2018-02-01 / Shorts

Above Board

Two State College Area School District teachers earn National Board Certification
Chris Rosenblum | Photo by Nabil K. Mark

Corl Street Elementary School teachers Kelly Essick, left, and Laura Henderson finished the requirements for National Board Certification Dec. 20, 2017.Corl Street Elementary School teachers Kelly Essick, left, and Laura Henderson finished the requirements for National Board Certification Dec. 20, 2017.Kelly Essick and Laura Henderson are more than teachers to their Corl Street Elementary School students. They’re role models.

Demonstrating grit and a commitment to growth, both recently completed an arduous three-year application process to achieve National Board Certification — an elite distinction in their profession.

Only about 1,200 current teachers in Pennsylvania have earned the status, including seven currently in the State College Area School District.

“Having this certification is a large achievement for me, and I am very proud of it,” Henderson says.

To become national board-certified teachers, she and Essick finished four components while working full time. Three portfolio entries documented how their teaching philosophies and practices align with the 10 standards and five core propositions established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and an assessment tested their understanding of content and teaching practices.

“It’s a huge deal,” says Gray’s Woods Elementary School Principal Kris Dewitt, also a board-certified teacher, who advised Essick and Henderson.

Why did they take the plunge? Not for more money, since neither the state nor the district provides a financial incentive. The rewards were deeper.

“To most people, it appears to be just a feather in my cap,” Essick says. “However, it is truly more. The amount of time dedicated to reflecting on my teaching, my content knowledge, my differentiation and, ultimately, my impact on student learning was significant. One cannot find better professional development than three solid years of focus on oneself.”

Henderson saw a challenge for herself after graduate school, one that would benefit her students. She also was inspired from being a Professional Development School intern, part of a collaboration between the district and Penn State that pairs seniors with mentor teachers and encourages inquisitiveness.

“This culture of reflection is very apparent in all of the SCASD schools and is a large part of becoming national board-certified,” she says. “It’s a unique form of professional development, as it is mostly self-driven, causing one to stop and reflect on what is done in the classroom and why.”

For all of the work, both teachers look back fondly on the experience. Over time, they became close friends with two colleagues also applying, meeting to support each other even after the other teachers moved away. The four women also developed such a camaraderie with their trio of advisors, group members took turns holding Essick’s baby so she could battle a postpartum fog and submit a component in time.

While proud of her certification, Essick says it doesn’t signify she’s “the best teacher out there.”

“Rather, it means that I am a teacher committed to bettering myself for the benefit of my students,” she says. “It means that I push my own personal boundaries in pursuit of what ‘best practice’ means for each individual child. That will be an ongoing goal throughout my career and I am now better prepared for that challenge.”

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