Certification Means Much Work, More Money for Teachers

Article excerpt

For Sue Dobelstein, the prospect of taking on a career development project that will require 200 to 300 hours of her time was daunting, to say the least.

But Dobelstein, an early childhood education specialist at Montclair Elementary School near Orange Park, decided that the potential rewards from seeking a national teaching certificate outweighed the time requirement.

"I believe very strongly in the national standards," she said, "and I wanted to improve my teaching. It makes you look very critically at your practice."

Dobelstein commended the Legislature for taking several steps last year to encourage Florida's teachers to take the national certification plunge. Not only did lawmakers pass a new law promising extra pay -- up to $7,000 a year -- for nationally certified teachers, they also ponied up funds to pay $1,800 of the $2,000 registration fee.

"It was wonderful the Legislature was able to do that," said Dobelstein, who considered seeking national certification earlier, but shied away after seeing the cost of registration. "A lot of people want to better themselves [and the review process] will take every spare minute."

Dobelstein is one of about 35 Clay County teachers -- and about 1,700 statewide -- who expressed interest in pursuing national certification since the new law was passed, said Neil Sanders, the school district's director of instructional personnel services.

Sanders also commended the Legislature, noting that the year before it provided the financial incentives, only 13 Florida teachers applied for certification.

"Anytime that you can reward teachers who are extremely talented and supplement their pay . . . when you recognize them in a personal way, above that which the [county school] district is able to do," he said, "we see it as a plus."

Jennifer Norton, who teaches seventh grade at Orange Park Junior High and is also seeking certification, said the Legislature's actions are gratifying.

"Knowing the state is backing you up makes it more enticing, that they find it important," she said. But the potential financial incentives adopted in the new law "can't be enough to get through the process, even if that was your initial reason," she said.

"It's about the validation it brings to the profession, achieving recognition professionally and personally," Norton said. …

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