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Leigh Ann Stewart has achieved the highest credential available to American educators as a National Board Certified Teacher through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Stewart is an art teacher at Independence High School in USD 446.
During the 2011-12 school year, Stewart and nearly a dozen educators from across the state went through the challenging process of becoming National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs).
In late November the teachers were informed their work had measured up – they are now NBCTs.
Stewart earned her certification in early adolescence through young adulthood/art. There are now seven teachers in Kansas with this certification. Stewart is now one of the two NBCTs working in the Independence school district.
A recent comprehensive study by the nonpartisan National Research Council found that students taught by board certified teachers make higher gains on achievement tests than students taught by other teachers.
“This process of board certification is similar to how a doctor becomes certified in a special area,” said Dr. Roger Caswell, former director of Emporia State University’s program which assists teachers working toward national certification. “This is voluntary – no state, school district, or program is demanding them to go through this process. That’s why – a decade after earning their certification the first time – it’s a huge commitment to say, ‘Yes, I want to do it again.’”
While state licensing systems set the basic requirements to teach in each state, National Board Certified Teachers have demonstrated advanced teaching knowledge, skills and practices. National certification takes from one to three years to complete.
The process is often misunderstood to mean a teacher passed a test or was nominated for the award. Alvin Peters, the current director of the program, adds, “National Board certification is a different kind of honor. Teachers must submit extensive documentation of their instruction, including videos of their students at work in the classroom.”
The accomplishment of national board certification benefits the teachers, the schools they work in, and studies have shown NBCTs improve student learning. The program hosted at ESU, Great Plains Center for National Teacher Certification, has a 79% initial certification rate over the past seven years. This is nearly twice the national initial certification rate of 40%. More information about ESU’s program can be found at www.emporia.edu/jones/nbpts/.