35 MCPS teachers receive the honor
Thirty-five Montgomery County Public School teachers have achieved certification with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 2013. This brings the total number of Board-certified teachers in MCPS to 672, the most of any school district in Maryland and eighth among districts nationally for the year. Two of the teachers certified this past year are from Blair, math teacher Diane Norris and English teacher Sarah Fillman.
NBPTS is an independent organization founded by teachers in 1987 to "advance the quality of teaching and learning by developing professional standards for accomplished teaching." Though the organization has no official government affiliation, its standards are recognized by many. "They have established standards that are not federal [government] standards, but the government is beginning to pay attention," Norris said, "the Secretary of Education has made commentary about being certified."
To become a certified teacher, an applicant must submit a fee and be a public school teacher with a minimum of three years at a single school. Norris has been teaching for nine years, all of them at Blair; and Fillman has taught at Blair for eleven years, first completing her student teaching here.
The process of becoming Board-certified is a voluntary undertaking that can take more than a year. "What you need to do, in a nutshell, is evaluate yourself" Norris said, "you have to submit a portfolio, and you have to take exams." The portfolio includes a taped, 15-minute segment of a class period, as well as a self-evaluation of a particular unit being taught by the applicant and things the applicant does outside of class to help students. There is also a written test required for certification. "The test was six different questions that I had to study for—thirty minutes for each question," Fillman said. 2013 marked the first year that portfolios could be sent in online. "We actually submitted online for the first time," Fillman said, "so we had a little bit more time than some of our cohorts."
Following the official announcement on MCPS's webpage Jan. 7, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr commented on MCPS's high number of certified teachers, saying "the number of board-certified teachers in MCPS is an indicator of just how dedicated our staff is to excellence and continuous improvement.” MCPS teachers benefit from a support network not available in many places. "I do know that we have a lot more support when it comes to National Board," Fillman said, "there are meetings, there are groups, there are coaches. Those things are in place for us that are not in place elsewhere, so I think that's probably why we have a lot."
Board certification brings the benefits of, in most cases, a salary increase; and is a part of the school system's Professional Growth System. However, there are other, more personal benefits. "The overarching idea is that what you try to do is ensure student success and achievement,” Norris said, "so all the things that you're supposed to reflect on and write about and explore about your teaching are ultimately about providing students with the best opportunity to learn. That's the reason I decided to go for it."
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