More PFT Members Achieve Gold Standard for Educators

Saturday, February 1, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Plainedge Federation of Teachers,
It is with distinct honor that our newsletter recognizes two PFT members: MS Art Teacher Mable Ting and 5th Grade West Teacher Jenny Avgeris, who just joined the growing list of PFT educators achieving National Board Certification. Our impressive list of teachers who have already attained the "gold standard" for educators include West Art Teacher Chris Fusaro, HS Math Teacher Lawrence Maggio, 5th Grade West Teacher Elena Phillips, and AIS West Teacher, Jenny Seaman. These teachers are all excellent examples of the many outstanding educators in Plainedge who work extremely hard to help their students achieve their full potential.
According to our State Union NYSUT," Achieving national certification is extraordinarily challenging. Candidates typically spend 200-400 hours of their own time having their teaching assessed against rigorous standards through an extensive series of performance-based assessments, including teaching portfolios, student work samples, videos of their lessons, and thorough analyses and reflection of the candidate's teaching and student learning. The process involves written exercises that probe the depth of the candidate's subject-area knowledge, as well as their understanding of how to teach those subjects." These PFT members have not only demonstrated that they are experts in their content area, but they are also extremely knowledgeable about their students. Knowing how to best help children learn and grow is even more evidence that PFT teachers make a significant difference in the lives of their students.
Please take a minute to learn more about our two new National Board Certified teachers and the certification process they went through, as we honor them in this newsletter and wish them nothing but continued success in their teaching careers! In solidarity.
Jenny Avgeris
1. What made you decide to pursue National Board Certification?
It was something that I have wanted to accomplish since the beginning of my career. I knew I would have to wait until my children were older, since it is a very time-consuming and extensive process.   I made the decision three years ago that it was the time.  
2. About how long did it take you to complete? 
It took me three years to complete.  I completed component 1 (Content Knowledge - Exam) and component 2 (Differentiated Instruction -  Student Writing) the first year.  I then completed component 3 (Teaching Practice and Learning Environment - Science and Social Studies video recordings and analysis).  I had to view the lessons and take a deeper look into my teaching practice and the classroom environment.   I finally completed component 4 this year (Effective and Reflective Practitioner), where I developed units of study with assessments.  The data gathered drove further instruction to allow all students to become successful.


3. What was the most difficult part of the process? 

I spent the first two years worrying about what National Board "expects to see" in my teaching rather than what "needs to be taught" based on student need.  Once I allowed students to drive their own instruction based on individual interests and needs, the process became easier.   Reflecting on my instruction and student learning became a daily practice which, in turn, provided the data I needed to complete the components.  


4. What was the most interesting or rewarding part of the process? 

I was given the opportunity to send home surveys to both students and parents to learn more about my students.  Once I analyzed the surveys, I was able to plan for lessons that incorporated their learning modalities (visual, tactile, auditory, kinesthetic) to reach all learners.  This practice has changed my teaching, and I will continue to incorporate these ideas in the future.

5. What advice would you give to any PFT member who is contemplating whether or not to pursue National Board Certification? 

Make sure to read all the directions, familiarize yourself with the process and the Five Core Propositions.  Constantly refer back to the directions.  Remember that your evidence does not have to be "perfect" in order to submit.  They want to see professional growth through reflection.  A stronger component is one in which you have reflected on your practice and made modifications in order to reach your students.  National Board wants to see you grow during the process.
One final thought: Please look into the Albert Shankar grant before you begin.  However, do not sign up for more than one component until you have been approved for the grant.  Once you have been awarded the grant, then you can register for as many components as you want during an assessment cycle. 
Mable Ting

1. What made you decide to pursue national board certification?

My department colleague Chris had already achieved certification years ago, and attending an informational workshop led by him planted a seed. A few months later, I learned that Maura Czachor and Jessica Kiernan, math teachers from my building, were going to apply for the Shanker Grant, which would pay for the entire certification process. So with that as encouragement, I decided to apply myself. It turned out that the grant was fairly easy to get, as long as you applied early, and I found myself on the path toward certification.
2. About how long did it take you to complete?
I decided to complete all four components in one year. I applied for the grant in July and completed all the entries by the following June.
3. What was the most difficult part of the process?
The most difficult part was understanding the directions. They were written in dense educational jargon that required a lot of deciphering. Once I figured out exactly what the prompts were asking for, the rest was just about collecting data and analyzing the results.
4. What was the most interesting or rewarding part of the process?
I love that the entire process was based on what I do in my classroom. It was very content specific. Every component delved deeply into why and how I teach art to my students. Even though it was frustrating at times, I found it valuable to be forced to articulate my teaching process, my goals for my students, and how I evaluate their work.
5. What advice would you give to any PFT member who is contemplating whether or not to pursue National Board Certification?
It's time consuming, but it's not rocket science! So much of it is based on what you already do in your classroom all the time: knowing your content area, knowing your students, assessing learning, taking effective professional development, and reflecting on your own teaching. The hardest part is finding the time outside of work and personal commitments to get it all done.
Some final thoughts:If you're considering it or have committed to doing it, I'd recommend joining a few related Facebook groups. One that I found especially helpful was NBCT Support. Every question I had, I was able to find answers to on this forum.
I'm also not sure if doing it in one year is for everyone. Some might be better off taking at least two years. Although it feels great to be done now, the process was overwhelming at times. If you're going to space it out, I would recommend starting with components 2 and 3 in the first year because those are more like preparing for a few in-depth lessons, which feels familiar. That same year, I would sign up for any professional development that sparks your interest to prepare for component 4. I would read component 4 for a better idea of what PD is needed while collecting some relevant data, but I would save the bulk of that component for the following year, while at the same time studying for the content area test.
I'm honored to have had the support of so many people in the District while I was pursuing this certification. Thanks to all, and good luck to those of you working on getting it done this year!