Honoring Retirees – 2020

I’d like to honor a few more amazing individuals who have recently turned the page in their career. Combined, these educational heroes have been pouring into our children and local community with over 100 years experience! If they had the privilege to partner with your student and family, I encourage you to reach out, wish them well and thank them for their dedicated careers.

  • Patricia Howard
  • Janice Staley
  • Deb Van Duinen
  • Lee Westervelt

Another group of 2020 retiring teachers is featured HERE.

Patricia Howard

Sixth grade teacher – Rosewood Elementary

“Living and raising a family in the Jenison community has been the best part of my life. Teaching for Jenison Public Schools was an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. I am thankful for the many relationships, laughs, and memories that the last 20 years have given me.”

Pat always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She felt nothing could be better than knowing you could impact the life of a student, their understanding of the world and even help them find their place in the world.

She and her husband, Scott, have three adult sons who are all Jenison High School graduates. Pat is looking forward to expanding her travel season to year round (not just summers), taking things slow, reading more books and spending time visiting family.

For the last 15 years, Pat has celebrated her birthday while chaperoning Sixth Grade camp for Rosewood Elementary. She will miss the extra special treatment of the 90 voice choir signing happy birthday to her!

Janice Staley

Elementary Media Specialist

I would like to leave this thought from A.A. Milne the author of Winnie the Pooh, it’s perfect for the start of the school year and these uncertain times…

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and more loved than you’ll ever know.”

Jan spent a few years teaching elementary grades before she and her husband, Butch, started their family. She took a part time position with the Kent District Libraries while raising their children. Her experience there fanned the flame of a new passion. She pursued a master’s degree in Library and Information Science. This journey allowed her to combine her love of education and literature; and the Jenison community benefited from her passion for 20 years as an elementary media specialist.

The most rewarding moments were when she would introduce a book or series to a student and they’d take off and find their own love for reading. Jan is a driving force behind many Jenison students becoming readers and leaders!

If she wasn’t a media specialist, you might be reading her travel blog or taking yoga classes from her on the beach somewhere! In retirement, she intends to log many miles with travel of all kinds and staying active wherever their journey takes them… maybe even to a beach, where she can teach yoga.

Deb Van Duinen

Language Arts – Jenison Junior High

One of my favorite quotes comes from the poem “Speech to the Young” by Gwendolyn Brooks:

“Live not for battles won.

Live not for the-end-of-the-song.

Live in the along.”

Deb and her husband, Tom, have been married as long as she has has been on staff at Jenison Junior High. Deb has been a steadfast and loyal presence in the JJHS language arts department for 38 years. She has loved the times when she could influence her students to be lifelong readers, like she is, and share her love of the adventures in her favorite genre, historical fiction. She had also taken opportunities to expand her teaching experience through the OAISD Literacy Network, the Lake Michigan Writing Project, and the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project.

Asking her to choose a favorite memory from her time at JJHS is like asking her to choose a favorite book. She is overwhelmed with so many wonderful memories and moments, and relationships with students and colleagues. She cherished the opportunities to learn and grow personally, and feels abundantly gifted with the privilege of seeing young people learn and grow.

Deb is really looking forward to slowing down, spending time with her children and grandchildren, adding more books to her ‘To Read’ list and downsizing her ‘To Do’ list.

Lee Westervelt

Principal – Early Childhood Center

“The future is in God’s Hands.” 

Lee has spent his entire 38 year career in education administration – 30 of them with Jenison Public Schools, first as Principal of Bauerwood and most recently Principal of the ECC. Being constantly surrounded by curiosity and wonderment is something that excites him on a daily basis. Lee considered his daily playground duty as his classroom. Giving him the opportunity to guide the children in ‘Being a Good Friend – 101’. Watching them cooperate and play inclusively is a memory he’ll keep forever.

In the past, Lee also brought his administration expertise to the position of JPS Community Education Director, gave 10 years as Memorial Day Parade co-chair as well as many Charitable Board positions. Our community is very thankful for his strong leadership role.

Retiring Teachers – Class of 2020

Please join me as I express my deep gratitude to these 6 teachers who have given so much to a diverse group of Jenison students. They represent the culture of Jenison of going above and beyond. If your students have had the privilege to study under these teachers, I encourage you to reach out, wish them well and thank them for their dedicated careers.

