Calling it the best professional development she's ever had, Syracuse math teacher Laurie Holtsbery said she learned a lot about herself as she pursued National Board Certification.
"It's a very self-reflective process," Holtsbery said at a recent celebration and press event in Syracuse. "I really found myself constantly questioning what I was doing."
For Jeanette Capria-Lazzaro, a Syracuse art teacher, seeking National Board Certification was a way of proving critics wrong. Though she was busy teaching and parenting a 2-year-old, she was motivated in part by the "horrible" political attacks routinely aimed at teachers — especially those working in high-needs districts.
"I wanted to prove that we are highly educated, well-trained teachers ... and that it is a choice we make that we want to work with inner city children, children at risk — to give them the most opportunity that they can ever have," Capria-Lazzaro said.
Holtsbery and Capria-Lazzaro were just two of this year's 106 New York teachers who earned National Board Certification. NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino honored the Class of 2014 at a celebration in Syracuse in January.
[Download this year's list of this year's 106 New York teachers who earned National Board Certification]
"National Board Certified Teachers — past, present and future — are leaders in their own profession," Fortino said. "They undertake a challenging and rewarding journey into the art of teaching — and their own teaching practice."
"These teachers have demonstrated their commitment to their profession and their students by examining and developing their practice at the highest level," said Syracuse TA President Kevin Ahern. "They are an inspiration to all of us."
Syracuse School Superintendent Sharon Contreras commented how appropriate it was to host the event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. The highly accomplished educators, she said, represented Dr. King's "civil rights era dream" that every student be provided the opportunity for a high-quality education.
Teachers "dug their heels in the ground and made certain they kept up with their profession, their home and their craft," Contreras said.
The 106 educators are among more than 4,000 nationwide who this year achieved the profession's gold standard for accomplished teaching. The rigorous undertaking involves a performance-based peer review process similar to board certification in medicine.
New York ranks 11th in the nation for new NBCTs, thanks to support from the union, teacher centers and locally based support groups. Fortino said the state's Albert Shanker grant program, which provides funding to help teachers seek certification, has been essential and must continue to be funded.
"We need to be able to bring this professional learning opportunity to more educators," Fortino said. "It's an outstanding program because it was created by teachers, for teachers."
State funding to encourage teachers to pursue National Board Certification has already been used up this budget year and the union will be making the case for more funding in the upcoming state budget.
"NBC is one of many pathways for teacher leadership and we need to do more," Fortino said.
With a total of 1,712 NBCTs, New York ranks 17th nationally, according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
WANT TO KNOW MORE
Teachers interested in pursuing National Board Certification can find resources online, including tips, support programs and a list of districts that offer incentives. Visit www.nysut.org/nationalboard, www.nbcny.org or www.nbpts.org.