From its inception in the 2006-2007 school year, the Gerstacker Fellowship Program has enabled Saginaw Valley State University to offer ninety one premier teachers and administrators across the State of Michigan a leadership development and international travel experience. That twelve month, monthly week-end professional development program was designed to "develop leadership skills, lift potential leaders to higher standards and expectations for their personal performance, and inspire them to think more creatively about their work and its possibilities". As successful as that one time endeavor had been, however, it became apparent that this initial leadership-based opportunity, to maximize its full potential, required a sustained and advanced professional development program if these teachers and administrators were to become the leadership cadre that is needed to improve the quality of education in our communities. Consequently, the Gerstacker Foundation in 2011 added one million dollars to its initial endowment to support the development and implementation of the Gerstacker Fellowship Program II.
All graduates of the Gerstacker Fellowship Program I are eligible to participate in the Gerstacker Fellowship Program II. That participation is voluntary and Fellows may avail themselves, as their schedules and interest permit, of each year's programs and an educational visit within the United States to a selected school district engaged in significant organizational and educational reform. More than three quarters of the Fellows have participated in the Gerstacker Fellowship Program II.
Four professional development programs are offered annually with two sessions in the Fall and two sessions in the Winter. The sessions are planned to engage issues relevant to a greater understanding of K-12 education both in terms of student achievement and organizational effectiveness, to study the importance of leadership and organizational change, and to enable Fellows to continue their quest to expand their vision and capability to improve the quality of education in their schools.
Each session is conducted on a week day evening from 4:30 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. An opening table talk session allows Fellows to discuss issues pertinent to their school district and their professional lives. The evening's topic is then introduced followed by dinner. The session following dinner concludes the program discussion. The Fall sessions are usually conducted in September and October with the Winter sessions conducted in March and April.