Local charter school hires SL native as director

Krystle Wagner • Sep 4, 2018 at 2:00 PM

FERRYSBURG — Joanna Bennink was recently hired to serve as director of the West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics.

The Spring Lake resident and native took the role as the public charter school’s director on July 1.

School board President Andy Alt said they’re thrilled to have Bennink join the academy’s staff.

The search for a new director began last year. Steve Chartier served as the interim director during the 2017-18 school year after the previous director left for another job.

While a number of qualified candidates applied, Alt said Bennink’s efforts and previous roles stood out. Alt said Bennink has experience in arts and exudes positivity. Alt noted that one thing that caught the school board’s attention was Bennink’s efforts leading staff to begin a transitional program at Oakridge Lower Elementary School to prepare children for kindergarten.

After graduating from Spring Lake High School, Bennink attended Michigan State University. She earned a master’s degree in business from Western Michigan University and received her teaching certificate at Grand Valley State University.

Bennink taught first grade in Orchard View Schools for 12 years.

Bennink’s family moved to Vermont, where she held the role as a teaching principal at a small school that served preschool through sixth grade. After moving back to West Michigan, Bennink spent six years as the principal at Oakridge Lower Elementary School.

Pursuing a career in education was always in the plans for Bennink, who said she knew she wanted to work with kids and help support them.

Bennink also comes from a long line of educators — her grandmother taught for Spring Lake and Muskegon public schools, her aunt was a principal in the Muskegon school district, and her mom was a teacher for Fruitport Community Schools. Bennink’s mother- and father-law were also teachers for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

Bennink said she was interested in joining the WMAAA staff because of the integration of arts and academics and what it can do for students. Bennink said she also wants to give back to the community.

Growing up, Bennink was involved in vocal arts, jazz band and musical theater, and was a drum major at Spring Lake High School.

Bennink and her husband, Jim, have four children — the oldest attends Alma College, two attend Spring Lake High School and the youngest attends Spring Lake Intermediate School.

The school board and Bennink are developing a strategic plan and goals. Alt said they’re in the process of determining their strengths and weaknesses in order to develop an action plan.

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