July/August 2022 Issue
- National Board Certification
June 19, 2022

5 Questions for Rebecca Benjamin

Source: NYSUT United
5 questions

5 Questions for Rebecca Benjamin, Schenectady Federation of Teachers

1. Earning National Board Certification is an impressive feat anytime — but you did it during a pandemic. What was it like?

Throughout the pandemic, I have tried to appreciate the “gift of time” that has been granted. While many activities were put on hold, I could dive into lesson plans and data analysis. Pursuing National Board Certification had always been a goal of mine. The pandemic accelerated my progress by creating virtual teaching opportunities with accessible opportunities for video recording, and time for writing and revision.

2. What did you learn about yourself during the process? How has it impacted your teaching?

I feel effective as an educator when I connect instruction to student needs. Moving through the components of the process prompted me to re-examine how I approach assessments, interventions, instruction and professional development. I recognized improvement in my practice as students made measurable gains when they were given an active role participating in monitoring their progress through activities directly related to content-area goals and instructional strategies. It is rewarding to present students with appropriate opportunities for learning, and experience joy with them as they recognize their personal growth.

3. You attended NYSUT’s Writing Institute administered by the Catskill Teacher Center. How did that help?

The supports in place for teachers to pursue board certification are absolutely invaluable. Typically, the expense is daunting, and the (unionbacked) Shanker grant helped remove some of the monetary burden. The assistance provided by my school district and Catskill Teacher Center has been instrumental in guiding my process. Other NBCTs brought important insight and perspectives, and contributed feedback that helped me rethink and clarify my plans and reporting. The virtual meetings and online conferencing allowed me to benefit from the expertise of educators across the state.

4. Schenectady has the state’s largest number of NBCTs outside of New York City. What other supports does your district provide to encourage teachers to pursue board certification?

Schenectady CSD values the process, and our teacher center provides information and support in completing the NBCT components. There were several wonderful and encouraging mentors willing to provide advice, answer questions and offer feedback. Schenectady FT’s contract provides a stipend for NBCTs.

5. What advice would you give colleagues about seeking National Board Certification?

Many nights were spent working with only the company of my nocturnal hedgehogs. The experience was worthwhile and I enjoyed analyzing my teaching and finding ways to better align my data and instruction. I was simultaneously working on my doctoral dissertation, and it was motivating to have a variety of related projects to prevent burn-out on one task. I would definitely recommend starting after achieving tenure, since that is when teachers are eligible for the Shanker grant!