The New Jersey Network of National Board Certified Teachers honored 36 New Jersey school teachers who recently attained National Board Certification. On May 12, these newly-minted National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) received certificates recognizing their achievement during an award ceremony at NJEA headquarters in Trenton. Representatives from EIRC, the New Jersey Department of Education, and the American Federation of Teachers were also on hand to offer their congratulations. Many of the honorees were accompanied by their principals and superintendents.
"These are some of the most accomplished teachers in the state. National Board Certification is one of the best things to foster the teaching profession,” said Dr. Walter Jordan-Davis, Regional Director of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). “These teachers have improved student achievement and performance by reflecting on their practice.”
New Jersey's National Board Certification program began in 2001 with just ten participants; now New Jersey boasts over 200 NBCTs. Included in these ranks is alternate route teacher Sven Strnad of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District.
Strnad, who teaches 5th grade at Millstone River School, says of his new certification: "You're never done learning. As teachers we must set an example for our kids." Strnad added that he had something to prove by obtaining National Board Certification: "as a second career teacher and a male in an elementary setting, I wanted to demonstrate that I have the qualities to be here."
A rigorous process
National certification is awarded to teachers who successfully complete an assessment process that analyzes their practice through the most rigorous set of standards for K—12 teachers in the U.S. The process consists of assessment center exercises and portfolio entries. The portfolio includes a video recording requirement.
"Watching myself teach on video was a real eye opener. It made me see weaknesses and strengths that I didn't realize that I had," newly accredited NBCT Kelly Ann Hoskins said. "The process made me more in tune with kids as individuals rather than an entire class," she added. Hoskins teaches 5th grade at Erial Elementary School in the Gloucester Township School District.
The portfolio also includes a component on the educator's role outside of the classroom. Pat Holmes, NBCT of Gloucester County School District's Ann A. Mullen Middle School, explains: "The process challenged me to understand how important it is to get into the community. We have to make parents part of our school team," she said.
A journey, not a destination
Holly Gamble, a 2002 National Board Certified Teacher of Newark Public Schools, spoke at the event and thanked the new crop of NBCTs for their hours of individual work videotaping, writing, rewriting, and facing challenges. Becoming a NBCT is "not a destination, but a journey," she said.
The program's guest speaker, Peggy Stewart, is a NBCT herself, having earned the honor in 2004. Like Gamble, she spoke of the certification process as a journey and reflected this metaphor through a slideshow presentation of her recent travels to Pakistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. Stewart, a social studies teacher, decided to take such a trip because she wanted to further her content knowledge in order to improve her lessons on Asian cultures. "Whatever we do, as teachers we need to continually look at what are the needs of our schools and our students," she said.
Stewart now works for the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning (CFTL), an organization, funded by NJEA, which empowers teachers to evoke change in the profession. Stewart announced that the CFTL is offering each of the 36 honorees a $1,000 grant to attend a week-long session of courses in mathematics and science that will earn them professional development hours.
Striving for excellence
The NBCTs in attendance were encouraged to join the New Jersey National Board Network. The network is described by Michael Fletcher, a 2008 NBCT who teaches in Brick Township Public Schools, as "an organization striving to have a voice in educational reform." Fletcher elaborated, stating: "We have an overwhelming objective to help all ongoing professional development that enriches all lives of all students."
Enriching students' education experiences is the reason behind Kristen Faust's decision to become National Board Certified. "Since I began teaching at Biotechnology High School, becoming a NBCT is the one thing I've done that changed me the most," she said.
Faust, who began her career at a Camden charter school and now works in the Monmouth County Vocational School District teaching 11th grade math at Biotechnology High School, summarized her drive for national certification by saying, "We get the top kids from the County in our school, so it's easy to become complacent. My students are constantly learning and growing, and they deserve a teacher who wants to be better, too."
"New Jersey approach" earns international award