04-04-2019 Dahn earns Girl Scout award; seeks more donations to complete dog park in Coloma; Denis

TEACHER OF THE YEAR… Denis Huffman is flanked by family and colleagues, (from the left): Robert Smith, Director of Van Buren Tech; Ty Huffman; John Weiss, a VBISD Board Trustee; Wendy Mino, Michigan Council for Exceptional Children recognition chairperson; Denis Huffman; Joshua Huffman; Patti Jo Huffman; Jeff Mills, Superintendent Van Buren Intermediate School District; Mary Ann Middaugh, Secretary, VBISD Board; and Dave Manson, Assistant Superintendent, VBISD.

Dahn earns Girl Scout award; seeks more donations to complete dog park in Coloma

By Annette Christie Girl Scout Caleigh Dahn has received her Gold Award for the Amicus Dog Park project and continues to fund raise for the dream to be completed. The Girl Scouts of Manitou Council awarded Dahn the Gold Award earlier and recently featured her story in their newsletter. In an effort to provide a safe place for dogs and their owners, Dahn created the idea of Amicus Dog Park. Through her project she has positively impacted the community by introducing youth to civic engagement and showing them that they can make a difference. With the support of many but not of all, Dahn dealt with problems and conflicts with neighboring users of the park, safety, adjusting her plan, concerns from neighbors, and with the local government officials. She has gained a lot of experience speaking in public, winding her way through local politics, fundraising, and earning the support and admiration of many local organizations and businesses. While Dahn raised the original amount of funds needed for the project costs (estimated at $10,000), changes to plans, products used, and having to duplicate processes has developed into a need for additional funds. Dahn informed supporters in a recent letter that the fundraising must continue in order to finish the project that began in the beginning of 2018. A friend of the dog park had organized a vendor show to raise the funds. Inclement weather prevented her from raising the needed funds. An anonymous community member has offered to be a catalyst for raising the last $2,500 needed by providing a match of $1 for every $1.50 raised up to $1,000. Anyone interested in donating should visit the Facebook page “Amicus Dog Park GS Gold Award Project”. Overcomes numerous delays Dahn first went to the Coloma Township Board in early 2018. Dahn’s plan was to build a dog park on a part of the township’s Washington School Park. The township acquired it from the Coloma School District for the purposes of continued public use of the property. The project was approved by the Coloma Township Board in early 2018, was put on hold, was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, was approved by the township board again, but was once again delayed in September. At that meeting Dahn learned that township officials and/or staff had determined that the fence was not the proper material, that the top soil was not properly placed and was insufficient, and that a site plan had to be prepared and presented. With the project still incomplete, Dahn sought an amicable solution in an effort to finalize it. Dahn informed the board that she had worked with the Township Assessor to develop the new site plan to the standards provided by the Planning Commission. With thanks to Gregg Pudell and Big C Lumber, she was able to get a refund for the previously purchased and partially installed residential grade fencing materials and would be able to purchase the commercial grade fencing at cost. In order to change the fencing materials however, Dahn said that she would need an additional $3,000 for the remainder of what was needed. The board decided to send her back to the Parks Committee (Trustees Bryan Duffield and Jerry Willmeng and citizen Tony Bertuca) for anything further and they will bring it to the full board if necessary. Nothing was provided as an update at the township’s March meeting. It is expected to be completed in the spring.

Denis Huffman named Teacher of the Year for work with special needs students at Tech Center

Denis Huffman of Hartford was named Teacher of the Year in early March for his work with special needs students at the Tech Center in Lawrence. Huffman was presented the award at the 79th Annual Conference for Exceptional Children at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids. The event is the largest education conference in Michigan focused on specialized instruction and support for individuals with exceptionalities. Presenter of the award was, Nichole Moore, President of the Michigan Council for Exceptional Children. She introduced Denis, “Denis Huffman, a computer networking instructor at Van Buren Intermediate School District’s Technology Center, effectively differentiates instruction for all of his students regardless of their needs. “What is remarkable though is that he has no formal training in special education. Denis doesn’t view those students who bring special challenges to his highly technical class as disabled or limited English proficient, they are all simply his students. “A prime example of this is Jacob, a past recipient of a “Yes I Can!” award who is blind. Jacob’s addition to Denis’ class began a remarkable exploration of ways to accommodate a totally blind student in mastering a curriculum that is primarily visually based.

“Denis was extremely successful, and as a result of these efforts Jacob ranked in the top 10 in a national networking competition and is now pursuing networking in college. “This is only one example, as many other students across Van Buren County have similar success stories. Denis is a shining example of the kind of general educator that we all hope our students with disabilities encounter, but rarely do.” Denis married Patti Jo Huffman July 11, 2015; they make their home in Hartford. He has two sons, Joshua Denis Huffman is a University of Michigan graduate 2013, and an engineer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. Ty Alexander Huffman, 2014 graduate of Davenport University, is employed as a network administrator of Magna Corporation in Holland, Michigan. Denis was employed full time from 1979 to 2003 at Huffman’s TV & Appliances in Hartford and was the 1977 Valedictorian of Hartford High School. He has a 2006 master’s degree in Career & Technical Education from Western Michigan University.