Meet the Staff

Joe Grit, Director

Hello! My name is Joe Grit and I am excited to be the new Director of ZQuest! I am a graduate of Grand Valley State University where I majored in chemistry with an emphasis in education. Since then, I’ve taught both middle and high school science courses. In 2017, with the support of the Zeeland Education Foundation, I created and implemented a forensic science course in the high school grounded in science inquiry and project based learning (PBL). I’m also a National Faculty member for PBLWorks with the Buck Institute for Education, which has allowed me to work collaboratively with K-12 educators worldwide to design, develop, and sustain high-quality project based learning. I also coach the Varsity Girls Soccer team at Zeeland East High School. 

My wife Jori and I love to be active and enjoy hiking and traveling. We love to make pizza and cook (I’ll be honest, Jori is a great cook and I do more of the eating!) and enjoy a nice west Michigan sunset.

Hello! My name is Monica Kraai. This will be my first year teaching at ZQuest as the K/1 teacher. I have 11 years of experience teaching Kindergarten. I am super excited to join the ZQuest team and get to know all of the staff, students, and families! I am a graduate of Hope College with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. I love teaching our youngest learners and being right there for those special ah-ha moments! Helping children grow their love for learning is my drive and passion. I love singing with my students, hands-on learning, and getting outdoors to experience nature during our school day. I hope to create a loving, safe, and happy environment for my students. I believe all students can be successful and we will reach our goals together! 

I have been married to my husband Derek for 11 years now. We have two amazing children, Kyla (10) and Miles (6). Kyla and Miles are both in the Spanish immersion program at Lincoln. Kyla will be a 5th grader this year and Miles will be a 1st grader. We love spending time outside together, playing games, and being with our friends and family.

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Hello! I'm Shannon Foerch (pronounced “fair-ick”). This will be my 12th year with ZQuest. I grew up in Mid-Michigan, but now am fully immersed in West Michigan.  I am a Hope College graduate and earned my master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Western Michigan University in 2014.  Overall, this will be my 17th year of teaching, all in K-2 classrooms.  I had a great opportunity to live and teach in Georgia, but am happy to be home in Michigan :)  I love ZQuest for the small family feel as well as the freedom and flexibility to meet learners where they are at - it's a great challenge and so neat to see my students’ knowledge and abilities grow exponentially‚Äč! Every year, my hope is that I can create a loving and safe learning environment for my students so that they will love learning.

My husband Luke and I have been married for 15 years and we have two children, both of which will join me at ZQuest this year!  We enjoy spending time with our friends & families, being outside - hiking, swimming and biking - as well as completing DIY projects for our home and for my classroom. 

Ali's portrait shows a blonde woman in her 30s.Hello! My name is Ali Neevel and I am so excited to begin year 2 of teaching at ZQuest, and year 10 overall. I am a graduate of Central College in Pella, Iowa and completed my Masters in Urban Educational Leadership from Davenport University. One of my favorite parts about teaching is building relationships with students, families and the community. On top of teaching, I tutor a couple nights a week for students who are dyslexic or need extra support with academics.

When I am not teaching or tutoring, I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy catching sunsets at the beach, playing beach volleyball, drinking iced coffee, reading and spending time with my nephews.  I am a huge sports fan (Go Cubs!) and often that is the only thing on my television. I enjoy camping and traveling as well. In college I studied abroad in Merida, Mexico, but have also traveled to Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Africa and Italy. As for the United States, my goal is to hit all 50 states by age 50!

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Hi! My name is Dan Kornelis and I am excited to be teaching 4th and 5th grade again this year! It will be my 7th year of teaching. Part of that time was spent in Texas, near Houston. Working in a team and creating a respectfully collaborative environment within the classroom are things I value personally and professionally. I am very excited to start a new school year and celebrate the successes of all students!