  • Todd Avery
  • Brett Dyke
  • Jan Camilleri
  • Rachel Elenbaas
  • Stacey Harig
  • Mary Muller

Todd Avery – Jenison High School

I leave you with a quote that has always meant a lot to me and guided my life, “If you give a little of yourself, you will get twice as much back. Try to help someone.  Do your part. I promise it will come out twice as good.”
  – Mrs. Helen Lemke, my grandmother

Todd recently completed his 26th year as teacher and director of the Theatre Arts program for Jenison High School. He spent these years investing into students on and behind the stage. Under Mr. Avery’s direction, the JHS Thespians have performed murder mystery productions, outdoor children’s shows, 24 Hour Play Festivals, an annual fall play and spring musical, as well as participating in theatre festivals across Michigan. The Jenison community is grateful for the Thespian program he spent his career building. We have been blessed with over 60 wonderful productions from our high school players during his time. Another proud accomplishment is developing one of his favorite projects: the annual JHS Thespians’ Santa Breakfast. For over ten years, he built a Jenison tradition as he played the cherished role of the man in the red suit!

In addition to teaching and directing, Todd spent time acting and directing for local theatre companies. He was also honored at the Michigan Thespian Festival by being inducted into the Michigan Educational Theatre Association Hall of Fame in 2013. In his “free” time, Todd also enjoys taking in as much live theatre as he can.

Todd sees this step of retirement as a transition into something new. Perhaps teaching or directing at a collegiate level, playwrighting, coaching younger actors or going after a major motion picture role for himself! One of the things he is looking forward to most is time with his loved ones and that may include a trip to New Zealand with his wife Penny, or the bucket list road trip of driving Route 66 in a fancy convertible!

Brett Dyke – Jenison High School

Thank you Jenison for some amazing memories. Some of of the best came from classroom discussions and building relationships through athletics, leading some teams to conference, district and regional championships.

Brett spent about half of his 33 year teaching career at Jenison High School. He most recently taught in the Family and Consumer Science Department with Health and Physical education classes. He also coached the Varsity Boys basketball team for 16 years.

In his time away from the classroom, Brett enjoys golf, travel and spending time with his family. He and his wife Julie are looking forward to more time for all of those plus some DIY projects during retirement.

Jan Camilleri – Sandy Hill Elementary

“Thank you to the wonderful staff that I have had the privilege to work with, the great Jenison administrators and their leadership, and especially to the Jenison community for the opportunity to work for 30 years with children from the community.”

Jan spent the last 30 years teaching in 3 different JPS buildings, working for 5 different principals, and teaching in both special education and general education classrooms. If she wasn’t the amazing special education teacher that she was, she would have probably put her tender heart and listening ear to work for the senior citizen population. 

Jan’s passion for teaching doesn’t allow her to shy away from a challenge; she spent over a year teaching English as a second language to a group of Congolese adult refugees, without knowing any Swahili or French. No matter who her student is, she wanted them to go away feeling encouraged and believing in themselves.

Jan and her husband Joe, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this summer and they are looking forward to spending more time with their adult daughters, camping, hiking and exploring. They will also be re-planning her oldest daughter’s wedding

Rachel Elenbaas – Rosewood Elementary 

“Teaching in Jension has given me some of the best years of my life.  I will remember the great times teaching brilliant students alongside excellent teachers.”

Rachel Elenbaas has been pouring into little Wildcats at Jenison Public Schools since 1990.  She began her career teaching in a resource room at Bursley Elementary. The following school year brought her to Pinewood Elementary where she taught in the program for the Emotionally Impaired students for 9 years. From there she moved to Rosewood and taught 3rd grade for 12 years.  She has finished out her time with us in the resource room as an Interventions Specialist, and she will be very missed.

While she does enjoy gardening and sewing, she has additional exciting ideas for her upcoming retirement. Rachel and her husband (also a retired teacher) are planning some upcoming trips with their adult kids that include hiking, biking and skiing. 

Rachel plans to take on a unique position of private teaching for a family during the Covid pandemic. I’m also thankful that Rachel will be sharing her knowledge and passion for these special students as she plans to mentor 1st year Special Education teachers who are in Grand Valley’s intern program. 

