Posts Tagged With: Allendale Public Schools

AHS Students Carve Out New Skills in Woodshop Class

For many of us, hearing the word “woodshop” reminds us of Bob Vila or a Saturday afternoon episode of This Old House. Unless we grew up with band saws and lathes, the idea of operating power tools is outside of our comfort zones, and the thought of passing a slab of Walnut across a table saw is downright disconcerting.

But for the students in Allendale’s woodshop class, these tools are merely the means to an end — and a beautiful one at that.

Allendale Public Schools, Falcons, Woodshop Class

Mark Vizithum, known by his students simply as “Mr. V,” has been teaching at AHS for six years. Mr. Vizithum loves teaching word working not only for the practical applications is has now but for the possibilities it opens up in the future.

“The whole goal of this class is to help kids make money or save money by being able to make their own furniture. If our students want to get into wood working as a profession, they can. And if they want to get into another hands-on trade, this provides a good foundation for many of those skills, too.”

Mr. Vizithum, Allendale Public Schools, Woodworking

Mr. Vizithum, Allendale Public Schools, Woodworking

Students work on a variety of projects in class ranging from cabinets, bed frames, gun cabinets, bookshelves, desks and even a futon! Mr. Vizithum reasons that “They’re all going to become homeowners some day and they’ll have to fix things. This class will help them save money down the road.”

The woodshop classes offered at Allendale High School are two trimesters long and are available at beginning and advanced levels. With 20-25 students in each class on average, only about 5-10% are girls. Ironically, however, Mr. Vizithum said that girls generally do excellent work because they pay attention to small details. “Boys are typically all about quantity and the girls are more about quality.”

Woodshop students also learn the value of a dollar by paying for all the materials they use. This is a great tradeoff, however, as students are able to keep what they make and do whatever they wish with their creations once they finish. Some students even consider selling their work as a way to earn extra income and recoup their expenses.

Mr. Vizithum, Allendale Public Schools, Woodworking

Sebastian Domin is an Allendale senior who was staining a TV cabinet during our visit. Sebastian chose to take woodshop because he enjoys building things and has already learned a lot, including the proper way to measure, use CAD and how to make plans on the computer. He plans to go into heating and cooling after graduation, saying “all the skills I’m learning here will help me in the future.”

Sophomore Colten Niergarth chose woodshop for a different reason: he wanted a hands-on class and this was a great fit. He proudly shared that he has learned the basics of woodworking, like cutting on the band saw and tackling the technical aspects of a project. But more importantly, Colten said that Mr. V has taught him “to work hard and be committed to getting projects done.”

This idea of hard work and tenacity is a tenet of this class and something Mr. V clearly champions. The idea that it is admirable to stick to your word and finish what you start is taught regardless of whether a student is building a bed frame or kitchen table.

“These kids are learning work ethic. Everybody’s staying busy — I don’t have to tell them to get on task because they’re learning how to work. That’s a valuable asset to have.”

Mr. Vizithum, Allendale Public Schools, Woodworking

Mr. Vizithum, Allendale Public Schools, Woodworking

Mr. Vizithum, Allendale Public Schools, Woodworking


Categories: Allendale High School | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Principals’ Podcast

Allendale Public Schools

This screenshot shows where you can find the principals’ podcast.

This past fall, as the play season approached dress rehearsals, middle school teacher and Fall Play Director Shawn McMaster had an idea: why not promote the play with a podcast?

Mr. McMaster approached Mr. Remenap and Mr. Hadden with the idea, offering to help with the technical end of things if they’d be willing to host the podcasts. They agreed, kicking off the inaugural recording by interviewing key thespians.  They soon realized they had begun something special. The podcast is now used to “highlight students who might not otherwise get the recognition they deserve,” said Mr. Remenap.

“…anytime we can recognize our students for their talents and efforts it is a good thing.  This is simply another way to “show off” our great kids,” said Mr. Remenap.

Podcasts are recorded in the office conference room with the continued help of Mr. McMasters, who is credited as the “mastermind” of the project. The team reports that reception to the weekly releases has been overwhelmingly positive by both students and parents.

“Our students shine through in these podcasts as positive, mature, and intelligent young adults. They continue to amaze us!” said Mr. Hadden.


