Union TerraceElementary School

Union Terrace Teacher Receives National Board Certification

Union Terrace Teacher Receives National Board Certification
Posted on 04/11/2018

Teachers in the Lehigh Valley constantly search for ways to keep their classroom practices fresh and exciting for students. After eleven years teaching in the classroom, ten at Union Terrace Elementary (UT), Melissa Unger, was searching for a way to bring more depth to her classroom instruction and ways to challenge students to think intrinsically and reflectively. Already holding a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University and a Masters from East Stroudsburg University, she knew she did not necessarily want to embark on another degree program. She learned about the National Board Certification process from another Union Terrace teacher, Sabrina Albright, who received her certification in 2013, and would eventually became her facilitator and mentor.

According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Board Certification (NBC) was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. It is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education. In Pennsylvania, only 1,281 teachers hold this certification, with an additional 228 working through the candidacy program.

In the Allentown School District a total of four teachers have received National Board Certification and another cohort of three teachers have begun the process in this year.  Second grade UT teacher Sabrina Albright, will once again facilitate the process, helping mentor other teachers who embark on the path to certification.

“This was unlike any other course work or professional development I have taken,” said Unger. “It (the NBC) challenges teachers to reflect on how they are teaching in the classroom,” she continued. According to their website (http://www.nbpts.org/), teachers who receive the certification pledge to instill the Five Core Prepositions for teaching, in their classroom, which mean they: 

  • Are committed to students and their learning
  • Know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students
  • Are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning
  • Think systematically about their practice and learn from experience
  • Are members of learning communities

Candidates can focus their certification in 25 different subject areas from arts to world languages but the process remains the same. Ms. Unger’s official certification subject area is Early Childhood / Generalist, which is the appropriate certificate for teachers who teach elementary aged students in two or more subject areas. Typically, teachers need about two or three years to submit and successfully complete all four component areas, regardless of subject focus. The four components where candidates focus their research and reporting are:

  • Content Knowledge - a computer-based assessment that asks candidates to demonstrate knowledge of and pedagogical practices for teaching their content area.
  • Differentiation in Instruction - provides candidates with the opportunity to highlight their ability to evaluate learning strengths and needs for individual students; plan and implement appropriate differentiated instruction for those students; and analyze and modify instructional strategies and materials based on ongoing assessment.
  • Teaching Practice and Learning Environment - captures details about candidates instructional planning, direct evidence of their practice from video recordings and instructional materials, and analysis of and reflection on teaching as displayed in multiple video recordings.
  • Effective and Reflective Practitioner - provides candidates with the opportunity to highlight abilities as an effective and reflective practitioner in developing and applying their knowledge of the students. By gathering information from a variety of sources about a group of students; candidates use assessments to effectively plan for and positively impact students’ learning; and provide evidence of their collaboration with families and caregivers, the community, and colleagues and of their contributions to learning communities to advance students’ learning and growth.

In order to remain certified, teachers must submit additional documentation for recertification every five years. The recertification process usually also takes an additional year, but for a teacher who wants to continually adapt their classroom approach, the time and effort is certainly worth the outcome. “My goal was to evolve my teaching practices and continually push myself to be the best teacher I can be for my students. The National Board Certification and recertification process challenges teachers to reflect on how their classrooms are evolving on a regular basis and gives us the support to adapt and guide instruction to best meet the needs of every student.” said Unger.