(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Earlier this month the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards said this year the number of teachers achieving national certification rose to the largest one-year increase in its history.
Missouri showed a 28 percent increase in the number of teachers who achieved the national certification with 73.
Locally, two Sikeston R-6 teachers, Laura Maloney, a preschool teacher at the Sikeston Early Childhood Education Center; and Sandy Kelso, who teaches at Southeast Elementary, received national certification.
"It was the hardest thing I've had to do as a teacher, but it was a very rewarding experience," Maloney said.
National Board Certification is a voluntary assessment program designed to identify, recognize and reward accomplished teachers who meet high and rigorous standards based on what teachers should know and do, according to NBPTS.
"National Board Certification is the most prestigious credential a teacher can earn. Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve National Board Certification have met rigorous standards through intensive study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review," said NBPTS President and CEO Joseph A. Aguerrebere in a recent news release.
As part of the process, teachers build a portfolio that includes student work samples, assignments, videotapes and a thorough analysis of their classroom teaching. Teachers are also assessed on their knowledge of the subjects they teach. It complements a state teacher's license and is valid for 10 years.
In addition to Maloney and Kelso, six other teachers in the Sikeston R-6 school district have received certification.
The only other teacher within at least a 30-mile radius that has received certification is Shelly Dohogne, who teaches at Scott County Central.
Cindy Elledge, teacher at Matthews Elementary in Sikeston, was the first teacher in the Sikeston R-6 school district to receive National Board Certification.
"The main thing I think it does is strengthen your teaching practice," said Elledge, who is in her 26th year teaching.
Elledge said it took her about eight months and 100 to 200 hours before she completed her work toward the certification.
Dohogne received her certification the same year as Elledge in 2001. Both passed the first time, which isn't the norm.
Certification typically takes about three years to complete, Elledge said.
"You shouldn't look down on your self if you don't pass the first time because maybe you just didn't express yourself fully or just need to tweak something," said Dohogne, early childhood special education coordinator and teacher at Scott Central,
Dohogne and Elledge said they decided to try for their certification because they already had their master's degrees.
"It was another notch on my belt, so to speak. It was something I wanted to do for me," Dohogne said.
NBPTS said certification improves teaching practice and has a greater impact on students' academic performances.
Both Elledge and Dohogne agreed.
"It was definitely worth it. I think it makes me a better teacher and teaches you to reflect on what you do and what could you have done differently," Elledge said.
Dohogne called it a great learning experience.
"I learned so much about myself and about my whole teaching technique. It was a way to better myself," Dohogne said.
Even though she didn't receive more money from the school district for her certification, Dohogne said she would do it all over again.
Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and three years teaching experience. The assessment fee is $2,500 but teachers can recover much of that cost through a subsidy program, Elledge said.
Sikeston R-6 will pay National Board Certified teachers an additional $2,500 a year for 10 years -- as long as certification is good, Elledge said.
"It's a nice perk because some of the school districts don't give perks for getting certification. Some (teachers) might do it for the financial part because that's a perk," Elledge said.
But not too many schools in the area offer pay increases for teachers to be certified, Dohogne pointed out.
"Some are looking at it as putting more time toward a master's or specialist's degree because they will put them over on the payscale. That's what's going to weigh heavier," Dohogne said.
Elledge and Dohogne are also National Board Certification facilitators for the Southeast Missouri region and help local teachers working on their certification.
"You have to jump in with both feet, and it does consume your time. With only 400 certified in the state of Missouri, it's not going to be easy, and it was very challenging," Elledge said.
Also the teachers said candidates must have family support and be organized.
"Teachers shouldn't be afraid to step outside of the box," Dohogne said.
Nationwide 63,821 teachers are certified. Missouri ranks 22nd in the total number of teachers who achieved certification over time with 413.
States that have more teachers who are certified tend to be the ones that offer more incentives and pay increases, Dohogne said.
"Maybe one of these days Missouri will offer more because we have good teachers, and it's a shame not to be able to reward them," Dohogne said.
Teachers who would like information about National Board Certification should contact Dohogne or Elledge at their respective schools or the Southeast Missouri Regional Professional Development Center in Cape Girardeau at 1-800-401-6680.