Top row (left to right): Sam Koeman, Taylor Klomp, Julie Louwerse
Bottom row (left to right): Mary Jo Nanninga, Kim Mast, Rachel Hendricks, Maria Bultsma, Kimberly Curtis, Julie Rodenhouse
The Educational Support Services (ESS) program is one of the ways West Side Christian School supports and celebrates the gifts and abilities of all of God’s children! ESS offers educational services for learners who may benefit from additional support meeting individual goals. The nine individuals who make up the ESS team work every day to provide comprehensive support to meet students’ learning needs and challenges.
Get to know our ESS staff below!
We asked our ESS Director Maria Bultsma to share about the ESS program and why it’s such an integral part of our school. We hope this interview-style blog will give you a glimpse at the variety of ways ESS supports students and families. If you have any questions about the ESS program or would like to get in touch with Maria, feel free to reach out! Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here in ESS, we work alongside teachers to acknowledge learning differences in order to meet students’ unique learning needs and challenges. I would say one of our biggest goals is to help students realize their God-given abilities so they can move toward independence and experience success both in school and in other areas of life. Building communities of belonging starts with the belief that we bring glory to God when we live, learn, serve, and worship together.
Through one-on-one support, we work closely with students and meet them wherever they are. Whether it’s one-on-one support in the classroom or helping a student review materials one more time, our goal is to help students remain at or close to grade level. Celebrating diverse learners and welcoming and accepting all students is a high priority at WSCS. We see firsthand how students benefit from inclusion. Having a diverse body of learners provides all students with important skills needed to value and succeed in the diversity found in our communities. As an ESS staff, we provide support that is ongoing, proactive, targeted, and learning focused.
ESS supports elementary students in the following ways:
Some of the ways we support middle school students include:
ESS also provides school-wide support, which involves the following:
In all these examples, ESS staff can teach, assist, challenge, help or guide students (and teachers!).
The program has grown in the number of staff members and students we serve. We currently have nine people on the ESS team serving between 50-60 students. The program that services students with the highest needs has grown the quickest the last 5 years. While we have always serviced and supported students with ADHD and learning disabilities, we now work with a number of students on the autism spectrum.
As of 2020-2021, WSCS and particularly the ESS Team, partner with five outside agencies. These agencies include Grand Rapids Public Schools, All Belong, Behavioral Analysis of West Michigan, BRAINS, and Autism Center of Michigan.
The ESS team works extremely hard every day! There are many moving parts to our jobs. We work with all grade levels and content areas. We support studying, test taking, and following-up with students. We work as a team supporting each other in our work.
The ESS Team is made of people who are flexible, patient, and work as advocates for the students we work with.
Even though we meet with the same students and follow a schedule, each day will be different. It may be observing and listening, teaching a new topic, reviewing material more in depth, helping one or two students or assisting all the students in the classroom. Though we have specific students we monitor in the classroom, we are also there to help any students who may need it at that time.
In the ESS Room and within our community we have learned to celebrate and smile about any amount of progress a student has made. Our bulletin board is full of pictures each year of small and big milestones our students have made and what we get to smile about. Students and ESS Staff cheer each other on whether it’s reading a word wall list or singing a song. The ESS Rooms are seldom empty. There are usually multiple groups of students from all grade levels working in the rooms. Olders students get to interact with younger students and vise versa.
It’s so much fun getting to know the students and forming meaningful relationships with students so that they can grow and learn academically and personally/socially. It’s also fun to watch teachers do their thing and see the excitement they bring with the subjects they teach and how they engage with the students and the material.
One of our greatest joys is getting to work with students throughout multiple years and watching their growth first-hand while forming deeper relationships!