Some did it for the challenge. Others wanted to keep pace with the colleagues who've inspired them, and still others saw it as an opportunity to grow their skills. But regardless of why they chose to pursue it, all 107 CPS teachers who recently earned National Board Certification believe it will help them better serve their students.
With over 1,700 Board Certified Teachers, CPS employs more educators with this distinguished credential than any urban school system in the country. The newest teachers to enter these ranks were honored this month by the Chicago Teachers Union and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a former member of the professional body that oversees NBCT.
"I have witnessed firsthand the profound commitment it takes to meet the rigorous professional development standards which serve as the bedrock for the NBCT," said CEO Byrd-Bennett. "High standards for entry, practice and advancement represent the best possible future for the teaching profession, as well as for our next generation of student leaders."
Becoming an NBCT is a rigorous process, as teachers are expected to demonstrate expertise in various areas of instruction. They are also required to put their methods under a microscope, engaging in hours of self-analysis and demonstrating a clear understanding of student needs.
"It forces you to examine and justify your teaching methods," said Megan Macellaio, a Curriculum Coach and Special Education teacher at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. "It helps you consider why you're teaching what you are and what kind of measurable impact it will have on your students."
Macellaio, who has been Nationally Board Certified for eight years, places a high value on the process, both for its introspective and communal value.
'If I hadn't pursued it, I might not have pushed myself as hard to do more with my teaching," she said. "NBCT encourages you to delve deeper, not only into your instruction, but into your school community."
For Nora Berdelle, a Social Science teacher at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, Board Certification is emblematic of the professional development standards set forth by her school.
"Many of the best teachers at Lindblom have gone through the NBCT process and have said that it is a great opportunity to advance your practice," she said. "This seemed like the next logical step for me."
Among the District's newest NBCTs, Berdelle hopes that what she's learned from the National Board will help her purposefully improve on her ability to teach crucial reading, writing and discussion skills at Lindblom.
"The most useful piece I got out of National Boards was learning to gather evidence as to whether or not I was effectively engaging my students," she said. "This has helped me be more reflective in my day-to-day teaching."
Ryan Coors, a fourth-grade teacher at Clinton Elementary, has already seen a positive change in his teaching thanks to NBCT.
"I now consistently ask myself, 'why am I teaching this?', or 'why are students learning this?'", he said. "This has made me become more intentional about what students are learning in my classroom."
For over a decade, CPS has supported National Board Certification by providing resources to teachers going through the process. This year, the District began a formal partnership with the Chicago Teachers Union to support CTU's certification preparation program, which helps candidates to succeed in the program and advance their abilities in the classroom.
"The NBCT process strives for the highest level of professionalism and excellence in teaching," said Amy Bergeson, a third-grade teacher at Burr Elementary. "I have a clearer understanding of how to determine and meet the needs of my students and their families, which means I'm providing them with the education and support they deserve