Gerstacker Fellows to learn about global leadership

Photo Credit: Tim Inman

SVSU has named its latest batch of Gerstacker Fellows.

The fellowship was established in 2005 with the purpose of creating educational leaders with a global viewpoint. Each year, 10 to 12 educators are selected to participate.

Program Co-Director Mary Anne Ackerman said the program spans 12 months and exposes participants to a range of educational content.

“The Gerstacker Fellow is a leadership development program for aspiring K-12 school leaders,” she said. “Areas of study include topics such as organizational development, communications, ethics, finances, global education, politics and diversity.”

Ackerman said the curriculum also includes global travel.

“This past year, the Gerstacker Fellows traveled to Finland and Germany, where the group studied about the education systems in each country and their culture,” she said.

Co-Director John Kaczynski said the program’s outcome is to “propel agents of change.”

“We try to create change agents,” he said, “We don’t want followers – we want thinkers and leaders who drive change and build great school districts.”

Ackerman said participants are chosen after a nomination from their school district.

“Aspiring school leaders are nominated by their school districts,” Ackerman said. “Nominees complete an application and provided references. Then, an interview team selected the Gerstacker Fellows.”

This year’s fellows will study abroad in Japan. Kaczyniski said they will be visiting Saginaw’s sister city and looking to incorporate global learning perspectives.

“We are going to Japan, looking to find how we can bring back global learning practices,” he said. “We are looking through both comparative and leadership lenses, trying to identify the best methods.”

Current Gerstacker participant and Midland Public Schools employee Tiela Cairns Schurman said her experience thus far has empowered her to ensure all of her students and staff are supported.

“As the principal of Jefferson Middle School and a member of the educational community, I am determined to ensure no child or teacher for that matter feels trapped, unsupported or uncared for,” she said. “I firmly believe this experience has empowered me to take the lead and be the voice teachers and students need to break through any artificial glass ceiling bestowed upon them and to create a system where there are truly no dead ends.”

Kaczyniski said the program has produced many success stories.

“The 2020 Michigan MASA Superintendent of the year, Dr. Robert Shaner, is a Gertsacker alum,” he said. “We also have a Michigan Teacher of the Year alum as well.”

Neil DeLuca, a fellow and high school principal from Rochester Hills, said the fellowship provided him several support networks.

“The Gerstacker Fellowship program is a learning network, a support group and a champion for what is right about education in our complex society we educate students in today,” he said. “The Gerstacker Fellowship has changed the lives of so many educators, including myself. It has allowed me to think globally, understand the power of a professional learning community outside the greater Rochester area and rejuvenate the spirit of why I sought out to be an educator.”

Ackerman said the fellows are dedicated to the field of education. “We are fortunate to have among us so many educators who are passionate about the work they do,” she said.

Below is the full list of 2020 Fellows:

• Joseph Amabile: IB coordinator/professional learning community leader, Oxford Public Schools

• Deedra Baker: intervention teacher; Mount Morris Consolidated Schools

• Laura Chang: instructional consultant, literacy coach and interventionist, Vicksburg Community Schools

• Margaret Doan: elementary principal, Midland Public Schools

• Tamara Johnson: executive director of fiscal services, Saginaw Public Schools

• Jason Kowalski: assistant elementary and middle school principal, Carrollton Public Schools

• Nathan Mausolf: assistant high school principal, Birch Run Schools

• Scott Miklovic: director of technology and innovation, Elkton Pigeon Bay

• Port Laker Schools

• Justin Shaner: assistant middle and high school principal, Bay City Public Schools

• Molly Sholten: instructional coach, Institute for Excellence in Education, Mount Pleasant

• Penny Miller-Nelson; assistant superintendent, Midland Public Schools

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