Teachers Rise to Head of Class ; State Teams with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Effort to Put More Certified Educators into High-Need Classrooms

The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), January 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Teachers Rise to Head of Class ; State Teams with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Effort to Put More Certified Educators into High-Need Classrooms


Teachers rise to the head of the class

As New York schools face increasing pressure to improve student performance, state and local education leaders want to put more highly qualified teachers into the neediest classrooms.

They mean teachers like Mary Dileas, who before each lesson at Emerson School of Hospitality anticipates the challenges her students may face learning a skill, then develops strategies to overcome those barriers before they even arrive in her classroom.

Dileas is a math teacher, and Emerson is known for its culinary program. So she uses cooking measurements to teach the math skills they will need to pass the Regents exam.

And during one recent lesson, she prompted her students to not only identify the right answer but articulate, "How do you know it?"

"She makes math fun, and she just makes it exciting," said Emerson freshman Jessica Fuller. "She really cares about our education."

"She makes kids want to go to school," added freshman Ithieo Jenkins.

Such approaches put Dileas among the latest four Buffalo Public Schools teachers to earn the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. That brings to 13 the number of city teachers to join the small, yet elite group of educators who have earned the designation. Statewide, only about 1,600 teachers have earned it.

Now, in a push to get teachers like Dileas into the state's highest-needs classrooms, New York is partnering with the National Board on an initiative that aims to offer support and financial incentives for teachers interested in pursuing the certification.

"It's caused me to really think about what I'm doing in the classroom, and how students respond to specific, anticipated errors," Dileas said of the National Board certification process. "It's helped me to

be more reflective and insightful of the moments, the actual moments of learning."

Maximizing talent

In Buffalo, school leaders also are looking at how to parlay the skills of a relative handful of these "advanced" teachers into a mechanism for lifting achievement districtwide.

At School 19, where Karli Sullivan also earned the certification, Principal Linda Brancatella said she hopes Sullivan will be able to share her newfound expertise with other teachers, possibly by modeling lessons or giving feedback on their teaching.

Rather than ending with a wall plaque, the certification process prompts teachers to focus on helping students understand why they are learning certain skills, and to make connections between how things they learn in school will translate in the real world. The process focuses on identifying each student's style of learning and figuring out the best strategies to help them succeed in the classroom.

"It's a very reflective process," Sullivan said. "It makes you think about how you're doing things and why you're doing them."

Those skills are especially important in classrooms like hers. Sullivan, who is certified to teach students with special needs, works alongside another classroom teacher to help children with disabilities thrive in a traditional classroom setting.

Her classroom also includes a mix of students who are learning to speak English, or who come from low-income backgrounds. About 96 percent of students at School 19 qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the school district's measure of poverty. About 31 percent are learning English.

Sullivan helps the children acclimate by breaking them into groups based on their skill sets so that she can target the students' specific needs, rather than trying to teach to a whole group of students with varying abilities.

Her students spend time working both independently and in small groups, which allows more advanced students to help those struggling while Sullivan guides them through their assignments.

Earning certificate

Teachers earn the certification after spending hundreds of hours putting together portfolios, videos, lesson plans and samples that document their work in the classroom. …

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