I was born and raised in northern Michigan, near Traverse City, in a small town called Empire. My parents still live there and are both retired. After high school I attended Alma College and graduated in 2015. I am currently working toward my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. In my free time I enjoy getting outside and taking hikes or taking our dog, Winston, for walks. I have also discovered an interest in podcasts! My wife and I live in  Hudsonville and love spending time outside and working on small updates to our house. Our son, Lincoln, was born in November 2022 and we absolutely adore him! We love spending as much time as we can with him.

My favorite thing about teaching is getting to know the students and forming meaningful relationships with them. I strive to create lifelong learners who have the critical thinking and collaboration skills to thrive in life outside the classroom. I look forward to another great year with ZQuest!

Amy's portrait shows a woman with shoulder-length brunette hair.Hello! My name is Amy Funk and I will be teaching 4th and 5th grade this year!   This will be my 12th year teaching with Zeeland Quest.  I love watching my students develop a love for learning and how they push me because they want to go above and beyond what is required of them. During break weeks and over the summer my students continue to contact me on what they are learning and what they have achieved. A goal for me and my students this year will be to help them develop their critical thinking, problem solving and 21st Century skills to become self directed learners to reach their highest level of achievement. I have a Marketing Degree from Eastern Michigan University and a Teaching Degree from Grand Valley State University. I am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I  live in Grand Haven with my husband, Dave.  We have 2 Biological Children.  Kyle is living in Ohio and works as a Research Associate for the National League of Cities out of Washington D.C.  Derek will be doing his student teaching in the fall and graduating from GVSU in December.  In April 2018, we adopted a young man who needed a family and a home.  His name is Carlos and he is currently working full time.  In my spare time I love to read, play games,  spend time with my family, travel and spend time on our boat.

Marcy has shoulder-length curly hair and is smiling.I’m Marcy Hartzler and I can hardly believe that I get to say that I will be celebrating my twelfth year at ZQuest!  I am a graduate of Hope College and was blessed to be hired as one of the original ZQuest staff shortly after that. Since then, I have also gone on to earn my Master’s Degree in STEM Leadership. 

I’m more excited than ever to embark on yet another year of adventures in PBL, laughter, fun, and thinking outside of the box. It is an honor to be a part of a school family that puts students ahead of standards, and that also allows its teachers the flexibility to make learning engaging and relevant, to develop a sense of family within the classroom, and to nurture students who are critical thinkers and leaders in their communities. 

When I’m not teaching, you will probably find me reading on the beach in the summer, or snuggled up with my cats, Pippa and Izzy, and a book in the winter. My husband, Joel, and I also love to make our annual journey to New York City to check out the latest Broadway shows and to enjoy some halal food from the Halal Guys cart. We also travel frequently around Lake Michigan to visit family. 

G’day! My name is Crystal Weber and I am ecstatic to be joining ZQuest. Last fall, I had the pleasure of spending two months with our team as a long-term substitute at ZQuest, and I’m excited to join full time! After graduating from Central Michigan University, I moved to Australia and taught there for five years (English, social studies, drama, media production). I loved my time and experiences in Australia and learned so much while there. Recently, I settled in west Michigan and am grateful to join the ZQuest family.

This coming year will be full of teamwork, discovery, and creativity as we learn together. I believe that each school year is an epic quest. When students and staff commit to that journey, the collaboration, challenges, and victories that come is what learning is all about. I am excited to embark with a team that knows the importance of this quest. We know the classroom is a fun, engaging, and empathetic space-- where true learning comes before all else.

While away from school, I am happiest hanging out with friends, catching a show or a movie, gaming, or having my cat curled up by my side. I also enjoy the outdoors and this spring I hiked 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Virginia). Connection and adventure is what drives me!

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Hi Z-Quest! My name is Melanie Shepardson, and I am the Resource Room teacher at ZQuest.  I am very eager to start my 4th year teaching at ZQ! I have loved collaborating with the excellent staff and students.  I am excited to dive into learning again!

 I was born and raised in Zeeland with my parents and three other brothers. Yes, all brothers. I am thrilled to be back “home” teaching in a district that has had a huge impact on my love of learning and school experience. 

