National Philanthropy Day Recognition

 The Jenison High School student body has been generously giving back and raising awareness for the Make-a-Wish Michigan mission for the past 20 years. I join Tracy Mossburger and Kelly Cole, JHS Student Council Teacher Advisors, in expressing an immense amount of pride in the integrity and efforts of our students! The Make-a-Wish organization itself nominated our students for “Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy” and said they “exemplify the spirit of the Kids for Wish Kids program“. Our student council representatives found out about the nomination and award during the homecoming pep assembly earlier this year along with the whole student body.

This program is a platform for youth to create fundraisers to help support the mission and grant wishes of children battling critical illnesses. In 2014 and 2018, our students raised a total of almost $30,000 during homecoming events. Students fundraised through many creative ways; selling bracelets, stars, pizza slices and they even hosted a community carnival and tailgate party prior to the 2018 Homecoming football game. The students led the way to make this a successful community effort. 

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Earlier this year at the homecoming pep assembly, the student body was surprised with the news that they had been nominated for and awarded the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award.

In addition, each class adopted a child who had experienced a wish granted by Make-a-Wish Michigan, and created a themed float for the homecoming parade based on that wish. Our students were so inspired, and felt empowered to make a difference, through the chance to meet the local wish kids and partner with them on the creation of the float. 

“I feel incredibly lucky that I get to work with such amazing kids, they give so much of themselves each day to better our community. Please don’t ever think that high school kids can’t do something… give them some guidance, direction, and freedom to develop and they will do more than you can think possible! I am also lucky that I have gotten to connect with some pretty amazing people at, and through, Make-A-Wish.”

Tracy Mossburger,

Jenison High School Teacher and Student Council

Make-a-Wish Michigan has shown immense gratitude for the way our student body has displayed selfless acts of kindness for many deserving children in West Michigan. The creativity and perseverance of our students through these efforts shows them leading by example. The character of our students to work so hard, focusing on others is such an inspiring thing to witness. Go Wildcats!

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Tracy Mossburger and Kelly Cole, JHS Teacher Advisors attended the award ceremony with the Student Council representatives . 

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On November 12, the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan (AFPWM) honored Jenison High School with ‘Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award 2019’.

IMG_0297Make-a-Wish kid ambassadors in the 2018 Homecoming parade.

Homecoming Blog posts:

Homecoming Dreams Big 2018

Make a Wish for Homecoming 2018

Homecoming 2014

 

JPS Wildcat PrinciPALS

The month of October is National Principals Month and I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the hardworking JPS principals – and to thank them for their RELENTLESS work, day in and day out.

Webster’s definition of “principal” gives a rigid feeling of dominant control and authority. While the professionals in this role are definitely in an ‘authoritative’ position; ‘rigid’ and ‘dominate’ are absolutely not words that I would use to describe our Principals.

JPS Principals are true servant leaders setting the pace for our schools, as we seek to engage each and every child in our rigorous and comprehensive educational programming. Our principals are leading by example as we are eager to build meaningful and lasting relationships with the students we are privileged to serve. Most importantly, our principals hold firm to our core value that is to provide a safe, caring, nurturing, dynamic, and engaging learning environment in which every child can thrive. Our principals, and the staff they lead, provide a distinct difference and help Jenison stand out among other local districts.

Meet Jon Mroz, the new Sandy Hill principal – for the second time. Growing up in Jenison, he never fathomed he would find a teaching job in West Michigan, much less at his alma mater. 

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Jon Mroz, Sandy Hill Principal

Jon joined the JPS staff as a 6th grade Science teacher at Sandy Hill following graduation from Grand Valley State University. After 6 years of teaching, he stepped into the role of Principal at Sandy Hill. He loved working with the wide variety of kids in this different role, however he stepped away for a job in the private sector after two years. Two years later, Jon was missing the people focused profession of being a principal and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to invite him back. Jon lives in Jenison with his wife and their three young daughters. He looks forward to a new challenge every day and is grateful to be surrounded by people that want the best for each and every kid they meet. One of his favorite perks of the job this year is riding to school with his favorite kindergartner, his oldest daughter.

Read more about the other amazing Jenison Public Schools Principals below:


 

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Dr. Brandon Graham, JHS Principal, is celebrating 20 years with JPS – the last 16 as principal. Brandon counts himself lucky to work with a highly dedicated and focused group of individuals at the high school. High school is a great time to watch the students grow into caring and compassionate young people who are dedicated to serving those around them. He is an appreciative leader who joins the team and is dedicated to meeting the needs of the entire student body.

