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Pillar of the Library Retiring after 26 Years at Excel

A few years after it opened in 1995, Excel Charter Academy was expanding and looking for a bigger building. Janice Cok, whose four kids began attending Excel in its second year, knew of a family member who might have some land to sell that would fit the school’s needs.

On a whim, she asked if he was open to selling 10 acres on Breton Road near 44th Street. When the location came to fruition, Cok joined as well, becoming the library technology aide. Now, with the 2023-24 school year coming to an end, she is retiring after witnessing so many faces and changes over the years at Excel.

“It was fun to be a part of the process that developed Excel into what it is today,” she said.

Excel appealed to Cok as a parent because of its Moral Focus-based curriculum. Over the years she has seen it grow, being ranked sixth on the Best Charter Elementary Schools in Michigan list, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 school rankings and outperforming the district for 14 years.

As technology has evolved over the Cok’s time at Excel, computer labs and libraries have had an inverse correlation. When she began working at the school it was a full-time position involving educational activities, reading books to students, and running the Scholastic Book Fair. It shifted to a part-time position about 10 years ago, but she is grateful for the flexibility to spend more time with her family.

“I just love being part of the support staff,” she said. “I can come here, work, and do my job and love the kids and then I can leave. It’s been a great job for my family.”

As she heads off to retirement, Cok and her husband plan to travel. She said her time at Excel has shaped her perspective on life and is thankful to have worked alongside so many others who have impacted countless students over the years, helping them understand how important books are and getting them excited to read.

“I feel honored to have been a support staff to help thousands of kids that have come through Excel learn to read,” she said. “It has given me great joy to see these kids from Y5-8th grade mature in their reading. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of their lives.”

Congratulations on a great career, Mrs. Cok!

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About Excel Charter Academy
Excel Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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