June 2013 Issue
May 23, 2013

NBCTs are 'great, untapped resource'

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
neira and mcdonald
Caption: NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, left, urges National Board Certified Teachers to become mentors and teacher leaders, like Colleen McDonald, right, of Cambridge FA. McDonald helped create the Great Teachers' Academy to weave together Common Core Learning Standards with the new teacher evaluation process. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira is urging National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) to take the professional milestone another step further - 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 during a celebration in May honoring accomplished teachers from more than 50 Capital Region districts.

"You're a great, untapped resource. Imagine if you had a seat at every policymaking table ... 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. 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 cut back on professional development and mentoring activities.

"Let's help spread the word." he said. "We need to prioritize professional development. We are losing far too many educators in the first five years because they didn't have peer leadership."

Ron Thorpe, president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, said he hopes for a dramatic increase in the number of teachers seeking national board, where certification becomes the norm. "That's how we professionalize teaching," he said. Currently only about 3 percent of teachers nationwide are NBCTs. The board is considering several changes to streamline the rigorous process, such as component testing, to encourage more applicants.

At an NBC Summit after the celebration, several NBCTs provided examples of how they are taking leadership roles in their schools, providing coaching, curriculum activities and professional development. Heather Buskirk, a Johnstown NBCT and Knolls Science Teaching Fellow, runs an NBC support cohort and helped create a pilot STEM School for 20 seniors at her high school which will serve as a center for student and teacher learning.