NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira and State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. welcomed two dozen Capital Region teachers to the coveted status of National Board certification Tuesday, in a celebration that affirmed NYSUT's support for this prestigious accomplishment.
The ceremony at Watervliet High School also recognized the new statewide class of all 165 nationally certified teachers. Each completed a rigorous process of assessments, analysis and written exercises from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that can take up to three years.
New York State Teacher Centers have long served as regional hubs for information about the certification process, by holding informational meetings for potential candidates and answering questions along the way.
The Watervliet school system had a double celebration Tuesday: Three of its teachers - Michaeleen Backus, Todd Birmingham and Megan Cahill - achieved national board certification, making them also the first teachers in the city's history to do so.
All the newly certified teachers exemplify impressive dedication, King told the gathering.
"Certainly, you are leaders in teacher education," said King, who lauded NYSUT's long support for the certification process. "I share Maria's hope that the next year we'll have even more nationally board certified teachers, and I envy the students in your classrooms."
Neira drew a laugh when she noted that the recognition comes just in time for the winter break – in what may be these teachers' first free time in years.
"The commissioner, the Board of Regents and NYSUT share the most important goals for education, and that is ensuring quality teaching; closing the education gap; and ensuring that every child in the state gets a quality education," Neira said. "Each one of these achievers took ownership of and responsibility for their professional growth."
NYSUT has long supported National Board Certification, and was instrumental in the establishment of the National Board Council of New York State Network, which created a statewide system to increase the number of National Board candidates, and to support those undergoing the certification process.
At Tuesday's meeting, Neira singled out for special thanks two of the many people who make up that network: Annette Romano, who is the statewide coordinator of that effort; and Maureen Shiland, a Saratoga retiree who is one of the dozens of educators around the state who work as "candidate support providers." Shiland worked closely with the Watervliet candidates in this year's class.
One of the newly certified Watervliet teachers, Todd Birmingham, took the opportunity during the ceremony to encourage other teachers to aim for National Board certification. He thanked those responsible for supporting him during his candidacy: NYSUT, Romano, Shiland and Watervliet High School Principal and superintendent-appointee Lori Caplan.
Romano and Shiland, he said, deserved special thanks.
"They were really brilliant," Birmingham said. "They really guided us."