Counting My Blessings

December 12, 2016

To say that this year has been the most rewarding in my career is an understatement. When I found out that my colleagues had voted for me for our school’s Teacher of the Year, I was over the moon. I never could have imagined the path that would unfold before me. Next came district Teacher of the Year, then Top 14 State Regional Finalist, and so on until 2017 Arkansas Teacher of the Year became a title that will forever rest after my name, everywhere that I go, in everything that I do. 

Looking back, there was a clear turning point in my teaching career that has no doubt led me to where I am now. That turning point was my decision to become a candidate for National Board Certification. No other experience until now has allowed me the opportunity for such rapid growth in my profession. I remember how even just reading the NBPTS World Language Standards for the first time made me feel exhilarated. I knew that a whole new world was opening up before me.

As a nascent teacher, I remember thinking there was no such thing as professional development for Spanish teachers. I thought the only professional development that existed was in general education, and it was up to me to adapt everything to fit my classroom. That is not always so easy with World Languages. Our area of pedagogy can sometimes seem like a whole universe unto its own. Not only did the National Board Certification process help me to realize that there are many specifics that go into teaching Spanish, but it also asked me all of the deep questions that led me to find the right resources for the professional growth that was appropriate for me and my classroom. More importantly, these questions and the answers that followed led me to find ways to impact my students’ lives in the most meaningful ways. Let me stress the point that the certification process would have led me to this new learning with or without actually certifying as a National Board Teacher. That is the beauty of being a National Board Candidate- the learning you acquire is the reward.

Now, fast forward to the present. As the 2017 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, I am preparing myself to be able to engage, support, and empower the teachers of my great state of Arkansas. One thing I know for sure that I will share with them is the power of the NBPTS Five Core Propositions for Teaching. These have become central to everything that I do in my classroom and beyond. I love how intrinsically linked they are; each one is linked to the other four. You can’t have one without the other, so to speak. Teachers cannot be committed to students and their learning without being members of learning communities. Teachers must know the subjects they teach and how to teach them in order to be able to manage and monitor student learning. And why would any of the above matter to a teacher, if she did not think systematically about her practice and learn from experience? The Five Core Propositions are a work of beauty that I cannot wait to share with others.

In this season of celebration and reflection, I am blessed to be able to call myself a National Board Certified Teacher. I am blessed to have the support of this great organization, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. I am blessed to be a member of the Arkansas Teachers for National Board Certification. And I am so excited to share with a multitude more of hard-working teachers how they, too, can receive these blessings.

Courtney Cochran, NBCT

Courtney L. Cochran is a National Board Certified Teacher in World Languages and the 2017 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. A native of Benton, Arkansas, she serves in the Benton School District as an English as a Second Language (ESL) aide. She divides time between two elementary schools tutoring English language learners. In Fall 2006, after completing a non-traditional licensure program, Cochran was hired by Van Buren School District to pilot a ninth grade Spanish program at the district's two junior highs. Due to the success of this program, the district promoted her to the high school to initiate an AP Spanish program, which has become the most successful in her district with a passing rate of nearly 80%. She then turned her focus to building a Spanish for Heritage Learners program. Courtney Cochran has been a member and often an active leader of several professional organizations, ranging from Parent Involvement Facilitator to District III Director of the Arkansas Foreign Language Teachers Association. As an advocate for the State Seal of Biliteracy she was responsible for initiating collaborative work on a joint AFLTA and ArkTESOL Arkansas State Biliteracy Award. She passionately promotes the 21st century skill of global competence for all classrooms and all students.