Gerstacker Fellowship prepares educators for leadership roles

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This year’s Gerstacker Fellowship cohort will include 11 educators from different areas of Michigan.

The program lasts for a year with monthly meetings where the fellows will receive various leadership training. The fellows will get the chance to travel outside of the United States. This year, they will be traveling to Germany and Finland.

Mary Ackerman, the co-director of the Gerstacker Fellowship, believes the program is important because it encourages people to lead and provides them with the skills they need to do so.

“This program takes people who haven’t begun that leadership track and encourages them to actually take that risk, take that jump and enter into it,” Ackerman said. “When you get there, not only will you be successful, but the children will be successful, which is our goal.”

The goal of the Gerstacker Program is to provide the fellows with lifelong skills.

“My hope is that in bringing them together, and talking and studying about the different areas of leadership, that we have provided them with enough resources and confidence building activities that when a leadership opportunity presents itself they say, ‘Yeah, I want to lead,’” Ackerman said.

Tim Wedge, an educator at Tsinghua University High School International in Beijing, China, was a fellow in the first cohort of the Gerstacker Program. He experienced the program in 2007 and has benefited from the skills he gained since.

“It has helped me to prioritize what I believe are some crucial foundations for student achievement,” Wedge said. “Building a positive climate and culture in the building, supporting students, staff and the community not only academically or professionally but emotionally and socially as well.”

The Gerstacker Fellowship Program works to keep the past cohorts in touch with the new fellows. By doing this, the program can have connections throughout the globe.

Wedge has had a hand in some of the fellowship’s recent activities.

“Last spring, I hosted the latest cohort of Gerstacker Fellows in Beijing at our school. It was a pleasure to meet them, talk with them and share a little of our school with them,” he said. “It felt great to give back to the program. In January, I will be talking with the new cohort and sharing with them a little of my experiences here in Beijing.”

Tielannette Schurman, an assistant principal at Jefferson Middle School, is one of the fellows for this year’s cohort. Schurman is excited for the opportunity to grow as a leader and to meet with her fellow educators.

“I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity,” she said. “I firmly believe this will change me, not only as a leader but as a person. I cannot wait to see what is to come.”

The program offers Schurman opportunities to better herself as an educator.

“I never want to become stagnant in my leadership,” Schurman said. “I always want to grow, learn and be challenged. I believe this opportunity will allow me to do just that.”