Stay up-to-date on exciting announcements and get to know exemplary students by listening yourself! Simply go to the high school’s website and look for the icon as outlined above, or click here.
Categories: Allendale High School, Students in the Spotlight!, technology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

We Welcome Mrs. Huistra!

maria huistra, allendale public schoolsWe’d like to officially welcome a new staff member to the Allendale Public Schools family: Mrs. Maria Huistra!

With an official start time this fall, Mrs. Huistra joined the athletic department as Allendale Middle School Athletic Coordinator — a position created to help bridge the gap between athletics at the middle school and those at the high school.

With a district goal of creating a more cohesive program from 7th – 12th grades, Maria and high school athletic director Scott Daling work together to deliver a more seamless experience for young athletes and their parents alike. Serving as point person for 7th and 8th grades offers additional support to coaches while streamlining paperwork, meetings and other details for families.

But aside from all this, Mrs. Huistra brings with her new ways to challenge students involved in Falcon sports. In 2013, Maria founded “Giving Back,” a program designed to get AMS athletes involved in their community. Partnering with organizations like LOVE, inc., athletes have the opportunity to “pay it forward” by sorting donations, hanging clothing, pricing items to sell and even shoveling their sidewalk,

“Kids need to be appreciated beyond things they do in school or on the field or court. They need to be known as more than a jock or musician or someone who attains things. Serving their community is one way to earn that appreciation.”

Maria said providing ways for athletes to get involved in middle school is particularly critical, as so many kids (whether they know it or not) could be playing team sports for the last time.

“We don’t like to think about it, but the fact is that we roster two boys basketball teams in 8th grade, but 9th grade has only one. So the reality is that 24 kids leave middle school wanting to play ball, and only 13-14 will make the team as freshmen. Despite making that sad adjustment, if they can bring positive memories with them to high school, that’s an important piece for them as they grow.”

Mrs. Huistra has helped make scores of memories in her time as an involved parent and community member prior to joining the staff. Along with another parent, Maria conceptualized Fitness Frenzy and instituted the middle school athletic boosters (of which she still serves as president). She served as volunteer coordinator for the elementary PTO and worked on PE for Life, which is a program structured to help students at risk.

But of all she’s accomplished and continues to do, Mrs. Huistra says it doesn’t compare to the response she gets in the hallways:

“When someone passes me in the hall and says, “Hey — I got my grade up and I can play!”…I know I’m making a difference.”

Categories: Allendale High School, Athletics | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Jill Wilson Named Principal of the Year!

Some of us spend a lifetime chasing after the next career move that will land us one step closer to our “dream job.”  We set goals and strive for excellence, but even with diligent effort, few of us will ever be regarded as the best.

But for Jill Wilson, Principal of Allendale Elementary School, she has achieved just that. This November, Mrs. Wilson received news from MEMSPA (Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principal’s Association) that she had been named Elementary Principal of the Year!

Jill Wilson, Allendale Public SchoolsEach year, MEMSPA selects one principal from each of its twelve regions for this recognition, with the board of directors and regional representatives making the final selections from a pool of nominations. Mrs. Wilson was nominated by Allendale Public Schools, as well as by several staff members individually, for being compassionate, caring, acting as a mentor and setting high expectations, among numerous others. Yet Mrs. Wilson knew nothing of these nominations until one day in November.

Mrs. Wilson recalls running into Tom DeGraaf, MEMSPA’s Region 12 Director, at a principal’s meeting in Ottawa County last month. Tom wasted no time in prompting her to attend the conference where the awards would be handed out. She remembers bursting into laughter at the thought, feeling that the talent and dedication of the other principals was so honorable that she would never be singled out among such a crowd. Yet Tom’s encouragement was the push she needed to reserve her spot at the annual MEMSPA conference at Traverse City’s Grand Traverse Resort.

Of course that decision proved to be a game changer because at the conference, Mrs. Wilson was awarded Region 12 Michigan Elementary School Principal of the Year! When hearing her name, Mrs. Wilson said she felt a “shot of adrenaline to continue to do as much as I can to impact staff, students and parents in a positive way!”

Reflecting on the evening and the weeks since, she tells us:

“I am very humbled by this honor.  I know that there are many other professionals in the field of education that are passionate about what they are doing and why they are doing it and are far more deserving than I may be.  I have spent 30 years in public education (29 at APS) and I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.  I hope that this award brings awareness of the need for continued support for our teachers, students, support staff and school community as a whole. Allendale Public School District is a place to highlight. An award such as this could not be possible without the love and support of my husband, three daughters and extended family.  They have been there to help whenever they could! I was thrilled to have my husband be able to join me at the event!” 

