Back to School

New Teachers and Staff Members Prepare for Success

From L to R: Kari Brose, Elena Berkemeier, Andi Lee, Laurie Bulleman, Terri Maness, Rachel Barker, Emily Verdonk

It isn’t every year that we have the privilege of welcoming so many new teachers to our district! This fall however, our ranks are swelling and we feel lucky to be introducing you to some of those teachers today. As we accommodate new state legislation mandating all-day kindergarten and increased requirements for foreign language, these teachers come aboard with highly specialized qualifications and hearts for reaching and teaching the next generation of Falcons. Please make them feel welcome and supported next time you see them in the hallways of your child’s school!


1. Elena Berkemeier joins our middle school and high school Spanish team this year after having graduated from Grand Valley State University in December of 2011. Ms. Berkemeier holds a Teaching Major in Spanish degree along with a minor in psychology and spent last winter in a long-term subbing position at Grandville Middle School. She is excited to have her own classroom and get to know her students, the other staff members, and the Allendale community.

Elena is the oldest of six children from Jackson, MI, but has been living in the greater Grand Rapids area for seven years. A “little-known fact” about her is that she is half Nicaraguan! Make sure to ask Ms. Berkemeier about her heritage when you welcome her!

2. Terri Maness will be joining the Kindergarten team in our Elementary school.  With a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Mrs. Maness has taught pre-school, 1st grade and Kindermusik classes. She most recently served as a Title I interventionist at Allendale Elementary School, and shares that she is “so looking forward to creating a wonderful atmosphere in my classroom for our Kindergarten children to learn, grow, sing, play, create and make new friends.”

Terri lives in Allendale with her husband Jim, their 4 children ranging in age from 10 – 20 years, and their dog, Snickers. She enjoys hiking, biking, playing tennis, singing, playing the flute, entertaining friends, and watching her children grow. Allendale is thrilled to have you, Mrs. Maness!

3. Rachel Barker will be joining the fifth grade teaching staff at Oakwood Intermediate. She has a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and Learning Disabilities from Hope College, and worked most recently as a special education instructional aide at Oakwood. When asked what she’s most looking forward to, she replied, “… getting to know my students and helping them set and achieve academic and personal goals (… and going to fifth grade camp!).

In her spare time, Rachel also works as a group exercise instructor, teaching Pilates and PiYo classes at SnapFitness and at Grand Valley State University. She draws her inspiration from her grandfather, Les, who is going to 93 in September and continues to exercise daily. She shares that her grandfather has taught her “…a great deal about perseverance, commitment, and being thankful for each day.”

Mrs. Barker lives in Allendale with her husband, Drew, and their two cats. Please stop in and give her a warm Allendale welcome!

4. Kari Brose joins us this year as a fourth grade teacher at Oakwood in a job share capacity with Ms. Carrie Helmholdt. Mrs. Brose majored in science with a mathematics emphasis and Elementary Education minor. She joins us after having also taught third grade at Griffin Elementary in Grand Haven Area Public Schools. When asked what she’s looking forward to this school year, Mrs. Brose shared, “At the beginning of each school year I really look forward to meeting all my new students and really getting to know them. It is so exciting to watch them grow and learn throughout the year.”

Mrs. Brose lives in Allendale with her husband, their four children, and a “great big dog”!  Please join me in welcoming Kari next time you’re at Oakwood Intermediate!

5. Mrs. Andrea (Andi) Lee adds to our Kindergarten and Developmental Kindergarten ranks with degrees in Special Education, Elementary Education, and an Early Childhood Endorsement from GVSU. She comes to us after having taught one year of Kindergarten in Grant, MI and two years of preschool in Newaygo, MI. Like many of the others we’ve interviewed, Mrs. Lee most looks forward to meeting her students and their families, and watching the student growth that will take place over the course of the year.

Andi and her husband currently reside in Sparta, MI.  A “little-known fact” about Andi is that she collected real cash registers as a child! (yes — the grocery store kind!)  Welcome, Mrs. Lee!

6. Laurie Bullerman joins our district family as an Occupational Therapist with a Masters Degree in the same from Western Michigan University. Laurie last worked in a pediatric clinic in Cedar Rapids Iowa for 2 years. She looks forward to getting settled in a classroom and getting started with her “kids.”

Later this month she and her husband, an engineer at Johnson Controls, will be moving into their new home in Hudsonville with their Bernese Mountain dog, Ollie. She calls herself a compulsive cleaner and vacuums her home twice a day! Remember to take your shoes off when you welcome Laurie to our team!

