Sparta — Kelley VanVliet is the new assistant principal at Ridgeview Elementary. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Administrators.
The new assistant principal at Ridgeview Elementary was destined from a young age to become an educator.
Kelley VanVliet, who started teaching in Sparta in 2017, said she comes from a family of teachers, which includes her mother, aunt, and in-laws. She was a good student and always wanted to be a teacher, and was most inspired by an elementary teacher.
‘I always wanted to be a teacher, and actually, one of my favorite teachers was my fifth-grade teacher, and she really inspired me to be a teacher.’— Ridgeview assistant principal Kelley VanVliet
VanVliet started teaching 18 years ago in her hometown of Kentwood. Shortly after marrying in 2005, she and husband Brian moved to Sparta, where she seized an opportunity to teach in the community when a fourth-grade position opened up.
“It was really exciting,” said VanVliet. “So I was at Appleview. My kids were in my building. I never had them in class, but they were just right down the hall from me.”
Other positions you have held in education:
• Fourth-grade teacher, Kentwood Public Schools
• Fourth-grade teacher, Appleview Elementary
How about jobs outside education? “Nothing unusual – I worked in a day care center. I worked at Macy’s (Marshall Field’s).”
- Bachelor’s in education, Western Michigan University
- Master’s in reading (plus additional 30 hours in master’s course work), Grand Valley State University, where she’s currently working toward a certificate in administration
Spouse/children: Kelley and husband, Brian, married 17 years, have two children, Alexis, 14, a freshman, and Brock, 11, in sixth grade, at Sparta.
Hobbies/Interests: “I love to play volleyball,” said VanVliet, who coached her daughter’s fifth- and sixth-grade teams. “That is one of my passions.” VanVliet also enjoys reading: “I love to talk about books and share book ideas.”
She also loves spending time with friends and family. “We live on a lake so we do a lot of fishing and going on our boat and being on the water.”
And VanVliet loves being an educator. “Education is definitely my passion,” she said. In her new position, she still works with kids but is also helping teachers grow. “And I’m learning a lot from these teachers here. I’d never been a teacher in kindergarten, first or second grade so I’m learning all about lower elementary students and their curriculum and their needs.”
What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? “I loved school. I loved all my teachers. I always wanted to be a teacher, and actually, one of my favorite teachers was my fifth-grade teacher, and she really inspired me to be a teacher. The first couple years that I worked in Kentwood I actually got to work with her so that was really amazing.
“I was a good student. I got ‘talks too much’ a lot on my report card. I was a chatty one, but I was a good student. I had a great family that instilled values and morals I still live by.”
The biggest lesson you’ve learned from students? “I think a little goes a long way — a little love, a little compassion, a little understanding goes a long way with kids, and just building that relationship with them and showing them every day that you care about them and then in turn, they’ll trust you.”
If I could go back to school, I would go to grade… “I think it would be interesting to go back to myself as a third- or fourth- or fifth-grader. … Now being a teacher, just working with those kids for the majority of my career so far just to again see what I was like.”
She wishes she had appreciated reading more at a young age: “I’ve always loved reading but really it wasn’t until I was out of college that I really loved reading. It would be interesting to go back to myself as a younger reader to see what it was like, maybe challenge myself to appreciate books more.”
She also would cut herself some slack in math class. “And I would tell myself it’s OK if you didn’t get the math problem right,” she said, remembering when she was in sixth grade sitting at the kitchen table crying over a math problem. “I would always tell my class that it’s OK, and math is sometimes a struggle, but we can figure it out together — so I always loved teaching math because math was a little bit more challenging to me.”
If you walked into your new school building to theme music by a favorite artist or band, what would it be? “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from the “Trolls” movie sung by her favorite singer, Justin Timberlake. “Something positive and upbeat — I’m a pretty social person. ‘Sunshine in my pocket’ from the ‘Trolls’ movie is (another) good one.”