National Board Certification, Professional Development
May 03, 2013

National Board Certified Teachers are an 'untapped resource'

Author: Sylvia Saunders
national board certification workshop
Caption: Ron Thorpe, president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, talks with NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira and SED Assistant Commissioner Stephanie Wood-Garnett. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Achieving National Board Certification is a huge professional milestone, but NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira urged National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) from the Capital Region to take another step up and become teacher leaders.

"Imagine if we were able to tap into the expertise of our state's 1,400 National Board-Certified teachers," Neira said at a celebration Thursday honoring hundreds of "master teachers" from more than 50 Capital Region districts. "You're such a great untapped resource. Imagine if you all had a seat at every policymaking table... if you all took on leadership roles. Not just to become administrators; I'm talking about serving as mentors, coaches and classroom leaders."

Neira said the National Board Certification process is a model for what a meaningful evaluation process looks like and the importance of ongoing professional growth.

Keynoter Ron Thorpe, president of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, said teachers are simply not getting the support they need to thrive. As a comparison, he cited the number of adults assigned to help coach the average high school varsity football team.

"You have all these coaches for 25 boys, all of whom are pretty similar and capable. You have a head coach, a defensive line coach, the offensive line, etc.," he said. In contrast, he said, there's the typical teacher who's teaching 25 third-graders. "Now I think teaching 25 third-graders how to read is at least as complex as football," he said. "And you do it alone. Maybe you've got a teaching assistant if you're lucky."

national board certification workshop

Photo: Erin Gilrein and Jennifer Wolfe, NBCT's from Oceanside, have been conducting professional development programs to help Long Island colleagues with new evaluation requirements like collecting student achievement evidence. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Ken Slentz, Senior Deputy Commissioner of the State Education Department, agreed, noting the importance of peer leadership cannot be understated.

"You are models for what we need to do," said Slentz, who emphasized it is short-sighted for districts to be cutting back on professional development and mentoring activities. "Let's help spread the word. We need to prioritize professional development. We are losing far too many educators those first five years because they didn't have peer leadership."

If teaching is going to claim its rightful state as a true profession, then teachers and other practitioners must make sure their voice guides the work, Thorpe said. "If we don't do it, someone else will. And I guarantee you they're not going to do it as well."