Before ZQuest,  I graduated from Calvin College, now Calvin University, in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and Elementary Education. From there, I was a long term substitute in Zeeland and then taught as a resource room teacher for almost two years at a charter school in Muskegon. My husband, Oliver, and I have been married for 4 years and we recently purchased an 1880 farmhouse in Overisel.  It has been nice being so close to the Zeeland community. We have three high energy pups that keep us busy. When I am not at school, I enjoy reading, renovating parts of my home, gardening and spending time with my family and pups. In the summer,  we enjoy taking our boat to nearby lakes to go fishing and enjoy the sun. We also enjoy camping  and exploring all the beautiful parts of Michigan!

 

Lorna smiles at the camera and wears a striped shirt. She has curly blonde hair.Hello ZQuest family!

My name is Lorna Bratton and I am so excited to begin my 6th year at ZQuest (and 17th year teaching) as the K-8 Spanish teacher. 

A little about my background... I moved to Zeeland at the age of 3 from the Columbus, OH area. The 3rd of 5 children, I attended Zeeland Public Schools for my K-12 education. After graduating from Zeeland High School in 2002, I attended St. Thomas Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, from which I earned a double major in Spanish and Communication with an emphasis in Public Speaking. I also earned my K-12 teaching certificate before graduating in the spring of 2006. During my college career, I was a member of the Varsity Softball team and traveled to and lived in Salamanca, Spain for a semester. I was blessed to be able to travel to many European countries during my 4 months abroad. The summer after graduation, I moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico to fully immerse myself in a Spanish-speaking country… although I already had a broad knowledge of the language and culture before living there, this was the time and place in my life that I felt like I really fell in love with Spanish. In the summer of 2007, I accepted a high school teaching position in Arizona and stayed there for 11 years. During my high school teaching career in Arizona, I coached the varsity softball team and was the adult lead for the Link Crew Club. I also earned my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix (2010). After having my first child in 2017, I realized how much I wanted for him to get to be a bigger part of his grandparents’, aunts’/uncles’ and cousins’ lives, so I made the move back to Zeeland in the spring of 2018. 

It was only a few months later that I was honored to accept the K-8 Spanish teacher position at ZQuest. During my 1st 5 years here, I have been amazed at how welcomed I felt by the staff, students and families. I look forward to continuing to build upon those relationships this year again and for the years to come. I feel so lucky to be able to have students year after year, to be a witness to their growth in the Spanish language over time, but also in deepening our relationships.

Finally, during my free time, my 2 children (Conrad and Frida) and I love to camp, spend time outside doing pretty much anything active, do any kind of summer water activity like the beach, pool, splashpad or waterpark, and finally, most importantly, spend time with our extended family. 

This year is going to be another exciting one filled with love, laughter and lots of fun! I can’t wait!!

 

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Hello! My name is Krista Schopmeyer and I am thrilled to be a part of the ZQuest staff again this year.  I am a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Elementary Education as well as a Master of Arts in Education. I am passionate about supporting students as they understand their learning process and develop their skills and abilities.

I began my career in North Carolina, teaching primarily Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten. I loved guiding children to become successful students as they developed their curiosity and discovery into life-long learning practices.  After returning to Michigan to be closer to family, I joined Zeeland Public Schools as an interventionist before becoming the Intervention Teacher at ZQuest.  I love the way ZQuest encourages students to take ownership of their learning and empowers them to become independent learners.

My husband, Jesse, and I have been married for 16 years;  our son, Owen, is in 7th grade at ZQuest and we have a little girl, Hannah, who will be 3 in November.  We enjoy reading and playing games together, visiting museums in Grand Rapids and Chicago, and spending time with our extended family.

Jamie smiles at the camera. She has blonde, wavy hair.Hi, I’m Jaime Gibbons and I will be the interventionist for ZQuest. I am excited to work at ZQuest and see firsthand all of the things that makes the school unique and special. 

