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Reflective Teachers are Effective Teachers, and NBCTs are awarded state stipends, by Deborah Gatrell

4/23/2019

By Deborah Gatrell, teacher at Hunter High School in Granite School District and National Board Certified Teacher

Are you looking for more meaningful development as a professional educator? Do you want to up your game in the classroom? Would you like more respect as a teacher? Are you looking for more leadership opportunities? Are you interested in an additional stipend? If two or more of those sound like you, it’s time to consider becoming a National Board Certified Teacher.

It took me three years to achieve certification, but I did it! You have the option to complete the requirements over one to three years now, giving your schedule flexibility. One of the powerful lessons the certification process reinforces is the importance of continuous learning and improvement. There is always something I can do a little better (sometimes a lot better) to help my students. 

Nationally Board Certified Teachers are highly effective because of our commitment to five core propositions: 1) Teachers are committed to students and their learning; 2) Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students; 3) Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning; 4) Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience; and 5) Teachers are members of learning communities. 

It all sounds so simple – and it truly is once you grasp the enormity of it. The certification process forced me to reflect on my practice – what I was doing, why I was doing it, and how it specifically supported student learning – and improve. New teachers often focus on survival by ‘just teaching,’ but that doesn’t always mean we use best practice or effectively modify our instruction for the students in our rooms. These skills come with time and attention. Reflection is the vehicle for improvement and the Board Certification process requires rigorous reflection.

There are two groups in Utah providing support to teachers pursuing Board Certification: the Utah National Board Coalition (UNBC) and the Utah Education Association. UNBC has an amazing facilitator who leads a cohort of teachers from Granite and Salt Lake Districts through the process each year. UEA has facilitators supporting Canyons and Jordan District teachers. Both organizations are working hard to build teacher capacity through this rigorous process. Both will also connect you with an additional Candidate Facilitator who will give you feedback on your reflection work as you demonstrate your accomplished practice.

It’s helpful to have a guide on any challenging journey. I participated in the UNBC cohort when I pursued certification and now I pay it forward by helping other teachers through the Board Certification process with the UEA Jump Start program. Many doors opened for me because of my becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT): Those four letters speak volumes about your effectiveness and credibility as an educator.

If you’re in a district currently supported by NBCT cohorts and you’re interested in becoming certified, reach out and we’ll connect you with your facilitators. If you’re not in a supported district, but would like assistance as you pursue certification, let us and your education association leadership know. We’ll work to expand the UEA Jump Start or UNBC cohort program to your charter or district.

And since you’re probably curious about the cost and stipend if you made it this far, I’ll fill you in. Currently teachers must front the cost and are reimbursed upon achieving certification, but the law just changed and the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) will be writing new rules this summer. In the future, you’ll just have to pay the annual registration fee and USBE will cover the cost of your first attempt on each component, which is a huge cost savings (they’re $475 each and there are four of them). Of course, there will be a screening process to access the funds, and you’ll have to commit to cover any retake fees. This is not for teachers who think they have it all figured out – it’s for teachers open to critical reflection and honest feedback because you want to improve for the students you teach. It’s not a coaching process either – it’s largely self-directed PD with support.

Once you certify, the state will award $1,000 per year to you as a classroom teacher, or $2,000 if you teach in a Title 1 school. This is in addition to any stipends provided by your district. Granite provides an annual $2,500 to NBCTs in the district while Jordan kicks in $2,400 and Canyons awards NBCTs an additional $1,000. If your district doesn’t offer stipends, that’s an area for your association to have a conversation and determine if it should be a priority.

Feel free to contact me with any follow up questions: deborah.gatrell@hsgfellow.org.

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