Stacey Harig – Sandy Hill Elementary 

“I am so thankful for my grade level teams, students, families, and all district staff who I have worked with over the years! It has been a fulfilling experience with many wonderful memories with all of you! I was very fortunate to be a part of Jenison Public Schools!”

Stacey began in Jenison with a student teacher position at Sandy Hill. Following graduation and a year of teaching in Ohio, she came back to stay. She taught first grade for the majority of her career because she loved seeing this unique phase of exponential growth in learning which happens at this grade level. Stacey was a very important part of a huge year of progression for many students. She considers herself a cheerleader for her students long after they have left her first grade classroom.

Stacey and her husband Ron (also a retired Jenison teacher) enjoy family time with their college age children and like to enjoy Michigan outdoor activities as much as possible. They are looking forward to fully retire by moving up north and making new family memories in northern Michigan.

Mary Muller – Rosewood Elementary

“Do what you love. Love what you do. I’ve been lucky enough to say that I’ve been able to do that in my 39 year teaching career. I’m going to miss my many students, the staff, and lifelong friends I’ve made along the way. Hopefully, I’m gone, but not forgotten.”

Mary calls her 40 years of teaching special education students her dream job. She can’t even imagine what she would be if she wasn’t a teacher – it was always her childhood wish. Her favorite moments during the last 4 decades was watching the progress of her students, seeing them as the capable, achieving students they were – who exceeded expectations time and again. One of her hopes as an educator was to instill a love of learning in her students, as she shared her own passion for learning with them.

During retirement, Mary plans to play lots of tennis, pickle ball, golf, and anything else she can do to be active. She’d also like to travel to see the world, and see her grown children more, who currently live out of state. She may even slow down enough to read a book or two in her spare time.

Retiring Teachers – Class of 2019

Final music concerts. Conference competitions for spring athletics. The final day of regular classes for our seniors is tomorrow… just a few of the many indications that we are screaming down the homestretch of this school year. With all the excitement that comes with closing the books and looking forward to a well deserved summer break, there are bittersweet moments.

As we soon graduate over 300 students, we also say goodbye to 7 amazing teachers who have acted as champions for your children and led the way for their students, literally for generations. This June, I wish the best to a group of teachers who represent 236 years of wisdom and experience. If your students have had the privilege to study under these teachers, I encourage you to reach out, wish them well and thank them for their deeply dedicated careers.

  • Eileen Maday
  • Linda Reimink
  • Steven Waters
  • Karen Ambs
  • Paula Riordan
  • Brenda Meade
  • Sandra Johnson

Eileen Maday

High School Reading Specialist, English and Social Studies Teacher


Eileen is the Reading Specialist at the High School and also teaches English and Social Studies. In a few weeks, she will conclude 30 years of teaching – 9 years with Holland Public Schools and 21 years as a Jenison Wildcat. Her favorite memories of teaching are the moments when students have a realization of their potential, master an important skill, achieve a goal, or feel supported through a difficult time. Her favorite book to teach in literature classes is To Kill a Mockingbird as she feels there are so many powerful messages that will always be relevant to young people.  

If Eileen were not a teacher, she believes she would most likely have had a career with a social service agency, working with children in the foster care system. Her family has grown through foster care and the adoption of two of their children.

This summer, Eileen and her husband Tim will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Tim recently retired after 30 years as a firefighter and Eileen is looking forward to more time together. They enjoy traveling, hiking, cycling and spending time with their 5 children and 7 grandchildren. They have exciting plans to hike in all of the national parks and spending time in Europe soon.

“My parting thought is one of gratitude to all of my colleagues.  It has been a honor to work with so many gifted educators who have inspired me with their dedication and sustained me with their friendship.  I am truly thankful.”   ~ Eileen Maday

Eileen, we are truly thankful for your commitment to our students over the years and we wish you the absolute best as you travel to see all the places you have taught about through the years.  


Eileen Maday with  our Multicultural Advancement Scholars group attending the Calling All Colors Conference at Grand Valley State University.  This is a group she has  sponsored with several colleagues over the past few years.