I grew up in DeTour, a small town on the eastern edge of the Upper Peninsula. Upon graduating high school, I attended Lake Superior State University where I earned a BS in Elementary Education with minors in English and Science. I continued my education at Central Michigan University, earning a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I have been a teacher for 20 years, spending 5 years in Alma, Michigan and the last 15 years at Zeeland Public Schools at both the Early Childhood Center and Roosevelt. In those years I taught 2nd grade and 5th grade, with the majority of my years as a kindergarten teacher. I look forward to putting my years of experience as a teacher to use in a new way. 

I live in Zeeland with my husband Dustin. We have two girls, Cambree an 8th grader at Creekside and Barrette, a 3rd grader at Quincy. Outside of school you will find me attending our daughters’ sporting events, dance recitals and theater performances. I am a huge sports fan and love cheering on my favorite teams-Go Tigers, go Lions and go Blue!! 

portrait of curly-haired blonde womanI am Micki Hyma, special education paraprofessional for ZQuest. I was born and raised in Holland but currently live in Hudsonville. This is my ninth year working in this position. I feel so fortunate to be able to hang out with not only the kids I get to work with everyday but all of the great kids that attend ZQuest. 

My husband and I have been married for almost 23  years and we have three great kids, two English Mastiffs, and a Yorkie named Tank.  Our oldest son is twenty five and is currently in the nursing program. Our  20 year old son is working for a heating and cooling company. My daughter is 18 and just graduated from West Ottawa this year. She is undecided in what she wants to do but has a job at Gentex starting up soon. 

After our oldest moved out my family decided to open up our empty bedroom and home to foster children. We have been doing this for four years now. We have had many children come and go from our home.  It’s an incredibly unpredictable journey that we enjoy doing and feel very fortunate to be able to help with. 

portrait of curly-haired blonde womanHello my name is Jil Hartman and I am the Student Success Coordinator for ZQuest. My role at Z Quest is to be an extra layer of support for staff and students here at school. I help with behavioral, and  social and emotional support in any situation the teachers think would be helpful for me to come alongside a student and offer extra support. I love that each of my days are different and that I can be available to support any student who might need a little extra love that day. I feel truly blessed to be in this position. I am not an unfamiliar face around school as my kids started at  ZQuest when it first began and I have been an active volunteer ever since. This year my daughter, Maggie, will be a senior at Zeeland West and my son, Gerrit, will be a 11th grader. My husband Chris and I were high school sweethearts who attended different high schools and have been married for 22 years. We are both graduates of Grand Valley State University. When I'm not at school you can usually find me supporting our kids at various events, helping my daughter run her non-profit flower business, Maggie's Flowers,  and doing projects on our 1900 farmhouse. 

Gerrit Van Klaveren, K-5 PE

Gerrit VK PhotoMy name is Gerrit Van Klaveren (Mr. VK)  and I am Canadian. I graduated from Calvin College in 2014 with K-12 physical education and minors in biochemistry and biology. I have taught PE in many locations across the country from New Mexico to New Jersey and now Michigan. Due to visa complications and love (ask me sometime), I went back for my Master’s in Physical Education Pedagogy (2017)  at Western Michigan University. I am married to the wonderful Lauren vK for 3 years, who has a heart for others that is simply contagious.

On the side, I am very active in sports, music, worship, wood projects and recreational activities. Serving, fixing things and helping others brings much joy. Every day, I like to bring an undignified atmosphere where joy and vibrant energy fills my classroom. When students see how much fun being active and moving is, the hope is they will learn to value living a healthy and active lifestyle. More importantly, I emphasize the diversity of our bodies. We all have different gifts and abilities in the areas of team sports, individual sports, recreation and dance. Finding what the students  love will help them to value being active for a lifetime. What a gift, what a blessing it is to be able to share that with everyone I meet and teach!

