On Friday, November 6, Mary Hatwood Futrell was awarded the 2020 James A. Kelly Award for Advancing Accomplished Teaching. The award was presented during a meeting of a semi-annual meeting of the Board of Directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
“A number of distinguished people have won this award over the years including President Bill Clinton. When I heard that Mary Futrell would win the award this year, I was thrilled,” said James Kelly, the award’s namesake and first president of the National Board. “Mary is committed to the concept of high and rigorous standards for teachers. She is a representative voice for teachers,” he added. Kelly added that Futrell was central to the National Board succeeding as a professional body and not a governmental body.
Following Kelly, the Board heard from Keith Geiger, former NEA president and then Becky Pringle, the NEA’s current president. “I am concerned that unless educators themselves assume the right and responsibility for establishing high, meaningful standards for preparation, entry and practice, the governance of our profession will remain the province of legislators and bureaucrats,” she said.
Closing the ceremony, Futrell spoke to the importance of the National Board and her role in the organization’s founding. Her remarks included the following:
“As we look to the future, the Board’s work to enhance educational excellence by strengthening the qualifications and effectiveness of America’s teachers could not be more critical to our nation. After all, education is a major foundation of our democracy.
“The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards should have a major role in helping to define what we mean by educating, the “teaching profession”; how we define the theories and practices of teaching and learning at all levels of our increasingly diverse, technological society. The National Board has already opened the door of opportunity to help transform education, especially as it relates to ensuring that teachers are better prepared to educate all citizens for the future. Through partnerships you have formed with other professions as well as with colleges and universities, the NEA and AFT as well as other professional educational groups, you have built and continue to build a strong base for change. When I became Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at The George Washington University, one of the first things I did was persuade the Department of Teacher Preparation to form a partnership with the National Board to make sure our faculty and students understood the value and importance of national certification. The fact that 125,000 teachers have achieved certification and studies show that the students they teach are learning at a higher educational level is pivotal evidence of your capacity to be a leader … I strongly encourage you to continue the outstanding work you are doing to professionalize teaching and equally important to improve the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. It won’t happen in my lifetime, but one day, I hope every student in America will be taught by teachers who are nationally certified.”