Two new leaders for GRPS

Laura McCloud

Dancer, shopper, lover of the outdoors and of children’s grace in tough circumstances

Meet Your Administrator: Laura McCloud

Laura McCloud is the new supervisor of Special Education for Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Other positions you have held in education: Special education teacher and teacher consultant for 24 years, Grand Rapids Public Schools

Laura McCloud as a dance team member for the former Grand Rapids Rampage arena football team

How about jobs outside education? Ice cream scooper and waitress in high school ☺

Education/degrees: Bachelor’s degree in special education and psychology; master’s degree in special education, Grand Valley State University 

Spouse/children: two amazingly talented daughters

Hobbies/Interests/Little-known talent: I love to be outside, especially in the summer and being around friends. I enjoy cooking and baking and trying new things. I’m an avid shopper! I have a background in just about every type of dance discipline.  

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? I was really involved in sports and dancing. I spent most of my time in the studio after school and practices.  

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… It always amazes me how much a child can bear, carry and tolerate. Most adults could not deal with such grace the amount of trauma some of our children have had to carry. This keeps me humble and balanced. I enjoy the purity and joy within our children.This makes me find joy and fulfilment in my work. I am grateful for the opportunity to interact with our kids and families.  

If I could go back to school I would go to … any grade and tell myself “it’s OK.” No matter what the age or what was going on, being a kid is tough.  If you walked into your new school building to theme music, what would the song be? Oh boy, loaded question! Something full of energy.  It is never quiet at my house. Music is always on!


Loves to cook, dance, and make a lifelong difference for students 

Tammi Jenkins

Meet Your Principal: Tammi Jenkins

Tammi Jenkins is the new principal at East Leonard Elementary. 

Other positions you have held in education: Sixth grade Language Arts teacher at Chapel Hill Middle School in Douglas County School District in Georgia; fifth grade teacher at East Elementary in Coopersville Area School District; literacy coach in Coopersville Area School District.

How about jobs outside education? My first job was serving frozen yogurt at TCBY. This began my obsession with frozen yogurt. I also worked as a waitress at Friday’s in Cincinnati, Ohio. There were other multiple jobs as I worked every summer during my college years.

Education/degrees: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Miami University in Ohio; master’s in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University 

Tammi Jenkins in elementary school

Spouse/children: Kyle Jenkins (We have been married 23 years); Alex (19) and Jaden (16)

Hobbies/Interests: I love to cook! Every Sunday, I make dinner for my family. My parents, my older son and his girlfriend, my husband, younger son, and I all gather for dinner. I love the chance to catch up with everyone and hear about everyone’s week. I also love to read. I am passionate about literacy and want to ignite a lifelong love for reading in all the students at East Leonard.

Little-known talent: I love to dance! I was part of a dance team in college. I have choreographed several high-school musicals. I even won a spur-of-the-moment Michael Jackson dance contest on a cruise! I was randomly picked and had to compete against people much younger and, frankly, more talented than I was. I think I won because they couldn’t believe a mom would get up there and try.

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school?

I was outgoing and loved my teachers. I still remember thinking the pod classrooms at Sherwood Park Elementary were cool because there were no doors. I took dance and piano lessons at that age. When I was older, I performed in musicals and was a cheerleader at Ottawa Hills High School.

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… It’s the little things that matter. I received this email from a former student a few years ago that reminded me of this:

Good afternoon Mrs.Jenkins, really don’t know if you remember me but I am a former student of yours from 10 years ago. I attended your class in 4th grade for about 2 months before I moved to Florida, and did the same thing in my 5th grade year (because) of growing up as a migrant student. … You are a teacher I have never forgotten and the love and support you showed me when I was in your class is what made me see I had potential, even at a young age. I remember at the time I felt very different being the only Latina in your class, but you made me feel included in everything and it made a huge impact in my life. Thank you for being such an amazing teacher, and thank you for continuing to touch many other lives … because trust me the smallest of things can make a difference, like when you had the whole class sit down in a circle to say what they were going to miss about me on my last day in your 4th grade class.

… I became the first in my family to graduate high school, and I just finished my freshman year in college at the University of South Florida as a Bill and Melinda Gates scholar. I am currently finishing an internship in Washington, D.C with the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association, where I am placed working with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. It has been a long journey since leaving your class but it has also been great one, thank you again for being such an extraordinary teacher.

This email not only made me cry, but it reminded me of the incredible impact teachers have on their students every day. Sometimes we get caught up with the pressure of knowing we must help our students reach high levels of proficiency in all academic areas. However, this student didn’t remember a specific standard that I taught. She remembered how I made her feel. These are the types of things that cannot be measured. A strong relationship with a student is the foundation for success. 

Finish this sentence: If I could go back to school I would go to grade ? because… I would go back to fifth grade. I love fifth graders! Perhaps it is because they are old enough to understand humor and think analytically, but also young enough to still like their teachers. Plus, fifth grade is often the highest grade in a school. I have always liked being a leader and role model for others.

If you walked into your new school building to theme music by a favorite artist or band, what would the song be? “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. It’s a positive song that makes you want to dance!

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Mr. Honey.
    I really enjoyed the interview with new East Leonard Principal Tammi Jennkins. Your questions brought out great answers from her. It made me think of my own answers to thos questions, and I’ll be asking my family for their answers tonight.
    Thanks!

    Marcie Woods
    Kent ISD ATYP LA Three

    • Thanks for your comment, Marcie. I especially liked the message Tammi shared from a former student. I’m sure you have made lasting impacts on many of your students as well!

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