Editor’s note: the following blog post was written in honor of our former president & CEO, Ron Thorpe, who passed away last July after a year-long battle with cancer. Thorpe will posthumously receive the prestigious James A. Kelly award at Teaching & Learning 2016.
The death of Ron Thorpe brought up strong emotions for me: anger, stress, uncertainty, and an overwhelming sense of sadness. Ron Thorpe came to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) at a time when educational reform was the name of the game, and National Board wasn’t on the field. Before Ron Thorpe, educators spanning the spectrum of authority and context could still say, “What is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards? Why is that organization relevant?” Before Ron Thorpe, a school district could consider an invitation for one of their teachers to present to the National Board irrelevant, an activity beyond a teacher’s responsibilities. And, I know, because it happened to me.
In the Spring of 2010, I received an invitation to present to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards during a Board of Directors meeting. I was asked to share the collaborative efforts using National Board Certification to transform our school culture and improve student learning – an endeavor documented in the film “Mitchell 20.” The opportunity would require two days of professional leave for me to travel, present, and return home; my request for leave was denied. I believe the reason for denial was insufficient time to receive approval for travel out of state. Regardless, I refused to accept “no” for an answer. I knew that the work occurring at my school was a story that the National Board needed to know, and a story I deserved to tell. After all, National Board Certification transformed me, and reignited my passion for educating children.
The cost of accepting the invitation was that I was docked my daily rate of pay for the days requested for travel.
I went to D.C. in the spring of 2010. I presented to the NBPTS Board of Directors. After my presentation, there was a question and answer session, which consisted mostly of accolades for my work. And with each accolade, I wanted to burst into tears, because little did they know the professional strain I was encountering by promoting accomplished teaching. Finally, there was one question towards the end of our time together, “What can we do to help you with your work?” My response was straightforward, “Make the work of the National Board well known. Limit the potential for an educator to question the role or importance of the National Board. That is the help I need- make the National Board known.”
My experience from 2010 would not occur now. Why? Ron Thorpe. Ron Thorpe ensured that National Board had a seat at every table regarding educational reform. He relentlessly built up the relevance and role of the NBPTS nationwide. Ron Thorpe promoted a vision for the National Board – a vision of accomplished teaching, which I, day in and day out, will continue to bring to fruition.
Thank you, Ron Thorpe.