When Adam Ramirez, a Math teacher at Eberhart Elementary School, was encouraged by his colleague and mentor to seek National Board Certification, he had his doubts.
After all, becoming an NBCT is a yearlong investment, requiring hundreds of hours of study and self-analysis, all while continuing to teach.
“I heard about the work involved and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to balance that with my job in the classroom,” he said. “I also have a learning disability, and I wondered how that would impact the process. But I decided not to see that as a barrier – to have the same high expectations for myself as I have for my students.”
So Ramirez entered the Nurturing Teacher Leadership Program offered by the Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center, becoming one of 84 CPS teachers to earn National Board Certification in 2015. This makes over 2,200 NBCTs in the District – more than any other urban school system in the country.
“Each of you has dedicated up to 400 hours in this process, putting your teaching methods through intense self-examination and reflecting on how to be more effective in the classroom,” said Paulette Poncelet, CPS Chief of Education Effectiveness, at a ceremony honoring the new NBCTs. “By raising your game and earning National Board Certification, you are making an investment in yourself, in your profession, and in the students and families you serve.”
The Nurturing Teacher Leadership Program includes candidate support and professional development for CPS teachers looking to earn National Board Certification. As part of the program, teachers receive personal mentoring and optional Master’s Degree opportunities, among other benefits.
“This is the highest credential a teacher in America can obtain,” said Lynn Cherkasky-Davis, Director of the CTU Quest Center. “They are assessed by their peers and must demonstrate that they have met the rigorous standards for what an accomplished teacher should know and do.”
Rashid Smith, an NBCT at West Ridge Elementary School, was proud of the achievement.
“This is the ultimate professional development as far as teaching goes,” he said. “It was a great way to improve my skillset as a teacher and become a leader in the school. Now people are asking me about my practice, and it’s nice to share what I’ve learned with my colleagues.”
Nathanael Ortega, a board-certified bilingual teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, was grateful for the opportunity.
“I feel a healthy sense of pride knowing I could accomplish such a feat,” he said. “It was not an easy undertaking, but the process showed me my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher and help me better understand how children learn.”