Star Student: Amaya Rodriguez

When Sandy Hill principal, Sara Melton, was asked to nominate a Star Student it didn’t take her long to select Amaya Rodriguez!

Amaya is a 6th grader who is heavily involved in school life. She serves as a safety, helping to keep our youngest elementary students safe and taken care of, she was selected for the honors choir and works with a younger student with special needs.

She reports that her favorite subject is math because, “I’m really good at it.” She is also a talented artist who loves to draw people she sees in her mind and Amaya is also beginning to practice photography with her phone which she uses to take pictures of landscapes and then draws illustrations from the pictures.

Amaya would like to give a shout out to Mrs Messinger, her 4th grade teacher, because she remembers that Mrs Messinger requested to have Amaya in her class after seeing her play soccer at recess with the boys. “I’m not really a “girly-girl”; I don’t like to wear dresses but I love to play soccer and football.”

Amaya lives with her mom, younger brother, grandma, grandpa, and their dog Shiketa. She takes her inspiration for being a star from her mom, and she has learned to “be really strong”, “be a leader” and “know my boundaries”. [Maybe Amaya could help us adults with these!] She knows that being a leader isn’t easy but important. “A leader helps other people do their best. They look for the best people to work with and be friends with.”

She is looking forward to next year and braving the halls of Jenison Junior High – she’s actually been looking forward to this since the third grade! “In third grade, school became my second home and getting to junior high meant I was closer to my future.”

Amaya plans to pursue a future in music, going to college and majoring in piano performance and vocalization. She wants to encourage other students that “it doesn’t matter if you think you can or you can’t. The best think you can do is try your best.”

It is easy to understand why Amaya was selected to represent Sandy Hill and all JPS elementary students this year. Adds Mrs Melton, “Amaya is a unique individual who has a huge heart.  She is inquisitive, sincere, and a hard worker.  She brings great energy and encouragement with her.  We appreciate Amaya and know that she has a bright future!”

Congratulations, Amaya! Your kind spirit and confidence are an inspiration to all of us and we can’t wait to see where they take you! We’re proud to call you a Jenison Wildcat!

 

Sandy Hill Students Work to Ease Hunger in Jenison!

Ten years ago this October, Cheri Honderd realized that some kids in Jenison didn’t have enough food to eat, especially on the weekends.

Drawing on her experience as a Kids Hope Director, Cheri knew that through school and community partnerships, something could be changed. Cheri and her friends at a local church decided to take action and – starting right here at Sandy Hill – nineteen students were given a bag of food for the weekends, privately placed in their backpacks during the school day and Hand2Hand Ministries was born.

“The nation was going through a recession and it was impacting her community. For the first time in decades the city of Jenison, along with neighboring communities, was facing a hunger crisis. Many former middle-income families were not able to feed their own children. The number of free or reduced lunch participants in one school district went from 5 to 30 percent in one year.” When Cheri learned that children in her local schools were hungry, it brought back painful memories of her own childhood when her parents struggled for employment.

Deanne Messinger, Cailey Mulder, Cheri Honderd, Jenny van Biljon, Myra Baine, Samantha Inman

Those nineteen students at Sandy Hill paved the way for the nearly 4,900 students in 8 counties and 145 schools across West Michigan to be fed all weekend and better prepared for their school week!

This fall the students at Sandy Hill gave back to Hand2Hand by raising money through their annual Change 2 Change Hunger campaign [which takes places across the district]. The money raised through this initiative at Sandy Hill was enough to purchase 500 lunches that were packed by Kindergartners and their 4th grade buddies.

Kindergarten teacher, Myra Baine says, “It’s neat to see the program come full circle like this. There is local, childhood hunger in Jenison and we are trying to meet that need.”

Packing lunches is not the end of this project! Mrs Baine secured an additional $250 grant from the Ottawa Area ISD to round out their project-based learning project. “As a class we will collaborate four more times [4th and K] to engage in lessons to help solve a real world problem.  During these lessons students will work in small groups to  create a plan and model/present to an authentic audience.” Their audience will consist of representatives from United Bank and Chapel Pointe Church who will hear the students’ proposal to use their parking lots as part of the potential solution to the next phase! [Keep an eye out for more details on this soon!]

The students have been eager to learn how they can help and participate in problem-solving and learning lifelong relational skills. “The reaction to this problem-based learning from our students is enthusiasm, excitement and desire to do their best by working together with a cross age learning environment. In my Kindergarten class, the ability to work together is a big emphasis this year.  Working with others who may or may not agree with you to get a concrete solution is something we work on, on a daily basis.  We work on it in our social groups during recess and free choice time and we also work on it during our academic times in reading and math groups.”

“The opportunity to have these experiences in a classroom setting is so valuable as they go out in the real world and become life long learners.  To have students start a fire in themselves to know they have power. I believe giving them experiences early and knowing that even at the young age of five and six they can make a difference and help someone else is amazing.”

You can even check out the story on Wood TV!

Thank you to our wonderful teachers for not only organizing such a powerful experience for our students, but involving them in solution-focused learning! They will see their worlds a little differently now and know they can be part of the solution! Thank you, Hand2Hand, for bringing real change to our community and empowering our learners!

 

 

Celebrating New Teachers in the New Year!

This September, JPS welcomed 36 new teachers to our team, district-wide! And while it’s hard to imagine that the year is nearly half over already, these teachers have been giving their students and the district their all! These 36 teachers are all along the spectrum from brand new teachers to seasoned professionals bringing their talents to JPS.

We’ll spotlight a few of them here but we encourage you to make sure to take a minute when school opens up next week to tell these new JPS teachers they are doing a great job!

Jeanna Watson is teaching 7th grade language arts at the Junior High after completing her education at Arizona State University and GVSU. While she is thrilled to be a Wildcat she also admits to being a Packers fan! When she’s not teaching, she loves reading, spending time with her husband and volunteering. “It has been such a blast to be a part of the Jenison community this year. Getting to know all the students and staff so well has made this job an incredible experience already. I am most looking forward to continuing to get to know everybody for the second half of the year and continuing to grow as a teacher to better serve my students.”

Dina Mitchell teaches Transitional Kindergarten at the ECC. She graduated from Hope College and Central Michigan University and taught for 28 years with Holt Public Schools. She has taught Kindergarten, 1st grade, Transitional Kindergarten and as a reading interventionist. Ms Mitchell stays very busy keeping up with her 4 children – three of whom are currently enrolled at Hope and the 4th just graduated! She also love visiting the beach, watching crime shows, and reading. She loves being part of the Jenison family: “The best part of teaching in Jenison has been the relationship piece.   It is very apparent to me that the time, resources and energy that the district puts into building and maintaining strong relationships with colleagues, parents, students and the community is what makes Jenison so successful. They truly are like a family!!!  I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Zach Mosher is teaching 3rd grade at Sandy Hill Elementary after receiving his degree from Central Michigan University. Although this is Mr Mosher’s first year as a classroom teacher, he worked previously as a reading interventionist in Wyoming Public Schools. When he’s not teaching, Mr Mosher enjoys fishing and hunting. He says that the best part of teaching in Jenison has been “the awesome and supporting staff that I have so heavily had to lean on and the family atmosphere.”

We wish all of our teachers and staff a very, happy new year! Thank you for all you do each day for our students and families! We hope everyone enjoys the last few days of winter break and we’ll see you back in school on January 8!

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!