Linda Reimink

High School Physical Education and Health Teacher


Mrs. Reimink with some 3rd hour freshmen following a fun and challenging work out.

Linda is a Physical Education and Health teacher at the high school. She has worked for 32 years to teach students the value of fitness and overall health. Helping them develop healthy habits and encouraging good decision making – hoping to set them up for a great future. She enjoys being active herself and loves that her additional role as the Varsity Women’s Golf team has incorporated that as well. In her spare time, she enjoys helping lead worship at her church and reading. Some of her favorite books include Educated, The Help, Water from My Heart, Chasing Fireflies, and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

She’s had the chance to build many great relationships over the years and working with colleague, Kari Kossen every day is icing on the cake. Another highlight of her career is when a student works hard and reaches a goal (running farther and longer than they ever thought possible). She feels that she and the students generally have a good time together and loves the daily laughs they share.

If she was not a teacher, Linda would probably be employed in the corporate wellness field. Actually, her retirement plans may include some part-time work in that arena. She loves the idea of being involved in a mentoring program for college students. Linda and her husband Ron have two grown children and 2 granddaughters. Retirement for her also means more time to travel, spend with family and friends, and will probably include baking for them.

Thank you Linda, for your dedication to send our students into the world with a bright and healthy future ahead of them.


Mrs. Reimink and her Jenison Varsity golf athletes.

Steven Waters

Junior High Choir Director


Mr. Waters has enjoyed teaching and seeing the JH students progress during their choir career.

Steven proudly completes his 23rd year in Jenison this year, rounding out his accomplished 35 year teaching career. Prior to his time as Jenison Junior High Choir Director, he taught Elementary Music, Band, and Choir K12 in other districts.

He is fueled by the hard work the students give him daily, and the feeling of chills when the group wrestles with a section and eventually gets it just right. He shares the immense excitement of the students when they sing a 4-part chord in tune. Experiencing all those firsts with the students and watching them grow and progress through their choir journey is something he will never forget.

As much as Steven has enjoyed the hard work of planning and preparing students for concerts, he and his wife, Jeanna look forward  to attending concerts together – especially at Christmas (a notably very busy time for music teachers).

They have three children, three grandchildren and one more grandchild due in June. They are thoroughly enjoying this phase of life and looking for more of life’s simple pleasures, including backyard cookouts, gardening and outdoor adventures. Steven will also continue making music as he participates in the worship team at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids.


Mr. Waters directing his 23rd and final junior high concert, at the Jenison Center for the Arts.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work in the Jenison Public Schools with all the wonderful Jenison Families over the past years! Each year has been filled with many blessings on a professional level because of my wonderful students and my exceptional colleagues. I’ll miss hearing the excitement in the voices of the kids as they come into the choir room each day or when they come to the concerts. I’ll miss all the great laughs and tears with the students AND with my music teaching team.

I count myself fortunate to have been here doing what I love so much with people that I love.” ~ Steven Waters

Steven, thank you for using your mastery of music and love for people to point our students toward a successful future. We wish you a beautiful, musical future!


A student grabs a selfie with Mr. Waters at the conclusion of his final choir concert.

Karen Ambs

Music Teacher for Sandy Hill and Rosewood Elementary Schools


Mrs. Karen Ambs

Karen Ambs is one of our energetic, big-idea music teachers in the district. Her primary role is lead music teacher at Sandy Hill and Rosewood. She came to Jenison with 4 years of teaching under her belt including kindergarten physical education, typing, library tech, theatre, and art. That diverse beginning set the stage for a passionate, creative career here.

She has also spent time leading the elementary honors choirs for her schools and working on the choreography for the Junior High musical productions. After 32 years of teaching, she is anticipating a more flexible schedule to spend time with her husband and two grown children. She also looks forward to teaching private voice and piano lessons and tapping into her full potential as a recently self proclaimed “gym addict”.

She also has a passion for performing and volunteering with local community theatres. If Karen was not a teacher, she thinks she would involved in a non-profit of some sort.

She experiences bright moments daily when her students discover their own love for music but the memory of listening to one of her young students (who is in our CI program and largely “non-verbal”) sing incredibly beautiful solos will be forever in her heart.

