to Nationals at Ford Field and miii9593our choirs inspired a more local audience.

Once again, our high school thespians filled the auditorium for “Peter and the Star Catcher” in preparation for the spring musical, “Peter Pan”.

img_2278As always, our teachers brought immense creativity and passion to lessons in order to make learning engaging and exciting for students of all ages. Our Pinewood 6th graders are trying to make it possible for you and your families to swim at Maplewood Lake once again, our Spanish Immersion teachers are opening doors to culture and new opportunities, our 8th graders had history brought to life by community members who lived it and high school students were invited to take the Student Leadership Challenge.

Volunteers from Chemical Bank chipped in for a Day of Service at Rosewood and Pinewood moms served up healthy snacks!

Finally, not only did Bond dollars provide new buses but one of our bus drivers lived out her love for students by saving him from choking on Halloween. miii9753

It’s been an exciting semester and we look forward to continuing the celebration into 2017!

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Choir Concert Season Wows Audiences!

miii9963Earlier this month students involved in various choirs across the district performed at the JCA much to the delight of their families, friends and teachers.

On Monday, Dec. 5 the Jr. High Choirs were joined by the District Elementary Honors Choir which is made up of about 90 singers from all five elementary buildings. The Honors Choir has been rehearsing since the end of September with three additional rehearsals outside of class time. It is led by Jr High Choir Director, Mr Waters along with Elementary directors: Mrs. Ambs [Rosewood and Sandy Hill], Ms. Florian [Pinewood and Sandy Hill], Mrs. Schrems [Bauerwood] and Mrs. Willie [Bursley].
miii9895Mrs Schrems says, “The 7th and 8th Grade Girls Choirs were amazing with their performance as was the 7-8-9 Male Chorus directed by both Mr. Waters and Mr. Carmichael.”  The night was closed out by a magical, true “surround sound” performance by both the Elementary Honors Choir and the Jr High Choirs with the song, “Night of Silence/Silent Night”. The Jr High Girls sang from the balconies, the Male Chorus sang from the stage and the Elementary Choir sang from the aisles on the orchestra level.
miii9888The next night “our incredible lower el students had a lovely performance called M-E-R-R-Y C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S! They sang beautifully and their behavior on stage was excellent.  We had approximately 50 narrators speak into the microphone as well.   Great Job!”
But the choirs weren’t done yet! The Bauerwood Bobcat choir was about to take over the ECC and the Gerald R Ford airport! All 113 members of the non-auditioned choir first stopped off at the ECC to lead the Transitional Kindergartners in a sing-a-long and perform some of their best songs as well. Mr. Westervelt dressed up as Santa and Mr. Waters was on hand to lead two songs and the students had the opportunity to get their wiggles out by dancing to Pentatonix “Up on the Housetop”.
miii9989And if that wasn’t enough, they headed to the Holiday Festival in the lobby of the airport! “The choir kids were complimented many times for their great singing but also for their polite manners.  We ended with some refreshments provided by the wonderful staff at the airport.”
The week was rounded out by a fantastic High School Choir and Orchestra concert on Friday night. “This concert was the perfect ending to a glorious week of choral music.”

Congratulations to all of our choir, band and orchestra students and directors! Your dedication and hard work is appreciated by the entire Jenison community and we love being able to see the ways you grow in your talents!

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