How Gettysburg prepared Readington Superintendent Jonathan Hart ’04 to lead

Hart at a school board meeting after receiving his award.
At a school board meeting in June, Readington Township School District Superintendent Jonathan Hart ’04 (middle) stands with fellow superintendents from the nomination and selection committee after receiving his award for being named Hunterdon County Superintendent of the Year.

For decades, Gettysburg College has developed well-rounded educational leaders—individuals who take their holistic learning experience and create unique and expanded learning opportunities for students. That liberal arts and sciences education gave Jonathan Hart ’04 the breadth and depth of knowledge and enduring skills he needed to develop a plan to provide free preschool to children in the Readington Township School District in New Jersey.

As the Superintendent of Schools for the Readington Township School District, Hart teamed up with local private preschool providers to bring free schooling to eligible children within the district. In a 40-page application with the New Jersey Department of Education, he outlined a plan for the next three to five years that would expand preschool to more Readington children until all preschool students have a space in a free preschool classroom.

The application was a success, and Readington was awarded $1.5 million to provide more than 100 free seats to eligible children in its first year. The program will expand even more next year with the Readington School District earning an additional $3.3 million that will double the number of free preschool seats to over 200 in 2025.

“It's fantastic, and there was no way that I was going to let the opportunity pass by Readington Township Public Schools,” Hart said. “All it needs is visionary thinking. It needs collaboration and teamwork. There's nothing better for the future of a child's education than establishing early childhood programs.”

Hart reads to children at his school
Hart reads to children at his school.

Hart’s drive and determination to improve the educational outcomes within his school district are a product of his experiences on Gettysburg’s campus. A psychology major and education minor, he absorbed all the knowledge he could within his primary discipline, while also gaining a wide expanse of additional insight as a result of the liberal arts and sciences curriculum. In addition to psychology and education courses, Hart took classes in history, English, mathematics, economics, and more during his four years on campus.

“Gettysburg wasn’t just professional preparation to be a teacher,” said Hart, who was recently named Hunterdon County Superintendent of the Year. “It was a liberal arts preparation to be a creative problem solver and innovator with teacher certification infused into it. That’s what I love about what Gettysburg did for me.”

Hart went on to earn his master’s from The College of New Jersey and earned a certificate in Educational Leadership for Aspiring Principals from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his doctorate from Temple University, a feat he attributes to the mentorship and guidance he received from Gettysburg’s first-class faculty, including Sociology Prof. Divonna Stebick and Psychology Chair Kathy Cain.

“I would have never been set up to do a doctorate had I not learned from great scholars and teachers,” Hart said. “Prof. Stebick helped me find a passion for elementary education and I don't think I would have been as successful as an elementary school teacher having not had her class. I loved my History of Psychological Science class with Prof. Kathy Cain, and now I teach that class as an adjunct instructor at The College of New Jersey.”

Hart and family
Hart with his wife Kara and sons Luke and Logan.

Through its unique approach to learning, Gettysburg has been preparing students for careers in education for more than a century. Students learn critical thinking skills as they pursue multiple learning experiences both on campus and off. As an undergraduate, Hart augmented his own professional resume by teaching abroad in England for a semester. He was also a member of Sigma Nu fraternity, served on the Honor Commission, and worked on an honors research thesis alongside Psychology Prof. Nathalie Goubet.

“We don't just support teachers; we support education leaders,” said Stebick, who is the director of the Office of Teacher Education and Certification. “We don't want you to be just a teacher. We want you to lead, whether it's in your classroom, on a soccer field, or wherever. We teach students to be true professionals with the autonomy, content knowledge, and pedagogical skills they need to be successful in in the classroom.”

Recently, Gettysburg announced an expansion of its teacher certification program, which is approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition to music education (pre-K-grade 12), students can pursue certification in biology (grades 7-12 secondary), English (grades 7-12 secondary), mathematics (grades 7-12 secondary), and social studies (grades 7-12 secondary). Students can also pursue an educational studies minor—a non-certificate program that can be completed alongside any field of study or major.

A product of Gettysburg’s commitment to education, Hart is excited about the opportunity this added expansion means for not only his alma mater’s success, but also the continued growth and development of future educational leaders needed in today’s school systems.

“You've got this really strong and liberal arts background with all of the core tenants of the college's mission—leadership, creative problem solving, innovative thinking, creativity,” Hart said. “Layer teacher certification with it and we’ll have great teachers for the next generation.”

Discover how Gettysburg is preparing today’s students to be the educational leaders of tomorrow.

By Corey Jewart
Photos provided by Jonathan Hart ’04
Posted: 06/25/24

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