December 8, 2011
Eleven Henry County teachers recently achieved National Board certification, the highest certification possible in the teaching profession.
The certification is done by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The board’s mission is to advance student learning and achievement by establishing the definitive standards and systems for certifying accomplished educators, providing programs and advocating policies that support excellence in teaching and learning, and engaging National Board certified teachers and leaders in that process, according to a news release.
Federal stimulus funds were used to cover the costs associated with the certification process, the release said. Melany Stowe, schools spokesman, said Harvest Foundation and local funds also were used.
“By using stimulus funds in this manner, the school board and administration have made a true investment in our teachers that will benefit our students and other teachers for years to come,” J. David Martin, acting superintendent, said in the release.
The process costs close to $3,500 per teacher, school officials said earlier this year.
The school system provided resources to teachers pursuing their National Board certification that included weekly meetings with two Henry County teachers, Pamela Drews and Becki Bishop, who already had achieved National Board certification.
Bishop, a librarian at Campbell Court Elementary School, earned board certification in 2007. She has 10 years of experience and earned an undergraduate degree at Averett University and a graduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Drews, a first-grade teacher at Rich Acres Elementary School, earned certification in 2000 and was recertified last year. She has 36 years of experience and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
“Achieving certification was a personal goal I set for myself while I was working on my master’s degree,” Bishop said. “The process encouraged me to honestly critique my teaching and pushed me to look at new ways of doing things to improve student learning.”
The National Board certification process takes about one year to complete. Teachers begin by creating a portfolio detailing their teaching strategies with in-depth examples, including videos, and they must pass a series of tests.
The process is rigorous, and once certification is achieved, teachers must seek re-certification every 10 years.
Teachers who earned the certification this year have between five and 29 years of experience.
Janet Lewis, an English teacher at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School who has 16 years of experience, said the certification process helped her look at teaching in a new way.
“When you have been teaching as long as I have, it’s easy to become complacent,” Lewis said. “The board process forced me to examine my classroom through a new lens. As a result, I am able to bring more reflective practices to my students.”
Lewis earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia, where she is pursuing her doctorate.
In January, school officials said 42 teachers were taking part in the first group, or “cohort,” of teachers pursuing National Board certification. Of those, 38 completed the process, Stowe said, and 11 passed all the requirements.
Those who did not pass can retake the final test, Stowe said.
Fourteen county teachers are part of a second group currently working on certification, Stowe added. Their work is being funding by a combination of stimulus, Harvest, Title II and local funds, Stowe said.
LaDonna Varner, an English teacher at Bassett High School, is one of the 11 teachers who earned National Board certification this year. Varner has 18 years of experience and has an undergraduate degree from James Madison University and a graduate degree from Hollins University.
“Ultimately, I wanted to strengthen my teaching practices and help students achieve in my classroom, but the National Board process offered so much more,” Varner said. “The rigor and increased expectations of the portfolios and testing requirements were brutal, and I felt a sense of accomplishment when I received that passing score. My hard work seemed to matter. My dear friend and colleague put it best when she said that I ‘passed the beasts!’”
Several of the teachers said the National Board certification process encouraged them to reflect on their teaching styles and analyze new ways to reach their students.
“Throughout the entire certification process, I learned to reflect on my teaching in a more meaningful way than ever before,” said Lindsay Favero, a Spanish teacher at Magna Vista High School. “I became more connected to the learning of my students. This has caused me to analyze the teaching and the learning within my classroom more thoroughly, which I hope leads to improved instruction.”
Favero, who has 10 years of teaching experience, has an undergraduate degree from Lenoir-Rhyne College and a graduate degree from Radford University.
The following requirements must be met before applying for National Board certification:
• Hold a bachelor’s degree;
• Have completed three full years of teaching/counseling experience; and
• Possess a valid state teaching/counseling license for that period of time, or, if teaching where a license is not required, have taught in schools recognized and approved to operate by the state.
Also among the Henry County teachers who earned National Board certification are:
• Joan Eastland, a third-grade teacher at Axton Elementary School. She has 12 years of experience and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Averett University.
• Cheryl Gerhart, a Spanish teacher at Bassett High School, has an undergraduate degree from Kutztown University and graduate degrees from Penn State University and Regent University. She has 29 years of experience.
• Amy Hairfield, a fifth-grade teacher at John Redd Smith Elementary School, earned an undergraduate degree from Averett University and a graduate degree from Radford University. She has 13 years of experience.
• Kim Handy, a second-grade teacher at Drewry Mason Elementary School, has an undergraduate degree from Radford University and a graduate degree from Averett University. She has 18 years of experience.
• Jenny Lester, an Algebra I teacher at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, has an undergraduate degree from Radford University and a graduate degree from Virginia Tech. She has 18 years of experience.
• Amanda Morris, an English teacher at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, has an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and a graduate degree from the College of St. Scholastica. Morris has nine years of experience.
• Michelle K. Pace, a fourth-grade teacher at John Redd Smith Elementary School, has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Old Dominion University. Pace has 10 years of Experience.
• Frannie Uitto, an English teacher at Laurel Park Middle School. Uitto has five years of experience. She graduated from Radford University.
“The process of getting nationally certified allowed me to take a hard look at the way I teach, how I incorporate parent involvement and my involvement in the school system,” Uitto said. “I learned that the key to success is to work as a team between students, parents and administrators. I learned how to make lessons more challenging and valuable for student success.”
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