Thank You Mr. Gulle, NBCT

February 24, 2016

Editors Note: This is a guest blog from Suzanne Farmer, NBCT and director of the Kentucky Network to Transform Teaching. The views expressed are her own.

As both a teacher and a parent of two school aged girls, I struggle with how to advocate for my children without becoming THAT parent. As a general rule, I follow my child’s lead. When issues at school arise, I reach out to the teacher on their behalf and with their permission.

Being a parent has improved my instruction, and being a teacher has improved my ability to advocate for my kids. After teaching for fourteen years, I’m currently on leave from my school district to direct a grant project to improve education for all Kentucky students by increasing the number of National Board Certified Teachers and placing existing Board-certified teachers in leadership roles. Until recently, I didn’t understand how much my new job informs my role as my kids’ mom.

Sofie Farmer and her teacher, Mr. Jeff Gulle, NBCT at Bate Middle School in Danville, Kentucky 

Often, with our crazy calendars and futile attempts to balance work and home, our dizzying schedules mean that we think in terms of supporting our child’s education right now rather than considering what our kids will need in the future. Yet, our short-term goals should be balanced by a long-range vision.

My vision? Parents need to advocate for their kids’ teachers to become NBCTs. National Board Certification changed my instruction in ways that have benefited every student I’ve taught since. In the process of becoming certified, I learned to more adeptly reflect on what works and what doesn’t for each child and to make changes in my teaching to engage and challenge each student appropriately.

Not all National Board Certified Teachers are rock stars, and not all rock stars are Board certified. However, all Board-certified teachers are better than they were when they started the certification process. It’s a rigorous road to certification. Many teachers are intimidated by the less than 40% first-try certification rate for candidates. But the journey is worth it. A wide range of studies indicate that Board certified teachers are more effective than non-Board-certified teachers when it comes to effective instruction.

My daughters understand the value I place on Board certification; my oldest came home from school excited to say, “I have a National Board Certified Teacher this year!” For me, this means that I know she will have challenging and appropriate experiences every day that include her interests and give her opportunities to demonstrate what she knows, question what she doesn’t, and persevere in her learning. I know that her teacher, Mr. Gulle, will actively reach out to me as a parent and encourage two-way communication and involvement in her learning. Don’t we want every child to have a teacher who does this?

Many parents have never heard of Board-certified teachers, yet all have heard of Board-certified doctors.

It’s not that different. Board-certified teachers have voluntarily submitted to a process that proves that they are accomplished in five core propositions. In a nutshell, the propositions demand that teachers know the content they teach, can teach it to anyone, and keep perfecting their craft. So, what can you do to make board certified teachers available to every child?

The state of Kentucky has a statute in place that recognizes the value of Board certification and sets a goal that every school in the Commonwealth will have at least one National Board Certified Teacher by 2020.

Today, about 40% of Kentucky schools do not have a single Board-certified teacher. Does your child’s school? Why don’t we leverage the relationship we and our children have with teachers to encourage more to pursue Board certification?

You can:

  • Find out who is Board certified in your child’s school. National Board directory
  • Encourage your school and school board to recognize teachers that are Board certified.
  • Ask your school district what incentives and supports they provide for teachers who are Board certified. Kentucky provides teachers with a $2,000 stipend each year they are Board certified, and a rank change (bump in salary) if they have a master’s degree and have not already completed an additional 30 hours above their master’s (rank 1).
  • Have your child made a card encouraging his or her favorite teacher to pursue Board certification.
  • Provide your site-based decision making council with research about the value of Board certification.
  • Consider using Parent Teacher Organization funds to invest in application costs, training, or substitute release days for teachers pursuing Board certification.

I’m concerned that it’s taken until my daughter began seventh grade before she sat in a National Board Certified Teacher’s class. It wasn’t until I experienced the comfort and excitement of knowing what her year of learning with Mr. Gulle will involve that I took to heart what I had always known in my head – that we must make National Board Certified Teachers available to every kid, every day. Sometimes it takes our kids to help us understand the obvious.

A form of this article appeared originally in Lexington Family Magazine, February 2016.

Suzanne Farmer, NBCT

Suzanne Farmer, NBCT and mother of two girls, has taught preschool, kindergarten and math intervention, and was the Kentucky 2012 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching. She is currently on leave from the Danville Independent Schools to serve as the KY Director of the Network to Transform Teaching.