Our sincere congratulations to Mrs. Wilson for this tremendous honor! We’re blessed to have you serving students in Allendale!

Jill Wilson, Allendale Public Schools, MEMSPA

Categories: Allendale Elementary Schools, Community News | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Celebrating our 100th Blog Post!

100 anniversary

Since our very first post went live in February of 2012, we have spent our Tuesdays together, applauding the great things happening at Allendale Public Schools and marveling at the ways our students rise to the challenges set before them.

We have covered Fine Arts Fairs and two High School Musicals: Beauty and the Beast  and Bye-Bye Birdie. We’ve introduced you to our elementary “3R Superstars” and told you about the many activities surrounding our annual Allendale Community Field Days. You’ve read about our middle school bands grabbing perfect scores and our Science Olympiad team going to state and reflected on the success of our high school robotics team last spring.

We have also shared heartfelt stories of compassion by students who want to make a difference. In the winter of 2012, we told you about the efforts of our fifth graders in supporting cancer survivors, beginning with their own teacher, Mrs. Gravelyn. And we have wiped tears away at the written words of two Allendale students whose Gerald R. Ford Foundation essays on patriotism and integrity gripped our hearts and landed them among the best in Michigan.

We’ve cheered for the New Options students who were committed to planning a prom for their school and rallied alongside middle schoolers working to keep their school bully-free.  And finally, we spent last summer reading letters from students who are grateful to this district for the education they’ve received, the teachers who have impacted them and the relationships they’ve made along the way.

Thank you for taking this journey with us each week and for investing in the lives of Allendale students in so many different ways — whether you volunteer at school, chaperone a field trip, make brownies for the class party, fundraise for athletics or support the band boosters, your contributions help us bridge the gap between good and great.

We are grateful!

[photo source]

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AMS Students Rally to Keep Their School Bully-Free

Just like their Falcon counterparts in the high school, these middle schoolers are learning to Speak Up and Stand Out in their building, too. With the help of guidance counselor Rhonda Wilson, students spent a week learning to celebrate the characteristics that make them unique — and learning how to accept and celebrate the unique qualities in others, too.

Allendale Middle School, Anti-Bully

Students were invited to add a post-it note of things they like about themselves during the middle school’s anti-bully week.

With statistics indicating that bullying peaks in middle school and that relational aggression among girls is at its highest in 8th grade, Allendale believes that attacking the issue of bullying is critical. To do so, Mrs. Wilson explained that one of the first steps they take is defining it clearly and explaining the difference between “an intentional, repeated imbalance of power” and mean behavior or normal conflict.

Another anti-bullying technique that Allendale Middle School continues to use gives students an anonymous way to report problems. It is called the “bully box.” The bully box offers students a way to submit reports of bullying to school administrators by merely dropping a note into the box — no name required.

Echoing the spirit of Elie Wiesel who once famously said, “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander,” one AMS student commented, “The bully box gives bystanders an outlet to say something.”

The school has also instituted an open invitation for students to put notes in their teachers’ mailboxes if they prefer. This, combined with other anti-bullying training that each grade receives, is helping to continue a safe learning environment at school.

“All students in the middle school were trained in anti-bullying techniques last year, and the 6th grade was trained and will continue to be trained each year.  It allows for common language and skills for sticking up for yourself and others,” said Mrs. Wilson.

The “Sit by Someone New” initiative at lunch is yet a third way students can build bridges and foster understanding with classmates. On this day, students were given color-coded cards that they matched up with another person holding the same color card. Once they found a partner, they had the opportunity to sit by someone they didn’t know or usually sit with.  The hope here is that walls will be broken down when students talk with those who seem “different” or are unfamiliar to them.

Finally, one of the new things Allendale Middle School will be trying this year is an online mediation forum between a school counselor and students struggling with relationships at school.  Mrs. Wilson shared that the school is working with the technology department to pursue options for this new platform.

For all the students who have made the commitment to be kind and be a friend, thank you! Our hallways are safer because you’ve pledged to work against bullying!

Allendale Middle School, Anti-Bully

Mrs. Wilson joins a group of students for a lunchtime discussion.

Allendale Middle School, Anti-Bully

Categories: Allendale Middle School, Allendale Public Schools | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame Adds to its Ranks

With the lower level of Main Street Pub buzzing with anticipation, Saturday evening’s Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame dinner kicked off with drinks, hors d’oeuvres and an estimated one hundred people dressed in their Sunday best.

