The Dissolution of the Education Department
By Laken Franchetti, News Editor
Gettysburg College has dissolved its education department. Professor of Education in the Department of Sociology, Director of Educational Studies and Director of Community Based Learning and Research Divonna Stebick explained that this occurred following a shrinking staff and the discontinuation of the teacher certification programs that were housed within the department.
The college has never made educational studies a major, yet it has been offered as a minor for several years. The teacher certification program previously existed as another option for students within the education department.
Stebick explained how students utilized the certification program.
“If you were going to be a social studies teacher, you would more than likely major in history and then do the teacher [certification] program. Social studies and English are the biggest [programs], and those are the departments that I feel are going to be hurt the most,” Stebick said.
As of fall 2021, the education department no longer accepted new cohorts of students to the teacher certification programs housed in the department. These programs focused on teaching English, math, science, social studies, or foreign languages. The only teacher certification program currently offered by the college is within the music education program.
“I think when they decided to suspend the teacher recertification program a few years ago, it was definitely the writing on the wall that they don’t want to put any more support into [the department],” Stebick said.
Mathematics major Antoinette Chango ’24 joined the teacher certification program prior to its discontinuation. She has been able to complete the certification in the intended way, yet the department’s dissolution has brought difficulties.
“I am saddened by the fact that the certification program no longer exists as it is a major reason why I’m at Gettysburg,” Chango said. “I do also feel as though, while the quality of professors and classes [has] stayed as wonderful as it was before the program dissolved, the quantity of professors and individuals who know how to help me along my path has greatly decreased. The advisor for math [certification] students, which is what I am, left Gettysburg at the end of last year, which was a shock to me and my peers.”
History major and educational studies minor Kelsey Grillo ’24 was not able to join a certification cohort before the program was discontinued.
“The college’s decision to phase out the teacher certification program has also affected my studies—being that I planned on fulfilling program requirements to become a certified educator in the state of Pennsylvania,” Grillo said. “As a result of this, I was left to do outside research regarding my options for certification (if at all) and briefly considered transferring institutions.”
Stebick said she has worked with Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs Jennifer Bloomquist to locate alternative certification programs that students can participate in outside of the college. Although the college recently went through accreditation with the state and has the licenses to offer teacher certification for the next ten years, this option is no longer available for students.
Following the discontinuation of the certification programs, the education department was dissolved. This decision was made official in November of 2022. Stebick was relocated to the sociology department. She also noted that Director of the First-Year Seminar Program and Public Policy Associate Professor Dave Powell, another staff member of the education department, was relocated to public policy.
Powell explained his feelings regarding the decision to dissolve the education department and discontinue the teacher certification program.
“To me, teacher education is a responsibility all colleges and universities should embrace and I firmly believe that we could have had a truly unique and exceptional program here for years to come, so this was a tough pill to swallow,” Powell said. “But change is a fact of life. Whatever the motivation was, the decision has been made and it seems to be final.
Powell shared his thoughts on if he believes the certification program could return.
“Reversing a decision like this one would take enormous willpower and commitment and the College just simply seems to have other priorities,” Powell said. “I can tell you that I did not agree with this decision, but I have come to accept it and have been told unequivocally that it will not be reversed. I do not expect it to be.”
The educational studies program was formed from what remained of the department, and the minor is still being offered to students.
“We know there’s still plenty of students here who want to be either a special education teacher or an elementary teacher, and if we allowed them to minor, then they would have the foundation in order to go to graduate school or into one of those alternative [certification] tracks,” Stebick said. “Last May, it was the third largest minor on campus.”
The college administration has yet to make an official announcement to students regarding the education department’s dissolution, and Stebick believes that this is a major issue, as students are not informed about the changes and may not understand what the educational studies program still offers them. Chango serves as a tour guide for the college’s admission office and shared that the lack of an official statement has made it difficult to answer questions about the educational studies program. Powell also believes this to be an issue.
“If it were up to me we’d issue a full and transparent explanation for the decision and the reasons it was made. I hope the College chooses to do that,” said Powell.
Despite the multitude of changes to the program, Stebick is excited at the chance to teach classes with fewer state regulations that came from being classified with the Department of Education.
“I am now teaching things that are not being [overseen] by a state and state regulations. I teach a class on creativity called Creativity: Teaching, Learning, and Cross Disciplinary Applications, and it’s amazing,” Stebick said. “There is also the Introduction to Educational Studies course. I love teaching about education inequalities and bringing that to the surface because so many students have had very privileged lives, and they have no idea how hard some folks, even on this campus, have had to get to this point.”
Psychology major and educational studies minor Tristan Neels ’24 has recognized this passion and commitment that Stebick and Powell provide to the educational studies program.
“I think it’s a bit sad to see the dissolution of the department because it’s been a big part of my time here at Gettysburg. However, I think that with the professors that we have at the helm, I have no doubt that the spirit and the overall goals of the Education Department will continue,” Neels said.
Stebick described how she hopes to see the educational studies program evolve in the future.
“I want to continue to see it as a minor. I would love to explore the idea of it as a major… sociology of education or social justice within education,” Stebick said. “I do see that it could be a major, but I don’t see it ever becoming a teacher certification program again because it’s definitely not a priority from administration.”
Grillo echoed similar thoughts regarding the administration›s treatment of the program.
“I feel that it is clear that the college administration is not prioritizing the Educational Studies program,” Grillo said. “It is honestly a shame that the [department] is being dissolved; there are so many amazing professors being displaced and educational opportunities being lost.”
After graduation from Gettysburg, Grillo intends to return home to Massachusetts to attain teacher certification and pursue further education programs there.
Sociology and Spanish double major with a minor in educational studies Julia Piness ’23 also expressed frustration with the college administration’s choices. Starting in the fall of 2022, the College offered an American history master’s degree program for teachers after they had discontinued the teacher certification program.
“From a student perspective, even not as one in the teacher [certification] program, seeing that was disheartening and hypocritical,” Piness said. “As an institution of higher education itself, the College should understand the value of training educators and teaching students about the education system.”
Piness explained the importance that the educational studies program has had for her and the opportunities that have come from participating in the program.
“Professor Stebick and the other professors I had were very dedicated to their classes, advisees, and the program. I am currently applying for jobs at nonprofits focused on education, and I would not have had this passion or career path if it were not for the Educational Studies program,” said Piness.
This article originally appeared on pages 12 to 14 of the March 2023 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.