Welcome to the 2017 – 2018 School Year!

It’s been a glorious Michigan summer, hasn’t it? We hope each of you had a chance to take some time to do something you loved whether it was a big trip in the car or with the camper, or “summer” just meant you didn’t have to pack lunches every day and sleep an extra ten minutes!

School began for our students two days ago but our teachers and staff have been hard at work for the past week or more getting prepared both physically and mentally for a great year.

Teachers and administrators spent three days last week in professional development beginning with a renewed connection in their respective buildings. Time was spent reflecting on summer breaks, hearing personal news, reviewing school policies, and discussions about policies that will be reviewed further this year. Elementary teachers were also given the opportunity to learn from veteran Grandville teacher, Stacey Byl, on Whole Brain Teaching. Stacey introduced this active learning technique of teaching to Jenison in February so her second visit centered around additional tips, a review of the brain functions, the value of Whole Brain Teaching, and lots of ideas for teachers to try on their own. [If your child knows what “mirrors up” means and responds to “Class?” with a prompt, “Yes?”, their teacher is using Whole Brain Teaching!]

Teachers also focused on legal updates, literacy, and had opportunities to meet at both the grade and building levels for brainstorming and implementation of all they were learning.

Elementary teachers also had the chance to hear from Dr. Stephanie Grant from Development Enhancements in Holland. Dr. Grant is a clinical psychologist specializing in childhood trauma. Teachers learned a great deal about the ways that trauma affects a child’s developing brain and how that might translate to behaviors or difficulty learning in school.

For the final session, Tom asked teachers to take a deep breath and told them he wanted to help them begin the year with helping teachers learn how to take care of themselves. “You have a stressful, physically demanding job and I want to encourage you to take care of yourself and each other.” School Board President, Bill Waalkes, reminded teachers that “We hire you to do the job and we’re here to support you.”

To this end, teachers heard from Jen Rapanos, former School Social Worker, and current owner of Well Bean Yoga and Mindfulness. Jen led the teachers in various mindful practices such as mindful eating, diaphragmatic breathing, and simple yoga. Mindfulness is being taught in many Jenison classrooms as a means to help students become more aware of their surroundings, feelings, bodies, and minds. Many of our students have already been practicing mindfulness in their classrooms, but what is it? Mindfulness creates a moment between a situation and our reaction to it. Jen shared this quote from Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

We hope that our entire staff was able to take a deep breath as school began this week and that they continue to find ways to care for themselves throughout the year, making them even more incredible teachers for our kids! With the theme of “In the Pursuit of Excellence” in mind, we know that teachers will set the bar high and students will rise to it! Congratulations on the beginning of another great year at Jenison! Go Cats!

Michigan Supreme Court Visits Jenison!

MIII9140Last week the Jenison Center for the Arts was the site of an oral hearing of the Michigan Supreme Court. 1300 Ottawa County high school students, nominated by their teachers, were present for the arguments presented by legal council for both parties. Although the state’s highest court will take a couple of weeks to make a ruling this was a very unique opportunity for the students and the community of Jenison to host this important part of the judicial process.

MIII8975The visit came to fruition after the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office applied through Court Community Connections, a public education program begun by the Court in 2007. The case before the Court was Peter Deacon vs Pandora, the online music streaming site, whom Mr Deacon believes violated his state’s privacy rights when they sold his information to Facebook.

Superintendent Tom TenBrink was very proud to host this amazing event. “To see the Supreme Court in action right here in Ottawa County is a tremendous opportunity.” After the oral arguments were presented audience members were invited to ask questions during a Q & A session with the Justices and attorney’s and representatives from each visiting school were also able to join the justices for an intimate luncheon prior to the hearing.

185 Jenison students were invited and Celia Webers, Jenison junior, says that while they learn the basics of the court system in class “this is really good to be able to apply it and be in what we’re learning. We learn the terms but we don’t know how it works.”

Senior Parmida Davarmahesh is considering a future in law and was excited to be part of this once in a lifetime experience. “It really exposes me to how the court works and what my job and future career, if I become a lawyer, will look like.”  And junior James Groelsma adds that in class they are able to study the more well-known cases but this gave them the opportunity to study a case that’s a little more abstract, albeit timely. “It’s cool be part of something that hasn’t been decided yet. It’s not a clear decision; it’s an argument.”

MIII8966Mr Abram Brosseit, Government and Social Studies teacher, sees this as a great opportunity to honor Jenison students who have shown an interest in political science. “We want to give them the chance to see what it looks like in a world outside the classroom. A lot of students have come to me over the last few months as they know more of the facts of the case, they’re understanding that there’s arguments to be made on both sides and I’ve seen students really engaging in critical thinking in a very applied way. This isn’t an abstract question on a test, this is happening in front of them.”

We are very proud to not only host the MI Supreme Court Justices at the JCA, but especially the students and teachers who gained invaluable insight into the judicial process that happens around them every day.

Thank you to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office and the MI Supreme Court for involving our students in your work!



Jenison High School Graduation: 2013

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon Graham

As if to offer a glimpse of their bright futures, the rain held off nearly completely last week Thursday, allowing the sun to poke through and deliver a gorgeous night for our 2013 graduates.

With a packed stadium filling the evening with applause, over 350 Jenison High School students filed solemnly past moms and dads and grandparents and onto center field for the last time. It was their moment to shine.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon GrahamSuperintendent Tom TenBrink began the evening with a gracious welcome and a reminder of how blessed our students are to attend a school as accomplished as Jenison, with teachers who care deeply, and with parents who are involved and supportive. He went on to outline the notable feats that Jenison has come to be known for, including:

  • 13th best high school in the State of Michigan by US News & World Report
  • Newsweek’s list of “Best High Schools in America” (only about 6% of all U.S. schools make this list)
  • Grand Rapids Magazine’s 3rd best high school in West Michigan (although Mr. TenBrink argues we should be #1!)

Mr. TenBrink went on to encourage all of the graduates to pursue servant leadership in their lives — to think of others and to do more for them than you would for yourself. He admonished them to consider the words of so many great leaders and thinkers of our time, from Ghandi to Martin Luther King Jr., and live in such a way that elevates others while offering love and encouragement over selfish ambition and conceit.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon GrahamJenison High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, was moved at the thought of these students beginning a new chapter, and chose to read selections from the children’s picture book, I’ll Love You Forever. He added his own take on the familiar classic with these words:

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as you’re living, a Wildcat you’ll be!

Aside from these emotional words, he shared thoughts on living a disciplined life going forward:

“You can walk away from this high school knowing that you’ve cemented your legacy.  …But know there is always a price to be paid to be great, and it starts with doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. If you can keep your eyes fixed on your goals and say no to the quick fix and the easy road, you’ll reap the rewards of discipline.”

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon Graham

Dr. Brandon Graham welcoming Valedictorian Don Lee to the stadium. Don will be heading to Stanford University in the fall to study computer science.

This group of graduates has certainly shown discipline and determination thus far, securing over $2.3 million in college scholarships collectively! Their hard work has garnered the attention of many in our community and across our great state. Please join me in celebrating our 2013 graduates and the future that lies ahead for each of them!

We wish them the best of luck, more sunshine than rain, and the discipline to follow their dreams.

Knights Of Columbus Contribute to JPS Special Education

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Special Education Program, Mary Pollack, Tom Ten Brink

Mr. Michael London presents Special Education Director Mary Pollock with a gift from Knights of Columbus.

Have you ever been greeted by a smiling member of the Knights of Columbus standing outside your grocery store in the weeks leading up to Easter? Garbed in yellow and offering Tootsie Rolls in exchange for your donation, these men are “men of faith and men of action.

At January’s board meeting, we were honored to welcome Knights of Columbus member Mr. Michael London. Mr. London explained that one of the missions of the Knights is to support outstanding community work that is already being done by local schools and organizations.

In 2012, the group raised over $8,000 in donations, and gave out countless Tootsie Rolls! Of that money, $2,560 was given to Jenison Public Schools to help bolster our already-exemplary special education program. Another $1,600 was sent to help support the Special Olympics and thousands more went to other schools and non-profit groups.

Special Education Director Mary Pollock and Special Education Teacher Katie Tuit were thrilled to receive money that could be used to purchase specialty items normally outside of their budget, such as additional iPads.

“iPads are great for special education students because many of them do better with the option to dictate speech into a machine rather than having to write or type each word. For example, dictation helps them look up words they’re familiar with but may not know how to spell.

…The iPads have also been helpful for daily review on basics such as math facts. Flipping through math review on this device is a motivator for kids who find success with non-traditional learning styles,” said Katie during the meeting.

We wish to sincerely thank the Knights of Columbus for their generosity and commitment to partnering with Jenison Public Schools. You’ve blessed us!

Jenison Public Schools, Knights of Columbus

(L to R) Superintendent Tom TenBrink, JPS Special Education Director Mary Pollock, Special Education Teacher Katie Tuit, and Knights of Columbus Representative Michael London

Thank You, Jenison Board of Education!

Jenison Board of Education, Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Michigan

From Left to Right: Ms. Amanda Peterman, Dr. Craig Rockwell, Mr. William Waalkes, Mr. Paul Peppel, Mr. Geoffrey Brown, Dr. Eric Hartman (not pictured: Mr. Craig Jenison).

This past Monday night was special for many reasons: not only did Jenison Public Schools honor staff and students at its monthly board meeting, it had the opportunity to show appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the community members who serve on behalf of us all.

The seven individuals who make up the Jenison Board of Education come from all walks of life and give their time to help guide the district on its path forward. Their input, wisdom, and desire to see Jenison reach its full potential are felt by all who work with them.

Superintendent Tom TenBrink shared a touching reminder that these individuals are true servant leaders who volunteer their time and lead by example. They are driven by a shared commitment and desire to help the district maximize budget dollars, promote the best course offerings possible, and impact kids’ lives positively and meaningfully. Their service to and for Jenison Public Schools models dedication and support for the tradition of excellence for which we’ve come to be known.

“There’s no question: without the leadership of the board, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Tom TenBrink

As a token of the district’s appreciation, Mr. TenBrink gifted each member with a pen made by Jenison employee, Jeff Clark. Crafted from the wood of a tree that once stood outside the former district office, the pens are a reminder of our common past and point the way to a future of growth and health. Another employee, Randy Noaeill, engraved the JPS logo on the top of each wood case, adding detail and beauty to each gift.

Like the tree from which these pens came, the Jenison Board of Education reminds us that we have shared roots in this community. The Board keeps us grounded, fighting the erosion of challenging times, and encouraging us to spread a shady canopy over each student who walks our hallways each day.

Their job is not an easy one, but it is one that we applaud and one that we honor.

Thank you, Jenison Board of Education! 

New Fine Arts Center On Track for December 2013 Completion

Brick by brick and nail by nail, the dreams of this community are being raised in grand fashion, pushing against the sky with regal determination. Slated for completion in December 2013, the Performing Arts Center (also referred to as the Fine Arts Center) is on-schedule and looking fantastic.

Boasting a 1,200 seat auditorium, dressing rooms, scene shop, multi-purpose room for smaller performances, and a whopping 90 foot stage, the Performing Arts Center will truly be a community gathering space where our students can shine with room enough to fully spread their wings.

In addition to the performance-related venues, this building will also become the new home for Superintendent Tom TenBrink and Jenison’s team of central office administrators. Parking will be accommodated in a new lot that will be tucked between the junior and senior high schools, as well as additional room south of the junior high and adjacent to the tennis courts.


Jenison’s Performing Arts Center will truly be a venue that will invite celebration. We eagerly await the evening when teachers, parents, students, and community members will be able to sit in the glow of a dimly-lit auditorium and watch the magic of theater and music unfold.

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. 

New Year, New Offices!

What did you do on Christmas vacation?

Do you remember this writing prompt from elementary school? Perhaps you smoothed out a wrinkled piece of spiral notebook paper and reveled in your sledding adventures, or clutched your #2 pencil and listed off your favorite gifts. Writing that essay was always a moment of joy, because it meant that I could re-live all the best parts of my Christmas memories.

Though I am no longer a fourth-grader with sledding adventures fresh in my mind, this past winter break was no less full of excitement! Aside from welcoming a new fleet of buses, our administration offices moved from our old building to 7506 Church Ct. in Jenison.

This move signals the start of something incredibly special: the construction of our bond-funded Performing Arts Center! Jenison’s future state-of-the-art facility will be housed on the combined sites of our old administration building, green space, and former parking lots.

In just a few short weeks the first pile of dirt will be turned, and our vision for a world-class venue will start its journey to reality. It will be my privilege to share updates and photos here (at tomtenbrink.com) along the way!

If you know a community member eager to stay connected, I hope you’ll pass this along by using the gray “share this” button at the bottom of this post.

Also, I’m adding a new feature to invite your participation on my blog–a conversation prompt! For the fourth grader in all of us, I’d love your comments…

Question for the Community: What aspect of having our own Performing Arts Center is the most exciting to you?

A Navigational Note…

As with many things in life, we are asked to sort through the news we encounter each day, mentally applying the labels of urgent, important, and interesting. And though I’d like to think that everything shared on this blog is newsworthy and important, the fact remains that some things deserve to be highlighted and called out from the crowd; elevated, if you will.

One of the great attributes of this blog is my ability to give special attention to certain stories by placing them in the photo “feature” section on the home page. The stories placed in the feature area can be accessed by clicking on the pictures, but will not mingle with the blog entries found here.

So if you’re new to this site or returning to snoop around, I hope you’ll find all you’re looking for!  Please help to make this a place for community conversation by leaving a comment below.

Better Technology = Better Communication

In this world of instant and constant and everything-at-your-fingertips, it’s become obvious that a monthly newsletter simply does not adequately provide our community with the information needed or desired.

That’s why, after a lot of consideration, I’ve decided to start this blog. With new technology abounding and more ways than ever to access information, this “home base” will serve as a dinner table of sorts: a place to gather ’round and walk through the school year together.

My hope is that this blog will become:

  • a place to access news about JPS
  • a venue for sharing our accomplishments
  • an exhibition hall of our bond-related construction progress
  • a community of sharing and learning together

I humbly ask that it not become:

  • a sounding board for your frustrations
  • a place to speak disrespectfully or unkindly

As with any community, we must extend grace and do our best to listen well.

Please use the subscribe button to the right or add me to your reader, and check back often for updates and photos. I’m excited to join you in the blogosphere!