We are both so excited to be here in Zeeland, and to start a new journey in what I hear and have seen, thus far, as a vibrant, growing and loving community. I am so impressed and so thankful for everyone making my first year amazing! Here to my second year!! GO ZQUEST!

 

Gail Heinemann, K-5 PE

Gail Heinemann photoHello!  My name is Gail Heinemann and I am a Physical Education teacher for Zeeland Public Schools.  I share my time with ZQuest, Roosevelt and Lincoln schools and I have been with the district since 2002.

I currently live in Spring Lake, but I am originally from Westland, MI and I have also lived in Traverse City.   I have a Masters Degree in Recreation Administration and after working in the field, I realized how much I missed working with children.  That is when I decided to go to Grand Valley State University to get my teaching certificate.  I am certified to teach both Physical Education as well as in the classroom.  I did my classroom student teaching in Muskegon Heights and my PE student teaching in Coopersville.  My Passion is teaching the students lifelong skills to maintain a healthy lifestyle!

I have enjoyed being a part of the Zeeland teacher community and continue to look forward to having more great years!

 

JOE DAVELLAR, k-5 pe

Hello! My name is Joe Davelaar and I have been teaching PE at ZPS since 2005.  I’ve taught at all 7 of the elementary schools at one point or another as well as spending a couple of years at Cityside.  I am originally from the Holland/Zeeland area and graduated from Hope College.  I love teaching and creating an environment in the gym for elementary students to learn and grow through play as little ones and gradually working their way up to a whole variety of social-emotional and physical skills as they progress through elementary school. 

My wife Allison and I have been married since 2001 and we enjoy attending our kid’s piano recitals, art showcases, basketball and baseball games that they participate in. We also like playing card games, board games, going golfing and being at the beach and lake in the summertime! 

Excited to be back at ZQuest!

 

kATIE VANSOEST, K-5 ART

My name is Katy Van Soest and I am an elementary visual arts teacher for Zeeland Public Schools. I am excited to teach art to Roosevelt, ZQuest and New Groningen artists.  After student teaching at Woodbridge and graduating from Hope College, I taught mostly Kindergarten and Young Fives in Grandville Public Schools.  We moved to Zeeland in 2011. I began teaching art one year later.  My husband teaches at West & GVSU.  We have 2 Cats (Maverick & Goose) and 3 children:   Aidan, will be a junior at Hope College, Colin will be a Senior at East, and Emma will be an 8th grader at Cityside.  We love to attend all of the performing arts shows and dance concerts.  When I am not teaching or watching my kids perform, I love to plan travel for others.  I love DIY projects, painting, Disney, baking, hiking and travel.  I am so excited to have a special place for my artists to create and explore this year!  

 

Holly Balcer, K-5 Music

Holly Balcer PhotoPlease visit this link to learn about Mrs. Balcer.

MCKENNA OLENZUK, school social worker

More info coming soon!

 

Elizabeth remy, school psychologist

Hello! I’m Elizabeth Remy, the new school psychologist at ZQuest. I attended Michigan State University for my undergrad and just graduated from Grand Valley State University with my degree in school psychology. This will be my first year working as a school psychologist and I am so excited to get to know each and every one of you! I am originally from the east side of the state, so I am looking forward to exploring all that west Michigan has to offer. I will also be working with students at Roosevelt elementary. Outside of work I love to go for walks/hikes, attend concerts, and spend time with family and friends! 

 

Christa Veldkamp, Speech Pathologist

Christa Veldkamp PhotoHi, I’m Christa Veldkamp, the speech and language pathologist at ZQuest Elementary. I attended Calvin College for my undergraduate degree and the University of Northern Colorado for my Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology. This is my 5th year working as a speech language pathologist and my 3rd year working at ZQuest.  I also provide services at Adams Elementary School and Creekside Middle School.  I love my job because every day is different and I get the opportunity to work with a variety of students. It is a joy to help kids grow in their speech and language skills. In my free time, I like to be active and outdoors. I love golfing, hiking, camping, skiing/snowboarding, and spending time with my family and friends.