Noraa Ransey never was supposed to go to college. Her family expected her to finish school and go to work in a local toy factory. She did not consider continuing her education until a teacher at her high school told her she wrote like a college student.
“That moment for me was honestly, the first time I heard my name and college in the same sentence,” she said.
Ransey, who was the first in her family to attend college, graduated from Murray State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She is now in her 17th year as an educator at North Calloway Elementary School (Calloway County).
On Feb. 10, Ransey was awarded the Champion Award by the Kentucky National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) Network during a virtual ceremony honoring the 85 teachers newly certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the teachers who maintained their certification. The award is given to a community member who has been exceptionally supportive of public education in the Commonwealth and furthering accomplished teaching.
Ransey became teary-eyed when she logged on for the ceremony and saw how many names were on the screen. She knew what it was like to accept an award virtually.
“Some of those teachers were sitting there all by themselves,” she said. “Just seeing all those names and faces and knowing what the past couple of years have been like and what teachers have been doing every day. If anything, we have become more resilient and our students have become more resilient.”
Ransey earned her National Board Certification in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood in 2018 and is currently working on her maintenance certification. National Board certification is voluntary and open to all teachers who have at least three years of classroom experience and a teaching license. Certification is available in 25 certificate areas, from preschool through 12th grade.
Ransey spent part of her acceptance speech thanking those who were influential in her career, while the other portion encouraged teachers to give themselves grace, a topic she finds more important than ever.
“I wanted them to know I knew what they have been doing the past couple of years,” she said. “It’s not easy. I hope they know that no one in their world is expecting them to be amazing, yet they still are being amazing.”
When Ransey was working her on her bachelor’s degree, she often put in 60 hours per week between school and several fast food jobs that she worked to make ends meet. Now, as an educator who understands the struggles of first-generation and minority students, Ransey seeks out opportunities to mentor other educators.
“I want my students to have teachers that look like them. I came from a family that did not value education. They would never have seen a little Hispanic girl up in front of a classroom teaching,” she said. “But it was a teacher who told me ‘Look at your writing!’ and got me connected to resources.”
Ransey mentors teachers across the nation through the National Board Network of Accomplished Minoritized Educators (NB NAME). Through NB NAME, she assists minority teachers who are in the process of obtaining their NBCT through monthly meetings where she offers advice and moral support.
Additionally, Ransey was one of only 12 NBCTs chosen to serve on the National Board committee to revise the nation-wide diversity, equity and inclusion standards out of hundreds of applicants nationally. She spends her Saturdays working with the committee to create more equitable opportunities for minority educators to become NBCTs.
Ransey’s mentorship extends to prospective teachers, as well. She served as a GoTeachKY Ambassador and partnered with her alma mater, Murray State, to mentor several students. With the aspiring educators seeing the impact of the pandemic on the teaching field and teachers, Ransey vowed to remain a positive influence in their lives.
“I would send a text [to my mentees] saying ‘I’m having a hard time teaching. I need motivation. Let’s motivate each other.’ Everybody needs support,” she said. “There is a shortage on teachers, a shortage of subs, a shortage in education. We need to be supporting those people because I love what I do every day. Even throughout the pandemic, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
She stands ready to help anyone who wants to pursue National Board certification.
“It has been by far, the best teacher professional development I have done. It changed me as a teacher,” said Ransey. “Going through the process helped me look at my students, helped me look at my family, look at myself and put me on a continuous growth mindset.”