7.Emily Verdonk comes to us as a High School Vocal Music Teacher. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Western Michigan University and has previously taught middle school/high school vocal music in Nekoosa, WI. She is most looking forward to meeting all of her students and getting to know them as they learn and make music.

Ms. Verdonk feels extremely blessed to live close to family in West Michigan. Both of her parents live in South Haven, an older brother lives in Grand Rapids, and a younger brother attends University of Michigan. Emily loves birds and has two of her own: parakeets named Brahms and Bronte. She practices yoga regularly and frequents South Haven for its beaches and beautiful sunsets. Please give a warm welcome to Emily next time you hear music in the hallways!
Categories: Back to School, District Updates, News You Can Use | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Fall Sports Focus: Football

Uniforms are ready, shoulder pads are waiting, and as if on cue, temperatures are dropping.

This fall marks Allendale High School football coach Ben Burk’s twelfth year of leading the Falcons on Friday nights, and he says he’s having the time of his life.

“This is a great group of guys who are working to come together as a team. It’s been an awful lot of fun working with guys who enjoy playing together.”

It’s no stretch to say that their practice time is work. The young men filling this year’s roster have been meeting since August 6, committing more than five hours a day to learning the playbook, running routes, defending the ball, and scoring points. With sixty-five students spanning three grades (five sophomores have been called up), Coach Burk said it’s evident that they all get along and love the game.

And while captains have not yet been chosen, natural leaders have begun to emerge. On defense, Dayton Wierenga is an energetic, emotional leader who brings enthusiasm and spark; when the team needs a lift, Dayton is there to encourage. Quarterback Hayden Majewski is stepping up and leading the charge down the field, while senior offensive lineman Keith Rodgers helps motivate groups and provide cohesion.

“One of the things that makes this group stand out,” said Coach Burk, “is their commitment to academics. This year the kids set goals for themselves individually, and then as a football team we set goals for the group. We’ve agreed that one of our top three team goals is for each guy to maintain a C+ or better in all their classes. That their focus remains in the classroom says a lot.” 

In an effort to help his players maintain their focus both on and off the field, Coach Burk is taking a cue from wrestling coach Duane Watson by incorporating nutrition into team time. With the help of an army of moms, all sixty-five players get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after school and a 16 oz glass of chocolate milk after practice. Newly crowned as one of the best natural recovery drinks available, the team consumes an average of 7 gallons of chocolate milk a day!

“Some of our kids have a very early lunch period,” Coach Burk explained. “If they’re eating lunch at 10:15, by the time school ends they need something to fill their bellies and help them think clearly. The effort of our team moms allows us to provide that, so by the time practice ends at 6:30, at least the boys have had something to tie them over.”

It’s that spirit of teamwork that epitomizes the 2012 Falcon Football Team: moms helping coaches, coaches helping kids, and kids helping one another meet their goals and become the best players and students they can be.

We hope you’ll cheer them on by joining them this Thursday at home for their 7 pm season opener vs. Unity Christian High School. Click here for a complete schedule of games.

Categories: Athletics, Athletics/Fitness, Back to School | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Houses Are Around The Corner!

Fall. This one word conjures images of pumpkins and changing leaves, sack lunches and bus stops. For students, the turning of seasons undoubtedly carries with it a range of emotions and an array of questions. Our school Open Houses are designed to calm fears, answer questions, and remind students that school is the place where old friends return and new ones are waiting to be made … all in an environment of learning and discovery.

This year, as in years past, each building will host its own “welcome back,” and we hope you’ll make every effort to attend. Principals and teachers will be on hand to address concerns and join you in your excitement. Planned for parents and kids alike, we think you will appreciate gaining the familiarity that comes with a sneak-peak at classrooms, schedules, and lockers.

*Note that where “orientation” is included in the description, there will be a planned format beginning at the start time. We hope to see you there!


D-K/K: August 28, 6:30-8 pm

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS: 1st – 3rd Grade Open House & Orientation: August 27, 6:30-8 pm

OAKWOOD INTERMEDIATE: 4th – 5th Grade Open House & Orientation: August 29, 6:30-8 pm

MIDDLE SCHOOL: 6th – 8th Grade Open House & Orientation: September 4, 6:30-8 pm

HIGH SCHOOL: 9th – 12th Grade Open House & Orientation: September 5, 6:30-8 pm

NEW OPTIONS: Open House & Orientation with Ice Cream Social! September 5, 6:30-8 pm

Categories: Back to School, Community News, News You Can Use | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: