About Sharon Hillestad
Sharon began her educational career in 1954, as a third-grader, helping younger students in her one-room schoolhouse in Wisconsin. As an adult, she earned a college degree and started post-graduate work in remedial reading. She became a third-grade teacher and taught in Wisconsin and Minnesota public schools.
Sharon’s education in reading instruction began when her own son had difficulty learning to read. She read the book Why Johnny Can’t Read, by Rudolf Flesch. That book revealed that systematic phonics instruction had been removed from the teachers’ colleges. This impacted students, creating increasing numbers of children who had difficulty learning to read.
In 1979, she founded the Minnesota Homeschool Network. In 1980, she joined the Reading Reform Foundation and became the State Representative for Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 1981, Sharon founded her own private one-room schoolhouse in Hastings, MN. Through the years of raising her three children and involvement in education reform, Sharon consulted with parents and provided tutoring to children and adults alike.
In 2000, Sharon joined her daughter Holly in Florida. She became the Director of Tutoring at the Community Learning Center. In the early 2000s, she worked with Holly and her son-in-law to design the Smart Way Reading and Spelling program, which is based upon the findings of the National Reading Panel.
In the early 2000s, Sharon served as the Florida State Representative for the National Right to Read Foundation. In 2005, she designed and delivered a Family Literacy Program under a grant she wrote and got approved for the Governor’s Family Literacy Initiative (GFLI, under Governor Jeb Bush). From 2016-2019, she worked as an elementary classroom teacher.
Today, Sharon does private tutoring, volunteers, and writes books.