Susan Verwys

Susan Verwys


  • BA Calvin College
  • MA, University of Chicago, 1978
  • PhD, Michigan State University, 2009
    Area: Child Development


After graduating from Calvin College with a BA, Dr. Verwys entered a graduate program in clinical social work, focusing on work with young children and families in counseling. Discovering that she needed more joy in her work, Dr. Verwys entered the field of early childhood education, developing progressive programs in children’s ministries, childcare, and preschool. Her joy is shared with students, colleagues, and children in our community.

Students in Susan’s classes enjoy circle time, where they participate in music and movement experiences, read-aloud, and hands-on learning experiences. Visits to early childhood classrooms for exploration of materials and learning experiences stretch her students’ imagination of what is possible in early childhood classrooms. Dr. Verwys most appreciates her students’ creativity as they collaborate to create early childhood programs or when they engage in inquiry learning with young children in local classrooms.

Dr. Verwys collaborates with area experts, including early childhood program administrators, teachers, and local agencies that serve young children and families. Regular attendees at the yearly conference of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children look forward to Dr. Verwys and her students presenting on advocacy and project-based learning. Dr. Verwys also coordinates the Children’s Worship Program at Shawnee Park Christian Reformed Church.

Passionate about justice for young children and families, Dr. Verwys has written and presented on the schooling experiences of young African-Americans. She recognizes cultural ways of being and speaking, encouraging her teacher candidates to gain deeper understanding of the cultures of their students. More recently, Dr. Verwys has been studying adverse childhood experiences, toxic stress, and mind-mindedness.

Academic interests

  • Early childhood development & education
  • Brain development
  • Culturally relevant practice
  • Inquiry learning
  • Spiritual development in children


  • Verwys, S.K., & Carolan, M.T. (2015). Navigating Dialect: Facilitating Mainstream English Learning with First Grade African Americans. African American Learners, 4(1).
  • Verwys, S. (2015). Children and Stress. Connections Newsletter. Grand Rapids, MI: Family Futures.
  • Ph.D. Dissertation Verwys, S. (2009): Navigating dialect: How three first grade Euro American teachers facilitate mainstream English learning with African American English users. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI.
  • Verwys, S. (2007). Teacher, teacher, tell me about the brain. Young Children, 62 (4), 97-100.


  • Culturally Relevant Literacy Practices with African American Adolescent Males. (5/22/2015) With Dr. J. Walcott, Calvin College Education Program. Southeast Career Pathways, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Appropriate Assessment Practices for Young Children: Preschool-Grade Two. (2015). With Chess Van Wyk, Baxter Community Center. Christian Educators Convention. Century Center, S. Bend, Indiana.
  • Stress in Early Childhood: When is it toxic and when is it productive? (2015). Presentation with Joanne Hoganson, Kent County Health Department. Kent County Health Department, Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Project Learning with Young Children. (2014). With members of EDUC 337. Annual Conference of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children. Amway Grand Plaza Hotel & De Vos Center, Grand Rapids, MI.
  • A Response to the Head Start Debates: Contributions from a Systems Perspective on African American Children and Families. (2013) With Mary Hockwalt, M.A., Head Start of Kent County. Conference on Research Directions, Institute for the African American Child. Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Professional services

  • Member. Early Childhood Advisory Committee. Family Futures. Grand Rapids, MI. 2014 - present.
  • Member. Great Start Collaborative. Kent County 2013 – present.
  • Coordinator and Teacher. Children’s Worship Shawnee Christian Reformed Church. 2010-present.
  • Board Member Head Start for Kent County. 2010 – 2015.
  • Chair of Personnel Co. Head Start for Kent County. 2012 – 2015.

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