Two classroom teachers and a school counselor have added their names to the exclusive roll of National Board Certified Teachers in Lenoir County Public Schools.
Crystal Hodges, a third-grade teacher at La Grange Elementary School; Belinda McGinnis, a math teacher at Lenoir County Early College High School; and Candice Tyndall, a counselor at South Lenoir High School recently completed the program of independent study and reflection that McGinnis called “a very challenging and rewarding endeavor.”
All feel they are now better at what they do not only because they know their subjects better but also because they know themselves better and are better to understand their students.
“It has benefitted me professionally because I am a more reflective educator and I have learned more about how to help each child individually in pursuing their academic goals,” Hodges said.
“In graduate school you’re learning about the content, but with National Boards I really feel like you learn more about yourself and then specifically learn about the topic you want to cover,” Tyndall said.
LCPS’s newest additions to the NBCT ranks are all career educators.
Hodges has taught for 13 years, all that time in this district. She holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance and a master of arts in teaching in elementary education from East Carolina University. She’s certified to teach academically or intellectually gifted students.
McGinnis began teaching 10 years ago and has spent the last eight with LCPS. She earned a bachelor of science degree in mathematics education from UNC Pembroke.
Tyndall began her career in education as a biology teacher at Kinston High School nine years ago and taught for four years, moving to South Lenoir High in 2011, and has been a counselor there for the past five years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in science education and a master’s degree in counselor education from ECU.
A months-long or even a years-long process, earning National Board Certification is a challenge LCPS educators tackle on their own, paying for it out of their own pockets and working alone or with a mentor they identify themselves on their own time. There is a financial reward – a pay increase of about 12 percent – but personal improvement represents a payoff of equal importance, say those who’ve been through the process.
“I feel that I am a better and more well-rounded educator as a result of this process,” Hodges said.
“Anytime you have to reflect on why you do the things you do in your classroom, it makes you a better teacher,” said Mary Beth Roberts, a long-time member of the Banks Elementary School faculty who became a NBCT in 2001 and renewed her certification in 2011. “It make you better understand how to meet the needs of the students in your class.”
When Roberts earned certification, the state paid the fee of about $2,000. Then, for obvious reasons, there was more interest among educators in earning the designation and consequently more systematic help within public school districts for those teachers running the gauntlet. LCPS has 49 National Board Certified Teachers, a little less than 10 percent of its entire teaching corps, but has lost a number due to recent retirements.
Roberts would like to see those ranks replenished and see more young teachers set their sights on certification. “I personally think it was huge. I would recommend it to anyone,” she said.
“Earning National Board Certification was the best moment in my career so far,” McGinnis said. “The process taught me to be more deliberative and reflective in my practice. There are many layers to teaching and the National Board Certification process guides teachers through each of those layers while inviting them to hone their skills and really analyze students’ needs.”
In earning certification, educators complete individual “components” to the satisfaction of National Board evaluators, usually through extensive writing or even video evidence of quality teaching. The components are tailored to the teacher’s area of work, as is a test that summarizes the process.
To earn certification, Tyndall had to complete four components – the test, small group work, use of data and individual counseling. “It was every aspect of a counselor – career, personal, social and emotional aspects – and each was in its own component,” she said.
She used the component on group work to delve deeper into her counseling of pregnant teens and new mothers. “I saw those students anyway, but National Board allowed me to go deeper into details that they would want to talk about,” she said. “We would have a group once a week. It was a support group not only for the girls individually, but for them to help each other.”
National Board Certification is the highest professional distinction a K-12 educator can earn. Candidates who begin the process must have a bachelor’s degree, a valid state teaching license and three years of classroom or school counselor experience. NBCTs must renew every five years. Nationally, just less than 3 percent of the nation’s teachers can attach the NBCT designation to their name.