Kari Taggart, Janet Parrott, Marie Leary, Laura Harvey and Kristen Coopride became Certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a feat achieved by only a small percentage of teachers.
“Laura, to her credit, assembled a group of people and we really felt like we brought a well-rounded skill set, which would benefit everyone,” said Taggart, a sixth grade math and science teacher at Fremont Middle School. “I don’t think there’s any one of us who felt like we could do this on our own. What we accomplished is very rare. We managed to get our group, we set a goal, and we did not allow any one of us to let our personal lives and crises get in the way. We built each other up when each one of us was down and wanted to quit. It is pretty remarkable.”
Taggart received her certification in December 2019, while the other four got their confirmation in December 2020.
“It’s all for personal reasons why we’re all together,” said Leary, a TAP teacher at Fullerton IV. “In order to do this we each bring special talents to our team. So, besides the pay step, and let’s be clear there is a pay step as well when we move over a column due to obtaining national boards. However, being known as part of that 3% and a master in our field was definitely a draw for us.”
Roseburg Public Schools already employed two teachers who were nationally certified, Sherryl Bailey and Andrea Berggreen. Bailey is a special education teacher at Fir Grove who was National Board Certified in 2002 and Berggreen a learning specialist at Jo Lane Middle School was certified in 2007.
Once the teacher attains the certification, they will need to renew it every five years.
Bailey helped the new certified teachers in the process and Harvey said she was part of the support group.
“She’s a real leader and a champion for national boards, and what it can do for you as a teacher, and she was always available to us and encouraged us,” said Harvey, the talented and gifted specialist for the district.
Harvey rallied and recruited the teachers at the start of the process, and the group started meeting weekly to work toward their goal of certification.
Before starting toward their goal, the teachers attended a 4 1/2-day seminar about what the process would be like. Melrose Elementary second grade teacher Parrott still has a 3-inch binder filled with instruction on how to prepare.
They each spent hundreds of hours working on getting National Board Certification demonstrating their knowledge, skills and practice and by completing four components: three portfolio entries and a computer-based assessment.
And when a pandemic closed schools and created a lot of uncertainty, especially at the end of last school year, they continued on their path.
“One of the components requires two videos,” said Coopride, a learning specialist at Fullerton IV. “I had one video that I knew I was going to use but I needed a second video that showcased a small group of students. I was able to pull one of my reading groups on the last day of school in March and film the lesson. Once schools had been closed in March, I was unable to collect any new data. I was fortunate enough that I had been collecting data from my groups all year long and I had what I needed for each of the components.”
But Parrott wasn’t so lucky. She was missing a final video component and for most of April and May of last school year, the school district didn’t allow Zoom meetings.
“I got special permission to Zoom, as long as the principal was on with me,” Parrott said. “Well, it was hard to tee up a time where she could be with me because she was in her own meetings. I was really sweating right down to the line to get that video. And, you know, not have kids doing somersaults on their bed while we’re trying to do a Zoom meeting.
“I got it done within the time frames. There’s a lot of people that couldn’t. They had to wait until this fall, until they could resume and then they have a different date where they find out and I was like ‘I’m done, I don’t want to carry this on any longer, I want to know in December.’”
The pandemic also shifted the teachers’ approach to learning. They went from meeting in person, to meeting via Zoom and sharing documents so that they could be edited before submission.
When asked how the certification would help them in the classroom, Parrott said she thinks more deeply about her teaching and is able to make focused adjustments when necessary.
“This program does not train you, it’s not a master’s degree. It doesn’t train you or teach you anything. It puts you through the process of using every aspect of your skillset, every aspect of your relationship with it, and holding you to a standard that is extremely high in our ability to connect kids to the learning. Now that we have reflected and written and worked, and we have refined our practices as a result, there is no question that teachers who go through this process are better for having done it. It identifies, it doesn’t teach you how to be a leader in your field. It identifies who the leaders are in your chosen field of teaching. I feel confident that I can lead my colleagues, and coach, and be able to help my colleagues become even better teachers. It’s not just the kids who will benefit in our classrooms.”
And when everything was finally submitted, they each had to wait months before they learned the results.
“This process is two years of weekly check-ins and helping each other,” Taggart said. “Two years of commitment to this process, full time jobs, families, lots of tears, lots of wanting to quit. Many start this process and never finish. Because it can be brutal. We got it together and we did not allow each other to quit, and we saw each other through to the end, and then the miracle of all miracles we all passed and can celebrate together.”
They each said they were almost in disbelief when they saw that they had made it.
“What is that: achieve certification? What does that mean?,” Leary remembers thinking. “I just remember going: what does that mean exactly, because my page didn’t have the fireworks either and last week it said in process. So I took a deep breath and I didn’t tell anybody —none of the kids yet. And it took a little bit. And then it was like ‘OK. Boom. Did it.’”