A gathering space for educators
In the Instructional Services Department at Van Buren Intermediate School District, supporting teachers and administrators with instruction is the heart of our work. It is our hope that this monthly newsletter will help capture upcoming events and important information to support your work in your districts, schools, and classrooms.
We continue to learn and grown in response to you! In order to respond to the needs and requests of our educators in Van Buren County, we have expanded our department to include even more support for MTSS as well as Mental Health.
Browse our upcoming Professional Learning Opportunities below!
Meet our Team!
Jennifer Bloomfield, Educational Consultant
In my role, my goal is to build relationships with schools to provide support with MTSS and school improvement. I want to help create environments in schools where teachers feel comfortable taking risks and all students have the best opportunity to learn.
This is my twentieth year in education. My background includes experience as teacher, Title instructor and principal. I earned my BA in Language Arts and Elementary Education from Grand Valley State University and my MA in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University.
I love spending time with my family. I have been married to my husband for 19 years and have two wonderful daughters, Alyssa and Ashlyn. Both girls are in travel softball, so much of my free time is spent on the sidelines watching lots of ball and enjoying the outdoors. Another passion of mine is reading, especially a good thriller! Also, I am a sucker for a good magic trick.
Stacey Coon-Ballard, Mental Health Clinician
A little about myself, I have been married 16 years to a wonderfully supportive husband. I have two children; a son 14 and a daughter 13. They are both teenagers and keep life interesting. I also have an 11-year-old fur baby who is a yellow lab named Honey Bear.
I earned Master of Social Work from Western Michigan University; my bachelor’s in criminal justice.
I have worked in many settings, including; The Ark, Gryphon Place, Family & Children Services, Starr Commonwealth Schools, KCMHSAS and most recently Bronson Methodist Hospital. I have learned from all of my employment that people just want to be heard and understood. To quote Floyd Starr “there are no bad people only bad choices.” I look forward to the new opportunity of working within the school system.
Christine Janssen, Event Management & Medicaid Specialist
My name is Christine Janssen and I am so excited to be working with the amazing people in Instructional Services. I’ve worked at the VBISD in various capacities for almost 7 years. I earned my BA from Cornerstone University and spent many years in Public Relations. After being a stay at home mom for 9 years I re-entered the work force in education so I could match my boys school schedule. I love working with kids and want to empower students to change the world!
My favorite job is being a mom to Caleb and Noah and being a wife to Eric ( we just celebrated 26 years of marriage)!! My favorite activities include spending time with my guys and soaking up the sunshine while floating in our pool...when family and pool time can be combined, it’s the BEST!!
Heidi Olivares, Behavior and Trauma Coordinator
As a Behavior and Trauma Coordinator I work with districts to establish a positive school culture amongst staff and students, cultivating the way for positive connections, safe environments, and engaged learning. This work includes creating and maintaining Multi Tiered Systems of Support that benefit all students, striving to make every student feel safe, secure, and successful.
I am married to a loving husband and have six amazing children. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, exploring the outdoors and just enjoying life’s special moments with loved ones. Working with youth who have experienced trauma has been a passion of mine since my teenage years and I am lucky enough to continue that work on many levels as a professional. I have a strong belief that relationships are key to success and that every person needs positive connection in order to be successful.
Master of Social Work, Western Michigan University 2012
Throughout the years I have had the privilege of working as a Social Worker with students ranging in age from early childhood through adults in transition, from general education students to students in our most restrictive center based programs. I have worked as a mental health provider both in private practice and for Community Mental Health. These experiences have led me to where I am today, bringing team members together to create systems that have a lasting impact on staff, students and families we serve.
Paula Kanaan, Mental Health Clinician
Greetings, I am one of the two Mental Health Clinicians recently hired at Van Buren ISD to work with you, our student body, and their families. I am eager to become a part of this community while working with staff and the families within our county. Although I am not a new social worker, I am new to working in Van Buren County (my own county) for the first time in my career. I am excited for this new opportunity.
I have a wonderful husband, TIm, and 6 amazing children. Tim and I have been married for 12 years. Our children are ages 30 to 16 years old. I came to the marriage with four children and Tim came with two. One of my favorite roles in m y family is grandma to my awesome 4-year-old granddaughter. We have two dogs, Abby and Minnie. I love spending time outdoors walking, hiking and enjoying the many beaches in Michigan. I also love music and going to the movies, reading, and gardening.
I earned a bachelor’s degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University and a master’s degree in Social Work from Western Michigan University.
Prior to coming to the VBISD, I have had the pleasure of working with individuals and families in the roles of direct care staff and community liaison at Lakeside Academy, as a foster care worker and Independent Living Coordinator at Samaritas (then Lutheran Social Services), as a Wraparound Resource Coordinator at Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (KCMHSAS), and as a Medical Social Worker at Bronson Hospital. For the last 7 years, I have been a therapist for individuals, couples, and families on a part-time basis during evenings and weekends. I continue this role at the private practice my husband and I started.
Cheryl-Marie Manson, Director of Instructional Services
My journey as an educator started as a self-contained special education teacher and has meandered it's way through teaching resource rooms, working as a general education consultant, a curriculum director, a special education director, building principal and technology director.
I earned my BS in Psychology from Grand Valley State University with a Masters in Learning Disabilities and another in School Administration. My teaching certificate includes K-5 all subjects; EI, CI and LD K-12.
I am married with four children ages 16-21. Josh is at Michigan State University, Siera and Rob are at Western Michigan University, and Mitchell is at Mattawan High School. I enjoy spending time with my family and three dogs: Oliver, Lily and Rudy.
Geanice Miller, Early Literacy Coach/Consultant
Using my extensive knowledge in Early Literacy, twenty-six years of experience in the field of Education, a Bachelor's Degree from Olivet College, and a Master's Degree from Western Michigan University, I am honored to support teachers and administrators as they implement research-supported practices to improve student achievement and grow in their literacy leadership skills.
Being Mom to my twenty year old son, Kegan, and sixteen year old daughter, Kearney, is my greatest blessing. My husband, Jerry, and I have been married for twenty-five years and have two rescue dogs, Belle and Bella. You will often see me reading a mystery book (James Patterson is my favorite!), watching a sporting event and just enjoying time with my family. Life is good!
Melissa Wierenga, Early Literacy Coach/Consultant
I started in the classroom as an elementary and middle school resource room teacher where I delivered instruction and supports to students with various disabilities and then co-taught 5th grade. After 7 years in the classroom, I transferred my love and passion for teaching and began coaching teachers and principals as part of a non-profit organization in school transformation. I worked to build the capacity of educators, disrupt patterns of systematic inequality, and create professional learning systems for urban districts to create continuous improvement practices. For a year, I applied all of this learning to create intervention systems, practices, and professional development as a Reading Specialist before coming to Van Buren ISD where I am truly able to carry out my passion for teaching and learning. I earned my BS in Special Education and my MA in Literacy Studies at Western Michigan University.
I love to use essential oils and recently competed in my first CrossFit competition. My husband, Zach and I enjoy being outside with our 3 year old, Luca. We spend our time exploring our city and state, watching sporting events, heading to the beach, and spending time with family.