Nationally certified teachers honored

January 11, 2012

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Twelve teachers who earned National Board certification and another who earned certification and later recertification were recognized Tuesday at Henry County Schools’ first National Board Certification Recognition Banquet.

National Board certification is the highest certification possible in the teaching profession.

School board Chairman Kathy Rogers, who took part in the event at The Gallery in Martinsville, said the school system decided to use federal stimulus money to invest in this professional development, which she believes will reap benefits for a long time.

DeWitt House, the school system’s assistant superintendent of instruction/accountability and student achievement, estimated that it cost nearly $3,500 per teacher for the board certification process, from federal stimulus funds, supplemented by funds from Harvest Foundation and local funds.

National Board certification is administered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which works to advance student learning by establishing definitive standards for certifying accomplished teachers.

Many of the teachers honored Tuesday brought family members who supported them to the event.

Amy Hairfield, a fifth-grade teacher at John Redd Smith Elementary, came with her husband, Ben, and their sons, Dylan, 9, and Colby, 7.

Colby and Dylan said they are proud of their mom, a sentiment her husband echoed.

The certification process is a rigorous one, Hairfield said.

“This was the most absolutely rigorous program,” she said. “Every difficult story I had heard (about it) was true.”

But it helped her as a teacher, she said. “It makes you step back on a daily basis and reflect on how you meet the needs of the kids in your classroom.”

Dylan said he helped his mom during the process.

“I would stay outside so she could have quiet time and focus on her work,” he said.

To apply for National Board certification, a teacher must hold a bachelor’s degree and have 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, according to a news release.

It took more than a year for the new recipients to complete the National Board certification process, which involves creating a portfolio and passing a multi-part test, among other things, according to the release and DeWitt House, the school system’s assistant superintendent of instruction/accountability and student achievement. The portfolio details the teacher’s teaching strategies with in-depth examples, including videos.

Recipient Jenny Lester, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade Algebra I at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, said National Board certification “probably was the most challenging advancement in my profession I’ve tried to do. It put a microscope on how I teach and what I do to help” students learn.

Kim Handy, a second-grade teacher at Drewry Mason Elementary School, shared similar thoughts.

“It required a lot of time, a lot of sacrifices, and you had to prioritize things” because there was a limited amount of time to complete the process, Handy said. Watching herself teach on videos made her justify why she was teaching a certain way, she added.

Cheryl Gerhart, a Spanish teacher at Bassett High School, kept track of the time it took. “I spent 450 hours,” close to 400 hours on the portfolio and about 50 hours for the test, she said.

Being single, the demands on her during the board certification process were a little easier than for teachers with families, Gerhart said, but still “it was very stressful.”

Michelle Pace, a fourth-grade teacher at John Redd Smith Elementary, said her family and the school system supported her throughout the process.

“Henry County Schools was very generous in helping us, supporting us. ... If it hadn’t been for them (the school system), I wouldn’t have considered it. They backed us 100 percent ... ,” she said.

Pamela Drews, a first-grade teacher at Rich Acres Elementary School, earned certification in 2000 and was recertified in 2010. “It’s an eye-opening process. You can learn so much about yourself and how you teach,” she said.

Others who recently earned National Board certification are:

• Lindsay Favero, a Spanish teacher at Magna Vista High School.

• LaDonna Varner, an English teacher at Bassett High School.

• Joan Eastland, a third-grade teacher at Axton Elementary School.

• Janet Lewis, an English teacher at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School.

• Amanda Morris, an English teacher at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School.

• Frannie Uitto, an English teacher at Laurel Park Middle School.

Also recognized was Becki Bishop, a librarian at Campbell Court Elementary School, who earned board certification in 2007.

Drews and Bishop, having already achieved board certification, provided weekly meetings for the group, or cohort, during the board certification process.


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