Allendale Public Schools

Allendale Public Schools

Designed primarily to honor the contributions of Allendale Public School Alumni, Dr. Jonker explained that the awards have been extended to include the service of APS-associated individuals, such as parents and staff. Having learned from other nearby school systems like Rockford and Ypsilanti, he explained that some of the magic of this recognition comes “…when students see what’s out there. They better understand what they can achieve when they have role models that came from Allendale who can inspire them.”

Allendale Public Schools

This year, five people were inducted into the Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame, three of whom were alumni and two of whom were honored for their service. Dr. Jonker noted that, “Our Allendale Public Schools Foundation committee really wanted to have a way to honor alumni who have made contributions, not only to the community but beyond.”

Today we extend our congratulations to Robert “Gene” Elkins, Betty LaBrecque, Robert Jackson, Nicholas Ceglarek and George Suchecki.

Allendale Public Schools

Robert “Gene” Elkins, who was honored posthumously, was a WWII vet instrumental in the establishment of Allendale High School. After serving as a principal from 1961-1964, Gene went on to serve as APS Superintendent from 1965-1985. His widow, Dorothy, expressed gratitude for the honor, saying that without the efforts of her husband, “there would be no Allendale High School.”

Betty LaBrecque, a 1988 grad, has worked tirelessly on dozens of parent-led committees, coordinating the work and donations of other parents, most recently as AHS Music Booster treasurer, vice president and president. She shared that she had a great high school experience herself, so her goal was to make high school a positive experience for her kids, too. Over time, Betty got more and more involved, doing things for her own children and the kids she “adopted.”

“The thing I like most is walking through the hallways and hearing the kids yell, “Hi Mrs. LeBrecque” and run up and give you a hug. It makes it all worthwhile — it is an honor.”

Robert Jackson, a 1977 grad, is perhaps better known as the 1987 “Cincinatti Man of the Year” after nine years of playing professional football for the Cincinatti Bengals. Now a motivational speaker, Robert said it felt nice “coming home,” though he wished his team members could have joined him.

“I didn’t make the holes or make all the passes myself — it was always a team. That’s the way we grew up, it wasn’t just one person”. Robert is also a 2009 inductee into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.

Nicholas Ceglarek, a 1991 grad, began teaching and working as an administrator in Rockford in 2002-2003. In 2003, Nick was awarded the GVSU Outstanding Administrator Award, after which time he worked as a superintendent in Baldwin, Fruitport and then Hudsonville, where he serves presently.

“It’s  hard to describe what this means to me. It’s an honor and it’s humbling to be recognized when you realize that there are so many worthy, unbelievable people that graduated from Allendale Schools who have gone on to do great things. Allendale has been such a treasure for me and has really shaped who I am. I’ll always have a heart here.”

George Sucheki was appointed as the first principal of then-newly-formed Allendale High School in 1969. He went on to continue in that role until 1990! Following his time as principal, George worked as the Computer and Tech Director from 1994-2001. During his career, he has also served as middle school basketball coach, golf coach (after being instrumental in starting the program) and State Champion softball coach.

When asked about the honor, George became emotional, saying, “It means a lot. My heart was always in Allendale. It never really left.”

Congrats to all of these 2013 inductees!

Allendale Public Schools

Categories: Allendale Public Schools, APS Celebrations, Community News | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Options Elects New Student Council President

Shianne Frantz, Allendale New OptionsLife hasn’t always been easy for New Options High School’s new student council president. While it’s true that she makes leadership look easy and compassion appear second nature, those qualities have taken root after very real personal heartache and hardship. Still, Shianne Frantz is showing the world that each day holds new hope for those willing to risk.

After growing up and attending school in White Cloud, Michigan, Shianne was abandoned by her mother. With nowhere else to turn, she left to find a new home with her aunt in Allendale, who currently has power of attorney, but not legal custody, of Shianne. Caught in a messy legal web, Shianne — a young mother herself — is left to hope for speedy resolution and safekeeping for the longterm in our community.

“Going to school and being a mom isn’t easy,” she said. “But I think it’s easier going here than somewhere else. People here don’t judge you because they know that everyone has a different reason for coming here. It’s not just because they’re bad. We’re just a big family here and the teachers help a lot.”

Undeterred by personal issues, Shianne still hears the voice of those calling out for help. In fact, her desire to help led her to run for student council.

