Jenison International Academy: School Without Boundaries

It used to be that occupying a seat in a traditional classroom was the only way to emerge from school with a quality education.

It used to be that learning was centered around a blackboard and a pile of books.

Learning still happens that way. Books and blackboards still open minds and chart pathways into new futures. But for some, learning works better if it can happen another way.

It was for those students that Jenison International Academy was created.

Jenison International Academy (JIA) is an online school that offers a personalized education program to students who are looking for an at-home learning experience with their parent acting as a learning coach. JIA students might include those who have struggled in a traditional classroom or those whose academic gifts have outpaced their classmates. Whatever the reason for enrolling in JIA, students find the opportunity to spread their wings in a new way, in a new place: at home!

JIA students have the extra benefit of having access to guidance counselors, school-to-career pathway support, ACT preparation, connection with a mentor teacher, and earning a Jenison Public Schools diploma to name a few. Students also have the opportunity to participate in Jenison’s outstanding fine arts programs.

Students looking for an alternative educational experience may also be encouraged to know that Jenison International Academy plans monthly outings to allow students to build community and enrich the overall learning experience. This year JIA has enjoyed volunteering at Mel Trotter, visiting a local radio station, ice skating at Christmas, tailgating at JHS football games, and visiting ArtPrize in the fall. Activities and updates are shared using Facebook and Twitter.

JIA director, Mrs. Rebekah Redmer, is proud of the tremendous academic achievement of the academy, and feels their success is the outgrowth of the three years of planning and research done by the district before launching.

“[Our achievements are]…directly attributed to the support of the parent(s) in the home (i.e., the learning coach).  We enter into an educational partnership with each family, working together to ensure academic goals are achieved.  JIA is just one of many outstanding programs that JPS has put in place for our students.”

If you or someone you know is interested in a different kind of educational experience, Jenison International Academy would welcome a conversation. Call Colleen at 616.457.8477 or check out their website at

School is changing and Jenison is changing with it. If you have a student ready for change, we hope you’ll consider Jenison International Academy.

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.