SIKESTON - Only a handful of Missouri educators seek National Board Certification and even fewer complete it. But now Sikeston Public Schools can add one of their own to the list.
Cindy Mayfield, a preschool teacher at Sikeston Kindergarten Center, is the first teacher in the R-6 District to achieve the high status.
Although she knew the steps to become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards would be time-consuming, she had no idea just how grueling it would end up being. The process is a rigorous one.
Candidates undergo a year-long assessment process that documents a teacher's subject knowledge, provides evidence that teachers know how to teach their subjects to students effectively and demonstrates the teacher's ability to manage and measure student learning.
"Cindy committed numerous hours to requirements, training and application of the skills that are recognized in this certification," said Sharon Gunn, assistant superintendent for special services/elementary education. "This is not a quick project. This certification requires many months of writing, filming, planning and implementing. It tests a person's fortitude and tenacity."
There are currently 4,804 National Board Certified Teachers in the United States. Among them, 74 are Missouri teachers and those who know her aren't surprised Mayfield is one of them. They say she has the drive and commitment that it takes.
"I have worked with Cindy for many years. As a kindergarten teacher, she exhibited the many talents that she has enhanced over the years," remarked Gunn. "She then became an early childhood teacher of three and four-year-olds and continued to grow and share with others, her penchant for reaching the young child. She is a multi-talented, energetic and dedicated teacher."
Mayfield was required to submit a portfolio containing evidence of her teaching methods and examples of her students' work. She also underwent an assessment of mastery of her subject matter. The National Board's process is based on what it feels accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.
Mayfield was required to write six 10-page papers, make two videos of her class accompanied by write-ups and take a six-hour computerized test.
"It's very time-consuming," Mayfield said. "It probably takes about 550 hours or so and I have two children, a fourth grader and a sixth grader. So, a lot of times at their sporting events I would just sit in the car and work. But I tell you what, when I wasn't writing I was always thinking about it. It was something you could just never get off your mind."
Despite the work involved, the teacher of almost 20 years was determined to earn her certification. Once she had turned in all the requirements, it was several months before she heard anything back. She finally received the good news Nov. 21.
"It was very nerve racking," she said. "And then you found out over the Website. I was screaming."
Educators say certification benefits everyone. A study recently released indicated the day-to-day performance of nationally certified teachers is considered superior to that of colleagues without the credential. This should give parents, elected officials, students and policy makers the highest confidence that national board certified teachers are providing students with a high-quality learning experience, Betty Castor, president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standard, said in releasing the report.
School districts are trying to entice teachers to pursue certification, including the introduction of two bills into the Missouri State Board of Education legislature. One would offer salary incentives for becoming board certified and the other would provide a $5,000 salary bonus.
"This is a very nice honor for Sikeston Public Schools. Cindy represents the many, multi-talented teachers that work for the Sikeston District. She is also encouraging other Sikeston teachers to pursue this certification. Receiving National Board Professional Teacher Certification represents a huge effort on the part of any teacher pursuing it," said Gunn. "Because of this, our board of education approved a National Board Professional Teacher certification plan that supports the teacher seeking this certification. Receiving the certification qualifies the teacher for an additional $2,500 per year for 10 years of the validity of the certification. " Mayfield expressed her gratitude for the district's support. "They've typed my papers for me, they proofread for me, they video taped for me, they copied for me... I think that when they start getting more teachers who are board certified, it will really look good for Sikeston."
Mayfield said the experience and achievement has made her more aware of the impact she has on her students.
"I realized when I was video taping how many transitions I was doing like I was changing things, and for children who are not good at that kind of thing, it really makes a difference. This really makes you more aware of what you are doing in the room and what kind of impact you have on the kids. I wanted to be a teacher in the first place because I've seen the impact teachers have on everyone. No matter how you turn out, it always goes back to what a teacher has done for you and that's pretty unbelievable to me.
Mayfield has completed her facilitators training which will enable her to help others through the certification process.
"What they say is you're a master teacher now but just because I was the first one to get certified doesn't mean I am any better of a teacher than anybody else in Sikeston. I just kind of went forth and took the test and did the papers to be certified. I think Sikeston has wonderful teachers and that in the future we will have quite a few more teachers to become certified."