A pair of Scotland County educators have taken their teaching to a new level in order to better influence their students’ learning.
Latonya McLean, a Spring Hill Middle School math teacher, and Timothy Johnson, who teaches high school math at Shaw Academy, both received notification of their certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards at the end of last year.
“I’ve always been kind of ambitious, I like to set goals,” McLean said of her motivation to complete the certification process. “Every time I achieve something, there’s something else I want to do for my own self-fulfillment. I think it’s made me a lot more reflective; I really reflect more on what I can do to improve my practices. It helps me tune into what my students are thinking.”
McLean and Johnson were recognized prior to Monday evening’s meeting of the Scotland County Board of Education. “There’s a tremendous amount of dedication that you have to put into it in order to be a National Board certified teacher,” said Superintendent Rick Stout. “It’s a wonderful thing as a parent to know that you have a student in a National Board certified teacher’s classroom.”
Teachers seeking certification create an application portfolio over the course of a school year, which for most teachers involves over 200 hours of work. The schools’ support program for National Board applicants is coordinated by Laura Britt, extraordinary children’s literacy consultant for the NC Department of Public Instruction.
“There is pride in being able to say ‘I’m National Board certified,’” Britt said. “It is very hard work.”
In order to apply for National Board certification, teachers must have at least three years of classroom experience. Application materials include a collection of written portfolios extrapolating a teacher’s personal practices as well as their progress with individual students. Teachers also submit unedited video of their lessons in a full class as well as with a small group of students.
“It’s not just about creating a portfolio, it’s not just about being able to say I can do this or I can do that,” said Britt. “It’s about how you impact students. What is the impact that I have on students in my classroom, and if I’m not impacting students, what can I do about that? That’s what National Board’s about: it’s about looking at yourself.”
For Johnson, 2012 proved a third time charm, as he tried unsuccessfully to complete an application twice before, the first time with only three months between completing his master’s degree and the application deadline. Johnson said that completing the application has led him to reevaluate his teaching method in order to reach struggling students.
“When I came through school, in math, my teachers and professors always said that this is the way you do the problem, and kind of focused you down one track,” he said. “I’d find myself sometimes trying to teach students the easiest way to do something. National Board certification shows you that if one way is not working, don’t overwork yourself trying to force somebody to do it. Give them a different way, and if that way doesn’t work give them something different; just be flexible enough to find ways that I can reach that child. Even if I have to do something that’s totally unorthodox, if it helps that student to understand the problem, that’s what I have to do.”
National Board certified teachers receive a 12 percent pay raise in North Carolina. In addition, National Board certified educators are automatically qualified for teaching licenses in many states outside of the one where they were originally licensed. Teachers must renew every 10 years to maintain their certification.
This year, four Scotland County teachers completed the renewal process: Wagram Primary School fourth grade teacher Kirstie Jorgenson, Spring Hill Middle school eighth grade social studies teacher Dawn Salzlein , Scotland High School technology teacher Lisa Ellis, and Sycamore Lane Middle School band director Wendy Edgerly.
“They’re giving their very best in the classroom because they’re super teachers already, and they go on to become even greater assets when they go through National Board certification, so I congratulate each one of these folks,” said Charles Brown, the school board’s chairman.