Something Special to be Thankful For!

[L to R] Katie Bremer, Mary Pollock, Betsy Norton, Sara Melton, Dan Searle

Did you know that something as small as a Tootsie Roll can earn $2500 for our schools? Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Knights of Columbus, the JPS Cognitively Impaired Categorical Program at Sandy Hill took home their generous donation from this year’s Tootsie Roll drive!

At this month’s Board of Education meeting, teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton, along with Sandy Hill Principal Sara Melton and Special Ed Director, Mary Pollock accepted the donation on behalf of this important program.

According to Dan Searle, The Knights of Columbus in Jenison (Council #7487) is made up of 240 Catholic men “dedicated to the good works of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. With our #1 priority being charity”. Each year the members vote on the organization that will receive the donations from their annual Tootsie Roll Drive that takes place the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Easter. With volunteer families stationed outside local businesses, they happily pass out Tootsie Rolls in exchange for any donation.  Mr Searle adds, “Every cent we collect from the Tootsie Roll Drive stays in the community. The more we collect, the more that is donated back. Through other programs, our Council alone collects and donates approximately $40,000 each year back to the community.”

The donation will be used to support and advance programs within the categorical program at Sandy Hill. In the past, the monies have been used to purchase i-pads and supporting apps, assist with peer-to-peer groups and many other activities.

Ms Pollock knows the value of these donations to the amazing work being done by teachers and staff. “We have an amazing staff in JPS. Teachers, both general ed and special ed, and support staff are constantly meeting and planning to make sure all students have opportunities to be a part of the school community. This donation will help support the goal of meaningful inclusion. The Knights of Columbus organization has been incredibly supportive of our efforts and they contribute via their Tootsie Roll Drive every year. It is greatly appreciated!”

JPS offers Special Ed categorical programs for the variety of needs presented by our students (Cognitively Impaired, Emotionally Impaired, Autism Spectrum Disorder). Ms Pollock adds, “We appreciate the community partnerships because it helps to foster understanding in the community of how our programs and services are provided. We are very intentional about making making sure all our students spend as much time as possible with typically developing peers. Teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton have done a wonderful job with their peer-to-peer program at Sandy Hill. Students with disabilities are accepted and benefit from the relationships with their peers and the typical peers gain from helping others and learning to understand differences.

The Knights of Columbus are certainly important community partners and the admiration between organizations is mutual. “Our kids attend these schools. We love our schools and know we are blessed to have such great and caring educators”, says Mr Searle.

On the day we take an extra moment to appreciate what we have, please add the Knights of Columbus and JPS teachers and support staff to the list! Giving all of our students the best education possible is certainly a team effort! Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at JPS!

Elementary Reading Initiatives

“The fluent reader sounds good, is easy to listen to, and reads with enough expression to help the listener understand and enjoy the material.”

 – Charles Clark, “Building Fluency: Do It Right and Do It Well!” (1999)

In today’s world, reading is at the heart of everything. Whether it’s science, math, or social studies, being able to fluently navigate a book is critical to student success.

That’s why I’m so excited to share what’s going on at Bursley and Sandy Hill Elementary Schools within Jenison Public Schools.

To help sixth graders get “hooked” on great books, teachers at Bursley are implementing techniques from Harvey & Goudvis’ Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding.

This month, all sixth-grade teachers are reading Pictures of Hollis Woods, a realistic fiction book to their classes while modeling strategies that enhance reading, fluency, and comprehension.

Some of these techniques include:

  • drawing pictures
  • visualizing
  • making connections
  • formulating questions while reading, and
  • inferring.

After learning the comprehension strategies in a whole group setting, students must find their own book at their ability level, and then compare and contrast that book with the one they are hearing read in class. Armed with new skills, students are able to make fresh connections and offer valuable insights while reading something they love. We’re encouraged by the growth we see happening!

Sixth-graders at Sandy Hill are also working hard on comprehension skills such as recognizing root words and understanding prefixes and suffixes as part of the FUSION program. The FUSION program is a ground-breaking approach to reading intervention that was designed by the University of Kansas, and is expected to be published nationally due to its success. 

FUSION uses compelling literature to grab the attention of the reader. Examples of books used in this 6th-9th program include:

While different from the initiatives taking place at Bursley, the goal is the same: help kids improve their reading so they can more easily fall in love with reading.  

Thank you to principals Mrs. Garcia and Ms. Keehn for sharing these highlights with us!
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Question for you: What do you see happening in your child’s classroom that you feel deserves a moment in the spotlight? We’d love to hear about it!