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Home Authors Posts by Tom Rademacher

Tom Rademacher

Tom Rademacher
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Tom Rademacher was long-time reporter and columnist for The Grand Rapids Press, where he specialized in wringing the extraordinary from the seeming ordinary. Read Tom's full bio

Health Advocate Jean Jilote: ‘Always Smiling, Always Available’

It's not two minutes into our interview, and already health advocate Jean Jilote is shedding tears. It's not that she's suffered some recent loss or experienced pain or trauma. She's just so in love with her kids that the thought of...

Le Tran: Teacher, Artist, Inspirer and Dragon

Le Tran is trying to arrange the start of her AP Art class when three young men bound in, seeking chocolate. Normally, there’d be some available, part of Tran’s stash that she’s peddling to benefit the National Art Honor Society,...

Fred Reusch: Teacher, Tutor, ‘Coolest Man Ever’

The story you're about to read is about a high school math instructor, written by someone who can barely add single digits. But in the course of professionally observing people and human nature the better part of 40 years, trust...

Friendships Break Down Barriers

I have pretty good recollection of who I sat with in the lunchroom during both my elementary and high school years, I can say with some certainty – and shame – that it wasn't any kids with special needs. So...

Hayley Lee: Student ‘On Fire’

Before? Well, before, Hayley Lee was, by her own admission, a little sassy, too disrespectful, and variously disconnected -- unless you include some unsavory elements that were leading her down un-righteous paths. And today? Well, you got a minute? Hayley Lee has discovered...

One Pebble, 25-Year Ripple and Counting

I think too many of us misunderstand or take for granted men and women who serve as school board members. We sometimes dismiss them as a bunch of suits pontificating from ivory towers, concurring with the superintendent's every whim. Or,...

Konarska Twins Leave Double Legacy

You could spend a lot of time perusing the resumes of identical twin brothers Kevin and Keith Konarska, who retire at the end of this month as Superintendent of Kent Intermediate School District and Grand Haven Area Public Schools,...

Student Baristas Add Math, Social Skills to their School Menu

It's not even yet 8 a.m., and already, it's a honeycomb of activity inside Mandy Acker's second-floor classroom. But the dozen or so students buzzing about aren't studying just one subject. Instead, they're engaged in a hybrid class that simultaneously teaches...

Mentor Program Empowers Students and Adults Alike

Gay Van Otteren levels his 85-year-old eyes directly at you and then says this: “The greatest gift that you can give to one another is your rapt attention to their very existence.” The room grows quiet. Heads nod in agreement. And the beautiful...

Runnin’ Rebels Encourages Teamwork and Camaraderie

Forget everything you've ever read or heard about the so-called "loneliness of the long-distance runner." At Lee High School, you'll find a unique running club in full swing, an after-school fitness party where students and staff are invited to come...

Athlete, Academic, White House Advisor: Leighton Watson

Ladies and gentlemen, keep your eyes on this young man. I’ve been wrong before, but something tells me the name “Leighton Watson” will surface down the road in more ways than one, and possibly in a manner that eventually makes...

Overcoming Disability, Student Composes Opus for Orchestra

When the 38 members of the 8th grade string orchestra at East Grand Rapids Middle School sat down to play a new opus recently, it wasn't a selection by Bach or Beethoven or Brahms. The piece was composed by none...

A Very Special Teacher for Special Kids

Some years back on a Fourth of July, schoolteacher Sarah Bolema fielded a phone call from a distraught student's mom. To the mother's horror, her son was acting out his anger by climbing onto a dangerously steep roof and...

India Stewart Dunning: Survivor and Scholar

Her clothes are arranged by color.Like Pippi Longstocking, she sleeps upside down, with her head at the footboard and her feet at the headboard. Ever since first meeting "Bucky" in the Disney flick "The Emperor's New Groove," she's been in...

Brightening the Lives of 4th Graders

Even though the sun has officially launched summer, I still see Stephanie Gerdes standing at the helm of her 4th-grade classroom inside Kenowa Hills' Central Elementary School. I am thinking how lucky are the kids she's just promoted to...

Sarah Waller: The Tech Center’s Iron Chef

Let it be said here and now – OK, so written here and now – that the raspberry patch in my back yard cannot grow fast enough, and I have a diminutive warrior of a teaching chef to blame. Her...
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Ryan Colburn, MacGyver of the vet world

Ryan Colburn is the only full-time veterinarian at the John Ball Zoo, and the man behind the scenes who makes sure that some 1,500 animals are physically fit for your viewing pleasure...

Dedicated educator retiring after 44-year career, during which “I knew ‘em all”

When the school bells ring and they throw open the doors at Northview Public Schools this coming autumn, it’s likely Dan Duba, principal at Crossroads Middle School, will be elsewhere. For the first time in 44 years...

Lupe Ramos-Montigny: ‘Everyone Deserves to be a Part of Something’

Lupe Ramos-Montigny has done as much as anyone – and perhaps more than any Latina – to advance educational opportunities for children in Grand Rapids and beyond...
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