Congratulations go to Emily Stevens, 2nd grade teacher from McBrayer Elementary School, and Ashley Withrow, 2nd grade teacher from Tilden Hogge Elementary School. After many months of hard work, these two elementary school teachers have received their certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS.) (The NBPTS certification does not replace standard teacher certification, but instead complements the state license.)
The Rowan County School District now has twelve teachers who hold NBPTS certification. In the Rowan County Schools “National Boards club” are Kristen Beighle, Ronetta Brown, Jennifer Cooper, Ganan Fannin, Melissa Fickey, Belinda Hitch, Melissa Jenkins, Amy Keadle, Melissa Marcum, Martha Thompson and its newest members, Emily Stevens and Ashley Withrow. These twelve Rowan County Schools faculty members join over 110,000 fellow teachers across the United States who have received certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards since 1987.
Kentucky now ranks 6th in the nation in the number of teachers who have achieved NBPTS certification in 2014. Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education, said, “Teachers are our front line in preparing Kentucky’s students to face tomorrow’s challenges. This is quite an honor for our teachers and is something that requires a lot of work on their behalf. It improves their instruction and teaching abilities and elevates them professionally. And, in the end, it benefits the children they teach.”
Both Emily Stevens and Ashley Withrow would readily agree with Dr. Holliday’s statement about the National Board certification process being a lot of work. For both teachers, the process was a three-year journey that required sacrifices, dedication and an enormous amount of self-reflection.
“I don’t think either of us could have survived this process without the support that we received from our fellow National Board teachers,” said Mrs. Withrow.
Mrs. Stevens added, “Being able to meet with other teachers who have ‘survived’ this process, like Ronetta Brown and Martha Thompson, helped me so much. They were my sounding boards and my ‘cheerleaders’ throughout this journey.”
Each teacher working toward the National Board certification, a nearly year-long task, must assemble an individual portfolio which includes video samples of teaching techniques as well as analyses of the lessons and the exchanges between the teacher and her students. Teachers who had previously earned their National Board certification could act as mentors and read through the candidates’ materials to be submitted for review. However, they could not make any suggestions or corrections.
An important first step on the road to attaining their national certification was Morehead State University’s EDUC 603, a class taught by Belinda Hitch, who is on loan to Morehead State University as an instructor in the Education Department. The class that Mrs. Hitch teaches helps prepare teachers as they begin their national certification journey.
Teachers have just three years to complete the requirements for National Board certification. These requirements include assembling the portfolio and undergoing a rigorous 2 ½ hour written test. Should they miss the required score on the test or need to revise a section of their portfolio, teachers must complete them within the allotted three-year time frame. It is these requirements that added to the tension and even frustration felt by both Mrs. Stevens and Mrs. Withrow.
“I was able to assemble my entire portfolio in just one year,” said Mrs. Stevens, “but I was so nervous about taking that test. The first two times that I took the test, I missed the necessary score by just a fraction. It was so frustrating.”
In addition to the frustration, Mrs. Withrow, in her final attempt to earn National Board certification, underwent a type of stress that no parent wishes for – watching her child become so ill that she had to be hospitalized. It was during this time that Amy Keadle and Jennifer Cooper, both National Board certified teachers, came to her aid and encouraged her finish and submit her portfolio.
“I had worked so hard for so long on this portfolio, but my focus was on my daughter,” said Mrs. Withrow. “Amy and Jenny weren’t going to let me not submit my portfolio. It was their encouragement and their support that helped me survive the scare with my daughter.”
Mrs. Withrow had also taken the written exam twice before and had, like Mrs. Stevens, missed the required score by fractions of a point. They both mustered the courage to take the written exam for the third time.
As the date came for the release of the scores in late 2014, both Mrs. Withrow and Mrs. Stevens found themselves nervously sitting at their home computers waiting for the minutes tick by before they could access the scores on the NBPTS website.
“When I typed in my password and then saw that word ‘Congratulations,’ I was absolutely overjoyed,” said Mrs. Stevens. “I called my mother and we cried together. It was such a relief.”
“I think I was speechless at first,” said Mrs. Withrow said, speaking of when she learned of her National Board results. “When it finally hit, I cried and screamed for joy.”
Now that they have achieved their National Board certification, both teachers have had time to reflect on their National Board journey and how it has affected them as teachers.
“For me, it has helped my confidence as a teacher and as a person,” said Mrs. Withrow. “This has shown me that if I keep working, and work hard, I can accomplish anything. It’s a lesson that I’ve tried to impart to my students.”
“Working to get my National Board certification was something that I wanted, just for me, but it has given me something else in return. This process has helped me become a better teacher. It has helped me to get to know my students’ needs and understand what each individual needs to succeed.”
When asked if they would recommend the National Board certification process for their fellow teachers, the answer was a unanimous “Absolutely.” But Mrs. Stevens and Mrs. Withrow also wanted to make it understood that the process requires time, persistence and a lot of understanding from family members. They both agreed, though, that the rewards outweigh the challenges, especially with the support of the members of Rowan County Schools “National Boards club.”