Sheryl Vlietstra, affiliate professor of elementary teacher education, joined Grand Valley’s faculty in 2000. Vlietstra teaches in the College of Education (COE) and is responsible for guiding teacher candidates during their teacher assisting field experience.
Known not only for her reputation of excellence, but also for her kind, caring, and encouraging teaching style, Vlietstra has received countless praise from students for enhancing their academic and teaching careers. Once struggling, but now successful, students and teachers are quick to give her credit for her role in their achievements.
Vlietstra regularly supports COE students and recent alumni as they search for employment opportunities. Additionally, significant contributions to the early careers of COE alumni are made through the Michigan Literacy Project (MLP). Vlietstra and other COE colleagues established the MLP, which provides recent graduates with funds for building their classroom libraries in underserved Michigan school districts. She has raised more than $32,000 from organizations such as the Meemic Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities to help grow the program.
Vlietstra earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Central Michigan University in 1980 and a master’s degree in education from Grand Valley in 1988. Prior to teaching at the collegiate level, she taught in Kingsley Area Schools and Coopersville Public Schools from 1981-1994.
In 2009, Vlietstra was the recipient of Grand Valley’s Pew Teaching Excellence Award for Part-Time Faculty. The award recognizes distinguished part-time faculty from around the university for using multiple approaches in their classroom instruction, stimulating intellectual curiosity in students, being current in their field, demonstrating a commitment to student learning, and reflecting on their past teaching experience to improve current practice.
Vlietstra lives on the lakeshore with her husband, Ross, and their Muppet dog, Phyllis. Her daughter, Kacy, is pursuing a Ph.D. in Education Policy at Michigan State University and her son, Charley, works in digital marketing in Ann Arbor.
In 2017, Vlietstra received The Outstanding Educator Award. The Grand Valley Alumni Association presented the annual award at April’s commencement. The award goes to a faculty member who has had a significant impact on the careers of alumni.