Less than two percent of teachers across the nation are awarded certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Four teachers from the Potomac School in McLean have recently earned this achievement.
Science teacher Mary Cahill, art teacher Anna Herzlinger, physical education teacher Carol Hilderbrand and math teacher Sharyn Stein are all NBPTS-certified. Potomac math teacher Jonathan Lindsay is currently working to complete his certification.
"Currently, there are 47,510 National Board certified teachers nationwide, including 905 teachers in Virginia," said James Minichello, Media Manager for NBPTS. "We are pleased that the program continues to grow. In the last year, nearly 7,300 teachers nationwide, including 173 in Virginia achieved National Board certification."
The NBPTS is an independent, non-profit organization that was established in 1987 to encourage excellence in education. It is governed by a board of directors, the majority of whom are classroom teachers. In order to be awarded NBPTS certification, teachers must complete a rigorous application process.
"It takes one to three years to complete, but one of the key aspects is that an overwhelming majority of teachers tell us that it was the best professional development process that they've ever experienced," said Minichello.
It took Anna Herzlinger about seven months to complete her application.
"It involved four essays, two of which involved video taping," said Herzlinger. "Each essay was 14 pages long, and I had to include samples of my students' art work as well as answers to very specific questions."
Herzlinger, who has been teaching for six years, says that the essay questions dealt with how her students examine a theme within her curriculum, how they learn to relate art to the outside world and how they think about and discuss art. In addition, she had to write an essay about her professional development accomplishments and take an exam that tested her knowledge of art history and art teaching practices.
"The two essays that involved videotaping were difficult," said Herzlinger. "Just selecting the footage was challenging because the rules were so specific."
ACCORDING TO THE NBPTS web site, "certification is voluntary and open to anyone with a baccalaureate degree and three years of classroom experience in either a public or private school." The certification is valid for 10 years, but then a teacher must seek renewal. Applying for certification enables teachers to challenge themselves professionally.
"It was a great way to examine what I do and to receive appropriate feedback in order to become an even better and more complete educator," said Sharyn Stein, who has been teaching for 18 years.
Stein said it was difficult to complete the application process while also trying to keep up with her regular duties at Potomac, but that the experience was rewarding.
"It provided me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride," said Stein. "Being certified has also opened many doors to me professionally, such as invitations to workshops, conferences and professional teacher exchanges."
Applying for certification takes approximately one school year to complete, and because of the in-depth nature of the process, teachers are able to get a real chance to examine their instruction style.
"The whole concept behind National Board Certification is to connect all teaching to student learning," said Carol Hilderbrand, who has been teaching for 21 years. "I video-taped my lessons and using a rigorous series of assessments from the National Board as well as The National Standards for my subject matter, I analyzed all my tapes to determine if I was reaching every child in the class."
Mary Cahill, who has been teaching for 25 years, had a similar experience with the process.
"You really have to carve out the time to really reflect on what you did, and it forces you to do it a little more deeply," said Cahill. "My portfolio when I finished was 269 pages long."
Cahill also noted that research has shown that students of NBPTS-certified teachers tend to do better in school.
"It's worth the time because students of those teachers really do benefit," said Cahill.