 

 


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Brett Cataldo, JJHS Principal, brought his teaching and administration experience to the district 10 years ago. He loves being at Jenison and being a part of an “unbelievably supportive” team that gives 100% to keep the students the priority. The highlight of his day is centered around connection; with students, staff, and family.

“Everyone works so hard but we have so much fun learning together!”

 

 


38d1e0efa4c34d49965d3702bb5c175dCrystal Morse, Bauerwood Elementary Principal is very driven and loves to take advantage of creative problem solving and  forward thinking. After 8 years of teaching at JPS, she found herself packing up her classroom and moving to the Principal’s office. And for 15 years, she has been making decisions for the benefit of the kids. She continues to look for unique ways to show up daily for her students and demonstrate that they are loved and supported, no matter what. She and her staff work tirelessly to build relationships with students with the belief – and experience – that the academics will eventually fall into place.

“Each student is so important to me that the time, energy, tears, and each baby step to success is SOOOO worth it.” 

 


75c0d230c8894edc8c8bcaf80e3961afBrent Huck, Bursley Elementary Principal has been at JPS for 7 years, this is his 4th year as principal. One of Brent’s favorite parts of the job is socializing with the students. Chatting with them in the hallways, classrooms and playground is a highlight. He also feels blessed to work with such a tremendous group of hardworking and passionate educators. The genuine compassion they have for their students, their creative lesson planning, and unwavering commitment to student success are unparalleled. They never cease to amaze me.

“JPS students are the best! I love getting to know each one of them!”

 


3388d636734a455695d334a16d5cef8cRachael Postle-Brown, Pinewood Elementary Principal has been in education for nearly 20 years. Her roles of teaching high school and assistant administration have prepared her for the excitement of leadership in the elementary world. For 8 years, she has embraced the unpredictability and seized every opportunity to help a student with a new discovery, try a new way to encourage someone or just share a laugh with students and staff.

 “I am inspired by my staff every day, they don’t just work a job – they are on a mission to serve our students and our community.”

 


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Luke Verbeek, Rosewood Principal has been with JPS for 7 years; teaching 6th grade for 5 years and currently in his second year as principal. He loves being a principal in the Jenison district because he gets the opportunity to work with amazing students, parents, and staff members every day. Starting out as a teacher, Luke loves the opportunity to get back in the classroom and seeing what the students are accomplishing. Coming to work everyday puts a smile on his face because he loves greeting the members of his Rosewood village – students, parents, or the awesome staff he partners with daily. Words cannot express his appreciation for his colleagues and the commitment they share for the students at Rosewood.

“It truly takes a village to raise a child and I am proud to be part of the Rosewood/Jenison village.” 

 


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Lloyd Gingerich, Principal at El Puente has worked in education as a teacher and administrator for over 20 years. This is his 12th year in Jenison. For two years, he lived and taught in Costa Rica and was immersed in the Spanish language. He became a fluent speaker and gained a broader view of the world – outside of west Michigan. Daily, he takes those experiences and partners with his staff to challenge the students to grow and reach their potential. He was a key participant in the growth of the JPS Spanish Immersion program. He loves being a principal in Jenison because he feels that the whole community truly cares about education and they show that with their actions as much as with their words.

“The strong culture of teamwork in service of the children in our community is why I brought my own children to Jenison.” 

 


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Lee Westervelt, ECC Principal has spent his entire career in administration – 25 years with JPS. Being constantly surrounded by curiosity and wonderment is something that excites him on a daily basis. Lee sees his daily playground duty as his classroom where he can guide the children in ‘Being a Good Friend – 101’. Watching them cooperate and play inclusively is a highlight which extends to the classroom and home. 

“I get to be a part of students’ lives and help shape them for a better future. How cool is that! I love what I do.”

 


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Matthew Baughman, Jenison International Academy – Elementary Principal is in his second year in the district. He loves putting his passion to work at JPS because there is an openness to rethink components of traditional education. Conversations and programs are clearly about helping kids and supporting teachers. Families value education and are engaged in the path to success. He feels the program is validated in the support JIA receives from the Central Office provides time, resources, and support for new initiatives. Greeting in a student-led way each morning is the highlight of his day. Matthew also has the opportunity to teach PE every Tuesday and Kindergarten Coding every Wednesday.  

