LANL Foundation recognizes that the salaries of public school teachers do not match their dedication nor the importance of their work. In an effort to encourage teachers to elevate their earnings as well as their professional practice, the K-12 Program began offering support for Española educators to take part in the National Board Certification for Teachers (NBCT), an advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensure.
According to current research, National Board Certified teachers are much more effective in their craft and practice, which is one reason why Española Public Schools Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez requested this program partnership with the LANL Foundation. She also shared the need for support of mental health initiatives and training in trauma-informed instruction for teachers in her district.
“We believe every child deserves effective teachers at all grade levels and content areas. Our teachers engaged in the NBCT program talk about how the coursework and completion of the modules has made them better teachers and more thoughtful in their work and in working with all students effectively.” said Gutierrez.
Wilmer Chavarria, Principal at Eutimio “Tim” Salazar III Elementary School, and Cyrus Dudgeon and Selina McGinn, both English Language Arts teachers at Española Valley High School, were the first candidates to receive certification. An additional 12 teachers are expected to complete the program by the end of 2020.
“It’s a very powerful title to have as a teacher because it opens doors all throughout the nation. So if you’re National Board Certified, you’re certified in all 50 states,” said Chavarria.
National Board Certification was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. It is the most respected professional certification available in K–12 education.
Created by teachers for teachers, National Board Standards represent a consensus among educators about what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. Board certification is available in 25 certificate areas spanning 16 disciplines from Pre-K through 12th grade.
The rigorous certification process requires that teachers demonstrate standards-based evidence of the positive effect they have on student learning. In alignment with Five Core Propositions, teachers must prove that they:
Are committed to students and their learning,
Know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students,
Are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning,
Think systematically about their practice and learn from experience and
Are members of learning communities
The process entails three portfolio components and a test. Funding from the LANL Foundation covers all class fees per participant, hands-on candidate support, local meetings and testing and retake fees. The NBCT program can take one to three years, depending on how aggressive the teacher wants to be in their class load.
Dudgen said the LANL Foundation funding was important to him because he otherwise “would not have been able to afford it.” He also appreciated the added services that teachers or retired teachers from outside the district offered in assistance throughout the process during evenings and weekends.
Since 2017, 21 teachers from the Española Public School District have had the opportunity to participate in the NBCT program. LANL Foundation has provided $70,025 in funding for this initiative in support of two teacher cohorts pursuing certification.
In the state of New Mexico, once a teacher has earned National Board Certification in their current area of teaching, they advance to Level III status, which normally requires a Master’s degree. Those who move levels receive a substantial pay increase as well as a yearly stipend for being National Board Certified.
“I liked it too because instead of focusing on a Master’s in a specific area, it really just made me focus on my practice and my students,” said McGinn.