“Don’t forget to take care of each other, and yourselves too. It has been a true honor to serve and teach alongside the amazing educators at Jenison Public Schools.” ~ Karen Ambs

Thank you Karen, for your contagious enthusiasm and tireless service. You have encouraged generations of students to love music and the arts, and our community has been blessed by that.


Mrs. Ambs is often the first to teach the students to play an instrument.


Mrs. Ambs with Sandy Hill music students

Paula Riordan

Bursley 3rd grade teacher


Paula Riordan has been teaching at Jenison for 30 years, in second and third grade classrooms. She earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. She and her husband have four grown children, all of whom are married. She is excited that her family continues to grow with beautiful grandchildren that she looks forward to spending more time with – including a planned family trip to Disney World. Paula and her husband are also devoted Notre Dame fans and are anticipating attending at least one game each season.

“The most rewarding aspect of teaching for me are the relationships I have developed with both staff and students over the years. It’s such fun to have former students stop by my classroom to visit. I sometimes don’t recognize high school or college students by face because they have changed so much, but their names are etched in my brain and it brings back a flood of memories.” ~ Paula Riordan

Thank you Paula, for your dedication to a very fun age group of students. Your guidance and persistence helped build strong educational foundations for many young Wildcats!


Brenda Meade

Bauerwood 3rd grade teacher


Brenda Meade counts herself very lucky to have completed her student teaching at Bursley Elementary before she even graduated. Twice as lucky that there was a position at JPS for her upon graduation! Now, 33 years later, after she and her husband, Joe put their own three children through JPS – she still loves spending time and making memories with her Bauerwood 3rd graders daily. 

When you spend nearly your entire adult life in a community, it’s hard to pinpoint a most favorite memory, but a few might stand out. Such as the time a student’s backpack was moving, and when she asked him to open the zipper, out popped the head of a kitty cat. Another time, a mother duck and her ducklings wandered in from the courtyard at Bauerwood Elementary and decided to visit her classroom. The memories are plenty but making relationships is the best part! It’s exciting that she still has contact with many past students – from recent years, all the way to her early years of teaching.

During her time away from school, she enjoys camping, reading, and spending time with family and friends. Photography is something Brenda has always been interested in and she looks forward to developing her skills with some classes with her free time in the future. Another fun hobby she enjoys is refinishing thrift shop furniture.

“Thank you to the students, parents, and my JPS family for allowing me to have my dream job for the past 33 years.” ~ Brenda Meade

Brenda, we are so thankful you have been a part of the Jenison community for this phase in your life. We wish you the best as you have more time to pursue your interests and keep building relationships.


Sandra Strobel Johnson

High School Social Studies Teacher


At the age of 21, Sandra unknowingly discovered that she wanted to share her love of learning. She took a student teaching position and she knew the direction of her life had changed forever.  

She will tell you, “I have never looked back. Forty-four years later, I still love my work with young people, trying to ignite passion and encourage truthful self-reflection. I truly get a “kick” out of high schoolers.  I will miss the daily interaction with my wonderful, sometimes challenging, young adults. Many have left an indelible imprint on my brain and soul. Others have pushed me beyond my planned presentations to think more deeply and question more fully.  My life has been enhanced by their presence in it.”

“Few have been blessed with a job that provided joy, laughter, even some tears, as well as intellectual inquiry, and a chance to share with amazing teenagers my passion for psychology, sociology, and CAL (education through cross-age learning).  Teachers are required to write yearly goals. Throughout my career, my first goal was always to simultaneously engage my students’ hearts and brains while allowing them to discover their unique contribution to the world. As I told them frequently, no two people have the same finger prints.  Even identical twins have different prints. I do not believe this is an accident. The world is awaiting their own unique touch.”

“To my many students, it was an honor and privilege to serve as your teacher.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness that this chapter of my life is coming to a close.” ~ Sandra Strobel Johnson

“I hope I have illuminated my small corner of the world with intellectual curiosity, passion, and a love of learning, enabling my students to shine their internal light on their corners of the world.  The future lies in their hands. I am proud to be an educator nurturing students and deepening their commitment to enhance their world.”

Sandra, thank you for pouring yourself into your students and your willingness to let them fill you as well. We wish you the best as you find time to travel, read, learn even more and spend time loving on your two daughters and two grandchildren.