When Shianne saw that her friend was being bullied, she immediately wanted  to do something about it. Knowing that her friend was not interested in taking a leadership position within the school, Shianne acted on her behalf, running for and winning a position on student council.

Shianne has dreams for her school that demonstrate extending compassion and empathy to others.  For example, she would like to:

  • …create a Roar video to the new Katy Perry song, similar to the one that AHS did. She feels that New Options needs their own, with a unique slant on being courageous.
  • …make a presentation to her school emphasizing that bullying is “not okay”
  • …get New Options students involved in a community project to decorate the brown lunch bags in which kids living in homeless shelters receive their meals.

Student council advisor and science teacher Liz Lillibridge said, “I’m really excited for Shianne to be the president this year. She’s already come to me with quite a few ideas of things that we can do for the community. She’s also an excellent student. Her attendance is great, she’s always here, she’s always doing well. I don’t think she hardly ever has missing work or late assignments — she’s always on task.”

Ms. Lillibridge shared a list of ideas that student council is considering for fundraising, increasing school spirit and reaching out to others. She is excited for what this year may bring.

“I feel like sometimes people have a wrong perception of New Options kids, so we’re trying to get out into the community so they can fix that. I want others to see that our kids are good kids.”

Categories: Allendale New Options High School, Star Teachers, Students in the Spotlight! | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Your Principal: Rocky Thompson

Rocky Thompson, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale Middle School1. Tell us about your career journey in education, including how long you’ve been in your current role at Allendale.

I started in education at the age of 29. I taught middle school students for a total of ten years and have been the middle school principal since then.

2. What makes you love coming to work each day?

I get excited to come to work everyday because of the energy that the students bring with them. I see them and know how good of a job I have.

3. What is something you do each day that people probably don’t realize principals have to do?

I have to fill a number of roles, but one that is surprising is I am the person that students are referred to when they have been injured in some way.

4. Name something you personally look forward to each school year.

The return of the students! It livens things up when they get here.

5. If you had an unlimited financial and/or volunteer reserve, what would you do to improve your educational environment?

I would hire a number of school counselors to go into the community to offer support for parents.

6. What was the best part of your summer vacation?

I didn’t take a summer vacation.

7. What is your favorite book? (Can be a kid’s book or an adult book)

The Poet by Connelly

8. What is one piece of advice you’d like to pass along to the students in your school?

If you want something that is important to you, put your heart and soul into working for it.

Categories: Allendale Middle School, Allendale Public Schools | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Your Principal: Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson, Allendale Public Schools
1. Tell us about your career journey in education, including how long you’ve been in your current role at Allendale.


This is my 30th year with APS! My undergraduate degree from Hope College is in elementary education with a major in special education and a minor in psychology. My master’s degree from WMU is in reading, I also have additional training in educational administration and Reading Recovery. I started at Allendale teaching special education in a resource room for students in kindergarten – third grade. I have also taught first grade and worked as a reading specialist with our district.


2. What makes you love coming to work each day?


I enjoy watching the students respond to their instruction.  There is nothing better than witnessing a love for learning.  Our staff is so caring and talented! The school community is supportive and appreciated.  There is something new and exciting every day!


3. What is something you do each day that people probably don’t realize principals have to do?


I usually walk about 11,000 steps a day, checking on students, teachers and building needs.


4. Name something you personally look forward to each school year.


The excitement of a new year with our youngest learners!


5. If you had an unlimited financial and/or volunteer reserve, what would you do to improve your educational environment?


I would lower the class size in every classroom and provide additional instructional support for every classroom.  I would purchase more resources for each classroom and update our technology including purchasing some IPADs.  Our current building is very close to capacity too!


6. What was the best part of your summer vacation?


My husband and I took an enjoyable trip to Maine.  We had a cottage overlooking Acadia National Park and seals swimming in the waters there!


7. What is your favorite book? (Can be a kid’s book or an adult book)


My favorite children’s book is Charlotte’s Web.  I had the chance to visit the Blue Hill Fairground where Wilbur won his ribbon. I think the book is a fine example of how we can all encourage each other in positive ways!


8. What is one piece of advice you’d like to pass along to the students in your school?


Learning does not take place without practice.  We need to experience new information many times before a connection is made in our brain.  Do not give up, it is worth the effort!
Categories: Allendale Elementary Schools, Allendale Public Schools | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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