Lisa Petrey-Kirk, Pam Coomer, Pennye Rogers and Ruth Ann Sweazy presented at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards annual conference this past summer. Photo submitted

Lisa Petrey-Kirk, Pam Coomer, Pennye Rogers and Ruth Ann Sweazy presented at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards annual conference this past summer. Photo submitted

By Matthew Tungate

Four National Board Certified Teachers from Kentucky promoted the state as a model of cooperation at the organization’s national conference in July.

Teachers Pam Coomer of Jefferson County, Lisa Petrey-Kirk of Anderson County, Pennye Rogers of Todd County and Ruth Ann Sweazy of Spencer County school districts presented Dot your i’s and cross your t’s at the 2011 NBPTS Conference in Washington, D.C.

The session focused on how the Kentucky Education Association (KEA), state Department of Education, school districts and National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) are reforming education in Kentucky despite not receiving the first round of federal Race to the Top funding.

The presentation matched words beginning with “I” and “T,” and showed how the four groups are working to improve education in Kentucky as part of Unbridled Learning. For instance, the presenters talked about being “Insightful and Taking the Lead.” Their examples were that teachers are joining professional learning communities, aligning curriculum vertically and horizontally, and becoming NBCTs; KEA and the Kentucky Department of Education are reaching out and forming partnerships; and Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards.

“Every time you turn on the TV lately, you hear how ineffective teachers are, (especially) how bad teacher unions are and how money from the states is being wasted on public education,” Rogers said. “We decided that our state and teachers’ union had a unique relationship and wanted to tell others about what can be accomplished if everyone works together.”

Coomer said the quartet believes Kentucky is on the right path to reforming education and wanted to share what is happening in the state.

“The theme ‘dot your i’s and cross your t’s’ seemed appropriate because any time you are dealing with multiple groups collaborating toward a collective goal, you must stay organized and on track with the project,” she said. “In this case, each entity we discussed had specific responsibilities and accountabilities toward achieving the goal of educational reform.”

During the presentation, each of the teachers gave information from the perspective of one of the groups. Coomer, an Internet cataloger for Jefferson County Public Schools Library Media Services, represented classroom teachers. Petrey-Kirk, an 8th-grade social studies teacher at Anderson County Middle School, represented KEA. Rogers, a Todd County Central High School science teacher and member of the School Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability Council, represented the Kentucky Department of Education. Sweazy, a kindergarten teacher at Taylorsville Elementary, is a member of the board of directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and represented NBCTs.

“Our state is working together,” Sweazy said. “All stakeholders are provided opportunities to share ideas and strategies on providing the best education to our students across the commonwealth. We are focused on student learning.”

Petrey-Kirk, a 25-year teaching veteran, said Kentucky has always had smart people with great ideas, but also has always been strapped for money to implement those ideas.

“Sometimes, when the money isn’t there, the people with the ideas get creative, and incredible things get done for kids,” she said. “Kentuckians have always been smart and innovative, and we felt we had an innovative way to approach change.”

The presentation also included:

  •  All Eyes on KY, a video that includes Gov. Steve Beshear, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Associate Commissioner Felicia Cumings-Smith describing how Kentucky is implementing the new Common Core Standards
  • video of Beshear receiving the National Education Association’s America’s Greatest Education Governor Award earlier this year
  • a personal message from KEA President Sharron Oxendine

Coomer, Petrey-Kirk, Rogers and Sweazy are part of KEA’s NBCT team, which helps teachers achieve National Board Certification. It was during a planning session that the group decided to present at the national conference.

“Kentucky has a lot of great initiatives and support for education across our state. Our team is very proud of the work and support to increase National Board Certification,” Sweazy said. “We wanted to share some of the information with other educators across the nation and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Annual Conference provided that venue.”

Sweazy added that KEA “has been extremely committed to enhancing teacher quality through National Board Certification.

“As I work with other colleagues and programs across the nation as a Board of Director member, I am so proud of the work going on in Kentucky,” she said. “We truly are developing a model program for the nation. It takes teamwork, and we have great support from so many areas. We have developed support for new candidates working on full certification, renewal and Candidate Support Provider training.”

KEA helps teachers get board certified

The National Board Certification process requires teachers to undertake intense self-reflection and analysis of their instructional practices. The process involves a three-hour written test; three classroom-based entries, including two videos demonstrating classroom teaching skills; and a portfolio that includes descriptions of a candidate’s accomplishments, including school and community involvement, sample lesson plans and analysis of his or her students’ work.

KEA’s National Board Jump Start is a three-day seminar that helps National Board candidates understand and be successful in the certification process. Jump Start is intended to complement yearlong candidate support provided by university, cooperative and district programs, and is led by a team of NBCTs, according to KEA.

“It walks the participants through organizing their materials, looking in-depth at the National Board standards for their certificate area, analyzing portfolio instructions and beginning the planning, implementation and writing processes,” Coomer said. “It is helpful for the participants because the materials required to complete the certification process are massive. The instructions are layered and not easily interpreted. Our sessions help candidates make sense of the materials and develop a plan to achieve success.”

Rogers was one of the original four teachers trained to be a Jump Start trainer.

“Jump Start allows participants to express their concerns, ask questions and accumulate ideas to improve their individual classrooms,” she said. “By working collaboratively with other teachers, even those from different certification areas, each takes with them more ideas for successful strategies and approaches that could be used within or outside of their classrooms. Every candidate leaves with a better understanding not only of the entire process, but what accomplished teaching looks like.”

Rogers said the National Board Certification process requires teachers to show how their classroom activities and instruction are positively impacting student learning.

Parent and community involvement, collaboration with peers, and leadership are also stressed, she said.

Coomer said KEA also offers a program called Homestretch, which is a one-day workshop that helps prepare candidates for the assessment portion of the certification process. It also allows them to participate in peer-to-peer review of a portfolio entry.

“The National Board process (whether one makes it to certification or not) is a reflective and rigorous process that requires an individual to look at their practice and become more deliberate in student engagement, student assessment and student achievement,” Coomer said. “By supporting teachers in the process, KEA is growing master teachers who are highly skilled in their practice, and this improves our schools and our education association.”

Benefits of National Board certification

National Board Certification is the highest certification a teacher can earn in the nation, Sweazy said. Earning a National Board certification takes one to three years.

“It is the most rewarding and challenging professional development experience I have participated in during my career,” she said. “This process will greatly enhance your teaching and help increase student achievement.”

Petrey-Kirk said achieving National Board Certification is difficult, but worth it.

“It’s like picking green beans: you bend over, the blood runs to your head, and you look up to see another row growing in front of you. But when you sit down and eat those fresh beans from the garden you realize that they are head and shoulders above what you get in a can,” she said.

The process trains teachers to set goals, plan instruction, and implement sound methods and strategies while never losing sight of how each action in a classroom must positively affect student learning, she said.

“When I started my NBCT, I had a double major and a master’s, but my NBCT work was not only the most rigorous, it has had the most positive effect on my work as a teacher,” Petrey-Kirk said.

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards