Area Wide Series



Issues in Education

We take a look at some of the broader issues facing schools in West Michigan and beyond.  Read the whole series

‘Communities are Going to See Repercussions’

GRPS and other school districts in Kent ISD are responding with alarm to the proposed $9.2 billion in cuts to the U.S. Education Department budget, which is now being taken up by Congress. Among its many effects on local school districts

‘The Culture Has Changed’

After being placed on a list of low-achieving schools in 2010, the district's high school swung into action. Now, some of its practices are being studied as models of improvements for other districts. From its lowest point in the 14th percentile

Education Nominee Generates Concerns And Hopes for Future

As someone who taught for 25 years, is the daughter of teachers and married one, Mary Bouwense’s life has been steeped in public schooling. So she was appalled when President Donald Trump, in his inaugural address

Finding True North

Brandi Pilcher knew she was going in the wrong direction, but didn't know how to change course. That is, until she found her north star. As a teenager in Louisiana, Pilcher by her own admission made bad decisions, lacked education

Nurturing the In-between Years

Seventh-grader Cydney Hansma is a girl in constant motion. At her desk, she rhythmically taps her feet and pencil, and rocks her chair back on two legs. In the hallway, she walks fast from one class to the other, often stopping to hug

More Issues...



GRPS_Morse_1_thumb.jpgRockstar Teachers

There's just something about certain teachers that draws students to them in droves and keeps them checking in years, even decades later. Here, we highlight some of these rockstars of the classroom. Read the whole series

After Auto Industry, He Chose ‘Noble Career’ of Teaching

David Staublin has been known to poke fun at his diminished hearing. Having grown up in Charlevoix, he said, he attended "a lot of concerts" at Castle Farms, a '70s and '80s mecca for rock 'n' roll. "And I think I remember some dad jokes when we were doing mechanical energy"

‘I show them another way, and another way, and another way’

A bank was robbed. Fifteen suspects – all middle-school staff members – had their mugshots taken, each holding a dollar bill up to their forehead. Algebra students were notified. The CSI team was waiting on video surveillance to confirm

TK2Farts_series_cotton_band_5_thumb.pngState of the Arts: Learning's Overlooked Ally

Educators have long recognized the value of music, art, drama and writing for students' creative development and academic success. Yet the arts remain squeezed by tight budgets and test-driven performance standards. This series highlights efforts to protect and promote school arts programs:  Read the whole series

Art Walk Homage to Award-winning Artists

At Century Park Learning Center, a riot of color swirling like a Chihuly tangle of glass sprouted all over the school. The inspiration for students: picture book illustrations found in Caldecott winners. Rainbow-beaked birds like toucans dangled overhead

Make Art, Then Prosper

When Tricia Erickson was a little girl, her mother found her drawing pictures of Yogi Bear and his cartoon friends Tricia watched on TV. Struck by how accurate the drawings were, her mom asked, “You drew these from figures moving on a screen?”


Special Education SeriesReaching Every Child: What's New in Special Education

A series on special education in Kent County. School News Network will take readers into classrooms around the area to shine a light on new approaches to teaching students with physical and mental disabilities.  Read the whole series

Grant Brings Sex Ed Instruction to Students with Special Needs

Eighth-grader Bryan Galvez aptly summarized the consequences of healthy versus risky decisions when it comes to teens and sex. “Would you rather have a baby or reach your goals?” he asked. Healthy relationships, pursuing dreams, abstinence, and having accurate information

‘A Chance to Have a Meaningful Life’

Dutton Elementary School second-grader Daniel Donaldson uses pictures and words on his talker to say what he needs to say. "The device gives me the chance to participate with the rest of the class and share the things I'm doing over the weekend"


Hidden Pain: Bringing Youth Mental Health Out of The Shadows

This series focuses on students' mental health, the sources of their distress, and how schools and communities can help. Read the whole series

A Friend’s Message on Suicide: ‘This is For Real’

Before the opening credits to a film about suicide, freshman Noah McGee took the stage at Cedar Springs High School to share his painful, personal experience with such tragedy

Helping with Stress at the Holidays

When Karen Hoekstra was in high school, there was no "be nice" committee, and talking about mental illness just didn't happen, she said. "Had there been those sort of programs they have here today, it would have saved me a decade


Places of Refuge

This series focuses on refugee students and their journeys, their new lives and hopes for a future in West Michigan, and the many ways schools and community organizations are working to meet their needs.  Read the whole series

“Am I in America, Really?” Refugee Students Leave Terror Behind, Look to Future

Gloria Tungabose's eyes flash as she tells of her father, killed in Burundi. Her mother's ethnicity was Tutsi and her father's was Hutu, and the two groups were engaged in a bloody civil war. Her mother, Butoyi, was arrested

Thanks to English Tutoring, ‘I Can Learn a Lot of Things’