“The JIA staff are committed not only to seeing that students learn important skills and information, but also how to apply that learning to the real world.”


osterberg_k_2019.jpgKrista Osterberg, Jenison International Academy – Junior/High School Principal has been part of JPS for 14 years. While teaching, she has been integral in the formation and progression of the JIA; participating in the development and guidance of each program over the past 10 years. Now, her 14th year marks the beginning of a totally new adventure, as we divide the oversight of the Jenison International Academy and she takes the appointment to Principal of the secondary programs for the JIA. She is thankful for the opportunity to work with amazing students, families, and educators – to be creative in providing optimal, personalized learning opportunities and pathways for our students in both virtual and blended settings. 

“I appreciate, and am proud of the numerous unique opportunities that JIA Junior/Senior High offers to JPS families”

Welcome Back! 2019-2020 School Year

Every year, as families are packing in just a little more summer fun, their hardworking teachers and staff have already turned the corner with back to school training and preparations. This year is no exception. It was exciting to see district training and kick off sessions already happening leading up to this week. Our opening session on Monday, August 19 was especially encouraging as the JPS administrators, teachers and professional support staff prepared to greet our 5,300+ students the following morning.

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The opening session was a great time to reflect on good personal news for our team members, welcome new staff, recognize the experience among us and dig deep thinking through the challenging work ahead of us. 

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The beginning dialogue for the day was based on a concept by comedian, Michael Jr.; he shares a profound but simple explanation for knowing your purpose – “Know Your Why”. What happens when the thought process changes from “What am I doing?” to “Why am I doing it?” As educators, if we understand why we are doing something – what we are doing has more impact. Our talents, resources and opportunities should always be used to move us to our ‘Why’?

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JPS Staff and Administrators take out their phones to record their WHY

These opening sessions are also when we align behind the theme for the year. As we kick off the 2019-2020 school year, I challenged each person in the room to “Be Relentless”. Let’s be all in – let’s do everything we can to believe in ourselves and our students, providing them love that is reminiscent of a family, interacting with them in a purposeful way. Let’s be a constant source of inspiration for this generation of students. I, for one, do not want to look back on this school year and wonder what if? 

I’m so encouraged with the participation from the day and the takeaways from some of our building leaders. I am confident we have the right people in place to get the job done. 

STAFFPOSTERCrystal Morse, principal of Bauerwood feels that the focus to “Be Relentless” means “Every student will feel they have value and a place to belong. That they are not defined by the things that get in their way, and there is an adult that believes this for them – even when they can’t believe it about themselves….yet.” 

Rachael Postle-Brown, principal of Pinewood Elementary, reflected on our kick off day and said: “Our teachers at Pinewood, treat every single child at our building like they are their own and do everything they can to help and support them. For me, this “Be Relentless” theme illustrates our efforts and dedication to meet the needs of every child and help them grow, feel valued, and feel connected to our community.”

Brent Huck, principal of Bursley Elementary, feels the overwhelming call to “do everything possible to ensure that all students are able to experience individual success.  I want our students to feel connected, valued, appreciated, and loved. We want to Be Relentless in our pursuit of excellence!”

I am all in this year and I bring this challenge to the community members as well. I am committed to being relentless in supporting and walking alongside of JPS staff as they meet the intellectual, emotional, and social needs of our students. It’s a great day to be a Wildcat!! #JPSBeRelentless

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Terry Dykstra, Guidance Counselor at the high school recently received some well deserved and timely attention this week. He is the picture of what ‘Relentless’ looks like at JPS. Tuesday was his 52nd year starting back to school and still going strong! Watch this video and hear Terry’s heart for impacting the lives of young people.

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During the opening session with staff and administrators, we discussed the importance of simple, conscientious efforts like meeting students at the door to give them an individual, heartfelt greeting. This is something Bauerwood teachers have been doing but this year they will be at the student’s level – such a simple shift. Here, Mrs. Finses welcomes her students at the door, on their level to their first day of their best year yet!

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A Bauerwood 1st grader showed up early on Tuesday to make sure her Kindergarten friend had the best first day ever!

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Getting crafty on the first day at Pinewood

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A successful kick off to the new year at JHS.

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JHS teachers participating in a professional development session

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Jenison Junior High administrators & teachers experiencing a ‘Trauma Informed Educators’ workshop. We are all in for all kids! Being a Trauma Informed Educator prepares us to understand & meet the needs of students who need us the most!

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JPS K-2 teachers spend time getting ready to welcome our youngest Wildcats!

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Professional staff members new to JPS this year: we’re so thankful to have such talented, caring and dedicated educators who have “big hearts” joining the Jenison family!

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JPS employees invested 2 days of their summer in a life changing training called Capturing Kids’ Hearts.

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How will you show your relentless Wildcat spirit this year?

 

 

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