Bridging the Gap: Innovations in Inclusive Education

By Paige Penfield, Content Marketing Strategist

Leighann Forbes, Ed.D., associate professor and associate dean for the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, is keeping Gannon on the forefront of education through her work with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Consortium.

In 2022, the PDE adopted three new sets of program framework guidelines, including Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education (CR-SE) guidelines. Forbes served as an advisor with her PDE work group in reviewing these competencies and was also selected by the PEDC to raise awareness of them during the PAC-TE spring 2023 conference. We sat down with her to learn what this means for current students and educators.

Q: What are these new competencies and why are they important for educators?

A: The competencies focus on research-based practices for understanding yourself and understanding your students. This is important because our K-12 population is becoming increasingly diverse, and we want every student to be successful. It’s helpful for current and future teachers to recognize that they might have a different backstory than their students. This difference could lead to a potential barrier from helping their students reach their full potential.

Q: Who benefits from these competencies?

A: The CR-SE competencies benefit our teachers because they ensure every educator has this specialized knowledge and skill set. The ultimate beneficiaries, however, are students in K-12 and in higher education, who have been on the receiving end of instruction that supports success academically, socially and emotionally. These competencies are a key component of what will help future employees and leaders thrive.

Q: How are Gannon education students who are entering the workforce benefitting from this?

A: I believe the work we’re doing at Gannon is valuable for schools who employ our graduates. In Pennsylvania, districts are tasked with educating all current teachers in these practices and this will take both time and money. By hiring graduates who have already completed training in culturally relevant and sustaining education practices, schools will build capacity to support their learners in a cost-effective manner.

Q: What else does Gannon have planned regarding these competencies?

A: Our Community of Practice, where we represent Gannon as one of about 15 institutions in Pennsylvania, spent the past year researching, sharing information, learning more about the CR-SE competencies and planning for implementation. As a result, we’ve created a toolkit with ways the competencies can be incorporated into curriculum to assist teacher preparation programs with implementation.

To view more of Forbes’s work and learn about Gannon’s education programs, visit

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Erie, Pa 16541
(814) 871-7000

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