Retirees and Honorees 2021

The Jenison Public Schools tradition of excellence shone through a difficult year. Today, I want to honor the newly retired, deeply dedicated, hardworking support staff who have given so much and the ‘Top Ten of 2021’ which is comprised of some pretty amazing graduates.

Heroes on Wheels: Mr. Denny and Mrs. K

Denny Wilson and Sharilyn Kowalczyk have been in the business of lovingly transporting our most precious cargo for a combined 42 years! These friendly bus drivers have many fans along their route who are sad they won’t behind the wheel next fall. Congratulations to these dedicated drivers and invaluable members of the Jenison Public Schools community! I’m so thankful for the million smiles they’ve given to their student riders over the years!

Denny is a United States Navy Veteran and retiree of General Motors. He has loved being a part of JPS for the last 14 years. When he’s not behind the wheel of a big yellow bus, he likes to golf, camp, do wood working and spend time with his 5 children, 9 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Denny’s plans for retirement include sleeping in and visiting national parks with his wife. One of his favorite pieces of advice is “Stick with the bunch and you won’t get peeled.”


Shari had a career path in mind however, circumstances changed following a bad car accident. An ironic, yet perfect career match was made when she applied with the Jenison Transportation Department. Driving the bus helped increase her confidence behind the wheel and gave her so many lifelong friends. She calls herself lucky to have had a job she has enjoyed for 28 years. She’ll take with her many great memories of the students along her route and especially 14 years of School Bus Road-eo competitions at the county, state and nationals level.

Shari and her husband, John look forward to spending time with children and grandchildren. They also plan to travel and spend time at their little shack in Tennessee. Will Shari assume her spot behind the wheel?


Unsung Heroes: Choral Accompanists

As a fixture behind the piano with the Jenison Junior High School choirs, Beth Sweers and Andrea Pohler had one of the best seats in the house to witness the growing talent of our students.

Beth has been at the piano for 17 years working alongside the Jenison Junior High Arietta and Male Chorus. She is also involved in the music ministry at her church as organist, pianist, and most recently added handbells to her repertoire. Other than music, Beth’s hobbies include snowskiing, knitting and quilting. She has really enjoyed her time at the junior high and knows she will miss the the staff and watching the students develop and grow.

She anticipates a retirement full of extra time with her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. Beth isn’t afraid of adventure and looks forward to traveling many miles with her husband, Steve. She once navigated the massive Tokyo, Japan, subway system and didn’t get lost!!


Andrea has been accompanying the choirs at Jenison Jr. High since 1997. She also considers her 24 years an honor and she will miss the daily interactions with the choir students and the teachers whom she calls, the most talented musical team in the state. She feels blessed and has been proud to be a part of it all.

Andrea is looking forward to having more time for hiking trips to the mountains and biking adventures with her husband. She will also enjoy quiet cups of coffee on the porch with a good book.


Jenison High School – CLASS OF 2021 TOP TEN

A few days before they crossed the football field to the tune of pomp and circumstance, we had the opportunity to celebrate the Top Ten students from the Class of 2021 at their recognition luncheon. These students prove to us that hard work pays off in big ways!

In order to achieve this high level of success, students must put in an incredible amount of effort and hard work throughout high school, including several AP classes. Their ability to focus, motivate themselves, and remain organized, helped them accomplish their goals. They deserve applause for the persistent focus they exhibited during their career as a student and they definitely finished strong after the last 15 months of the pandemic. Our world will be a better place because of these individuals! Their future is very bright!

The Class of 2018 Top 10 are:

  • Elizabeth Ashby
  • Kate Boutell
  • Roberto Garcia
  • Hannah Groothuis, Saludatorian
  • Liana Kaiser
  • Braden Milnamow
  • Elizabeth Schuurman, Valedictorian
  • Claudia Ten Elshof
  • Ella Uganski
  • Connor Vachon

Congratulations to this incredible group of young men and women!

We are so proud of you. The future is yours for the taking!

Santa’s Elves on Bus 12-17

While her job title is ‘bus driver’, Kristin Bredeweg takes her role as a teacher and ‘family leader’ just as serious as her safe driving record.

Kristin has been driving her route for 8 years and works hard to create a family atmosphere on her bus. She takes the time to get to know her students and seeks to take advantage of teachable moments. She also looks forward to bringing them together with a special project during the holidays. 

Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 5.44.26 PM

screen-shot-2019-12-26-at-6.02.29-pm.png

This year, she organized a campaign to collect toys that would be delivered to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital downtown Grand Rapids. Encouraging our students to think outside themselves; they were impacted by the thought that some children would be spending their holidays not at home around the tree, but in the hospital.

Friday, December 20, students were dismissed for the holiday break at half day and they headed to the bus garage to complete their secret santa mission. Students retrieved the collected toys that had been stored there and filled up bus 12-17 with everything from Lego sets, to books, crayons and stuffed animals. They collected hundreds of items and it was especially exciting that the Bauerwood students were able to take a trip on their bus and participate in the delivery.

Countless JPS teachers and staff members bring students together for special holiday projects like this. I’m so proud and am always amazed how our community takes advantage of the opportunity to spread joy and happiness.

Check out the local news story on WZZM.

Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 6.06.24 PMscreen-shot-2019-12-26-at-5.45.12-pm.pngScreen Shot 2019-12-26 at 6.03.29 PM