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Striving to come Master Teachers

One question has already been answered by the nineteen SCUC teachers taking part in the arduous National Board Certification Training (NBCT), a two-year journey that began in August of 2022. The why. “Ninety percent of them said, ‘Because this is making me a better teacher,’” said Cassie Allen, who along with Amanda Kiehle, are National Board Certified themselves and overseeing the cohort program.


Allen, who serves as the PreK-12 Social Studies coordinator, and Kiehle, the PreK-4 Literacy coordinator, volunteered to lead the program, which provided a low-cost alternative to district teachers if they had sought to go through the cohort through ESC-20 or other instructors.


“The district is going to have bang for the buck, but that wasn’t really the issue,” Allen said. “We wanted to do it because we really thought it was the best professional development that we could provide, period, bar none.”


Currently, SCUC is the only school district in the greater San Antonio-area supporting NBCT, considered the gold standard of professional development available in education.  There are four components involved in the curriculum:


1 - Content knowledge

2 - Differentiation in Instruction

3 - Teaching Practice and Learning Environment

4 - Effective and Reflective Practitioner


Components two and four are the focus for the 2022-23 school year. “Component two is a little different in each discipline, but it’s where they show how they can differentiate instruction for their students,” Kiehle said. “Component four looks at student data to drive your own professional development and how you use that data to drive your instruction.” Component three, which requires videotaped lessons with students, and Component one will be the cohort’s focus during the 2023-24 school year. Candidates who certify won’t be known until December of 2024. 


Self-reflection may be the most important aspect of NBCT training. It encourages teachers to analyze their own practice and instruction, honestly identify their strengths and weaknesses, and develop strategies to become more effective in the classroom.


“If you’re not reflective, you may go home and go, ‘The lesson didn’t go that well today, I’ll just show up tomorrow and see what happens,” said Allen. “Reflective practitioners say, ‘It didn’t go well today. What can I do differently and where do I go to make up the gaps the kids are showing me they have?’” 


Kiehle added, “The data is telling me the lesson didn’t go well because you’re formatively assessing the kids, having the kids do self-assessments, and you’re making data-based decisions on how you’re changing instruction for your students.”


Financial remuneration is another reason teachers enter the cohort. NBCTs who receive the Recognized designation can earn several thousand dollars for the school district, with 90% of that amount spent directly on that teacher’s compensation. The intensive work and time commitment, however, usually weeds out those who enroll strictly to improve their pay. “It won’t be enough intrinsically to come here and put in the amount of work you’re going to have to put out,” said Kiehle.  


Three NBCT sessions are done monthly, including one Saturday a month, which go six hours, usually without a single break. It is a grueling schedule that requires difficult sacrifices. “One of our candidates had the flu and she wore a mask and sat over to the side,” said Allen. “Another candidate missed a regional meet for her child so she could be in our meeting.”


In an era where competition for quality teachers has become white-hot among school districts, Allen believes opportunities to take part in the cohort program may be a strong recruiting tool. “This would be a feather in our cap to incentivize people to come here because we support these other ways to grow and become a better teacher and make more money.”


PHOTOS (courtesy of Candice Ridge)