Jenison International Academy Builds Bridges To China

This June, the world got a little smaller.

Just as summer vacation unwrapped the tight cloister of schedule and time, four Jenison teachers and administrators flew around the world to China, where schedule and time are still hemming in the days for students.

Tom TenBrink, Rebekah Redmer, Steve Uganski, and Krista Osterberg were welcomed with red carpet and celebration by a community brimming with anticipation. Their mission to establish additional relationships and build bridges to new cultures bloomed in the warmth of Chinese hospitality and hope.

All photos courtesy of Mrs. Redmer

While final relationships are still being sculpted, the potential is great for JPS teachers to instruct Chinese students using technology such as Skype, Moodle, and Adobe Connect. High schools in Beijing are interested in the possibility of their students acquiring AP credits by enrolling in classes like economics, calculus and advanced calculus, and statistics.

Because Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are all blocked by the Chinese government, JIA director Rebekah Redmer has had to think creatively to conceptualize a new way of doing school. One model suggests that offering live, online lessons a couple of times a week could allow for Chinese students to benefit from the superior instruction offered in Jenison. Another model is to videotape lesson segments for students to watch at their own pace for individualized learning and to accommodate language barriers.

“We’re shrinking the world by offering globalized instruction along with lots of learning opportunities to strengthen English skills. As for our benefits? I truly think it will help our district — both kids and educators –to become more global thinkers. We really like the bubble we live in — and we want to keep that bubble — but we also want to share it with others. A relationship with China would allow us to share a little piece of our world with students who wouldn’t see it otherwise,” Mrs. Redmer explained.

To work toward that end, a team of new teachers and administrators will be traveling to Beijing in July to instruct a Fine Arts Camp at Fengtai 1st Elementary School. Chinese parents are thrilled at the prospect of offering their children greater creative opportunities! Involved in that trip will be:

  • Crystal Morse:  Principal, Bauerwood
  • Jennifer Tolson:  PE Teacher, Bauerwood
  • Tobi Hoeker:  3rd Grade Teacher, Bauerwood
  • Emily Derusha:  Art Teacher, Bursley
  • Grant Carmichael:  Vocal Music Teacher, Bursely

We’re excited about the possibilities that may be in store for Jenison Public Schools and look forward to sharing more about this adventure with you soon.