Tutoring from Ann Hoffman, has been crucial for Rose Sanreta, who could speak no English when she arrived here from Pakistan nearly two years ago. “She helps me a lot,” said Rose, a sophomore, in her family’s small apartment

GRPL_Sponsor_with_series_image.jpgThe Road To Reading

Proudly sponsored by the Grand Rapids Public Library, this series explores some of the many reading activities you'll find in our schools, difficulties students may face while learning to read, as well as early childhood ties to literacy and new initiatives to help all children read. Read the whole series

When Monsters Call and Teachers Read, Students Listen

The shared love of a book was on display in English teacher Shantel VanderGalien's eighth-grade honors class as she read aloud from "A Monster Calls." Creating a monster voice with a plummy British accent, VanderGalien revealed her theatrical side

Reading Well Predicts Student Success

Ten-year-old Erika Bradford knows how important it is to find ways to make reading easier. "I think the reason kids don't like any subject is because they are struggling with it," Erika said. "I used to hate reading and I was super bad at it"

Linh_Le_3_thumb.jpgStudent Leaders

A series dedicated to students that go above and beyond to serve their school, peers and community. Read the whole series

Getting it All on Film and Dreaming Big

If you want to know a bit about David Tay and the pride he takes in his school, watch this video. It’s a lip-dub he filmed of the high school last spring, a catchy cavalcade of students dancing, running up and down stairs, blowing bubbles, striking frozen poses

Tireless Go-getter Makes Her Community a Better Place; Dreams of a Brighter Tomorrow

Maria Aguirre likes to help other people's dreams come true: making sure a child has presents wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning, doing her part to fund cancer research, helping distribute grants to organizations doing good


Poverty_Series_Promo_thumb.jpgThe Burden of Poverty: A Backpack of Heartache

A series on poverty in the schools and how it affects students’ learning. We examine the problems poverty creates for students and their families and the schools and strategies that are helping disadvantaged students succeed. Read the whole series

Report: Are We Caring for Our Children? Not Well Enough

When Carol Paine-McGovern sees child poverty continuing to rise in Kent County, she takes some comfort in the work local schools and their communities are doing to relieve its burden on students

Wanted: A House We Can Afford

Dawn Broene is well aware of the challenges of finding affordable housing in the Lowell area. Breone, director of Flat River Outreach Ministries, said the organization's social worker hears from three to five families a week who are having trouble


Grads With Grit

A series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring. Read the whole series


Shooting for the Top

Donnie Alford owns his past with a perspective on where he comes from, where he is today and why it all matters that seems mature beyond his 18 years. The Wyoming High School senior, who graduated June 1, tells his story with the precision and detail

Undaunted by Disease, Staying the Course

Standing in a hall of Sparta High School, Steven Sevarns wore a smile that might suggest he wasn't headed to class that day. He had finished his last lessons before graduation, and all but the ceremony was behind him


Making Math Add Up

A series on the difficulties students have learning math, and what methods some schools and teachers are using with success. Read the whole series

Classroom energy + student enthusiasm = math success

Four years ago, Cedar View fifth grade teachers Jennifer Kahler and Erin Cairy switched the traditional teaching style of explaining math concepts and helping students as they worked individually to what they call "Collaborative Math"

Club Subtracts Fear from Math

Diamond Sparkman softly counts aloud as she measures the sides of a polygon displayed on a computer screen, trying to determine its area. “Seven times seven is 49,” she says, writing the equation on paper. Then she’s stuck. “Miss Kanoza, I need help,”


Educating Migrant Children

A series about the migrant student population and how teachers and administrators work together to serve them. The series focuses on Kent City Community Schools and Kenowa Hills Public Schools. Read the whole series

Journaling, Imaginations Make Waves of Summertime Learning

This was the first summer Spanish Elementary teacher Lorin Sorenson drove to a handful of migrant and Spanish speaking fourth- and sixth-grade students' homes to forge one-on-one relationships with them and their parents

Summer Migrant Program Stimulates New Generation of Possibilities

While scores of area children can be heard frolicking in the summer sun, an all together different buzz resonates inside the district's middle school classrooms


At Recess: An Occasional Humor Column

At Recess takes a lighter look at schools and education. Funny things sometimes happen when you work with kids -- or adults! Read the whole series

Math, Fun? With Creative Teaching and Baseball, Anything’s Possible

Math and I have never been great friends. Oh I can get along with math all right when I have to, like when I try to figure out how much less per ounce I am paying for a 12-ounce box of Cheerios compared to an 8.9-ounce box

Attack of the Whole Grain Pop-Tart

Always smiling. Always kind. Always helpful. These are the lunch ladies. But behind their smiles is a smirk. This salt-of-the-Earth crew has pulled off a covert operation few have noticed. The mission? Stick whole grain into everything