Improved instruction from area teachers

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

When Joyner Elementary music teacher Lynne Mize began applying to become a National Board Certified Teacher, she realized she couldn’t take any part of her teaching for granted.
To become National Board Certified, teachers must complete a grueling process: analyzing their teaching practices, putting together an extensive portfolio about their methods and philosoph, and submitting videos of themselves in the classroom.
The certification is done by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an independent non-governmental organization that developed a system of professional standards for accomplished teachers.
In order to become certified, teachers must prove that they live up to these qualities. It is a voluntary process.
“It makes you really examine whether you are meeting those standards,” Mize said. “We can all talk a good game, but do you really put them into practice every day?”
Mize was among the teachers who recently received their National Board Certification. The Tupelo Public School District had 10 teachers receive the certification for the first time and three renew their certification.
Lee County Schools had eight newly certified teachers and four renewals.
Teachers must renew their certification after 10 years.
The certification can come with financial perks. States can offer stipends, and Mississippi recently gave its National Board Certified Teachers $6,000 a year, although that money is now in flux with the governor’s latest budget cuts.
But the teachers say the benefits go far beyond the extra pay.
“It gives me more tools in my toolbox as a teacher,” said Tupelo High School physics teacher Sharon L. Davis, who renewed her certification. “I’ve made some professional contacts, and I use more professional resources than I ever had.”
Verona fourth-grade teacher Laura Porter, who has been teaching for 23 years, said the process energized her career.
“I had to do a lot of analysis and reflecting on my teaching and take a closer look at what worked and what did not work,” Porter said. “Now I’m more focused on the goals I want my students to achieve.”
The process takes about a year, and teachers estimate they may spend between 250 to 500 hours pursuing the certification.
They must research best learning practices, analyze their own teaching style and explain whether the activities they do with students are the most effective ones.
“I knew from the onset it was going to be a challenge and it was going to push me to my limit,” said Tessa Grammer, who teaches algebra at Saltillo High School. “I was willing to take the challenge but once I dove in, it kind of consumes every part of you. I woke up thinking about it; I went thought the day thinking about it.
“You have to reflect on everything you’re doing and really tear to pieces your teaching philosophy.”
Shannon Primary kindergarten teacher Nikki Buchanan said she joked with her husband that she just lost a year of her life after becoming certified. But she advises anyone going through the process to think of the students who make it worthwhile.
“Work diligently, expand your resources and keep your students in mind because they are the ones who will receive the biggest reward from you doing it,” Buchanan said. “I can definitely see an improvement in how I think about things. It forces me to think about all aspects of learning.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.