District 300 teachers reflect trend toward national certification

Updated 1/16/2013 3:55 PM
  • Jacquie Duginske, an administrator in Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300, is among the growing number of teachers to gain national certification.

      Jacquie Duginske, an administrator in Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300, is among the growing number of teachers to gain national certification. Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

It took Jacquie Duginske three rigorous years, but the teacher-turned-administrator is nationally board certified, a process growing in popularity as a way to improve the quality of teaching.

Duginske has been an administrator in Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 since July, but she started the certification process when she taught in Grayslake Elementary District 47.

The District 300 board of education this week recognized Duginske and Jamie Soprych as the newest nationally board certified teachers in a district that boasts 67 with the title. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced the 2012 class of teachers Jan. 8.

"Teachers who go through their national boards really do become better teachers as a result of the process because they really do have to think about everything they're doing in their classroom and why they're doing it," said Kristin Corriveau, assistant superintendent for elementary teaching and learning at District 300.

"It's a way to refine what they're doing and make sure the things that they're doing are meaningful."

Districts across Illinois are recognizing the latest crop of nationally board certified teachers this month. The number of qualifying teachers has more than doubled in the state over the last five years, putting in Illinois in the top three nationwide.

Corriveau said District 300 doesn't necessarily push teachers to try for national board certification but salary incentives do offer a perk to those who make the effort. And state recognition as a master teacher for national board certification helps as well.

The process includes writing papers, making videos and a personal assessment in a year of rigorous self-examination. Duginske said the national board pushes teachers to reflect on their own teaching styles and strategies to better help kids learn.

"As teachers we plan and we implement but that reflection piece is something I don't think was there in my teaching as much," Duginske said.

Duginske taught in Grayslake for five years and in Joliet seven years before that. She said the journey to become nationally board certified has truly made her a better teacher, which, in turn, has helped her support teachers as an administrator at the elementary-school level in District 300.

Elgin Area School District U-46 has more than doubled the number of nationally certified employees in the past five years. Superintendent José Torres encouraged principals to promote the certification process in their respective schools when he started with the district in 2008. In his second year, he created a teacher effectiveness initiatives department, where Doreen Roberts works as a teacher leader.

Roberts said teachers spend between 300 and 500 hours outside the classroom during the yearlong certification process. U-46 connects those teachers with mentors who, like her, have already received the national board certification. Only about one-third of first-time candidates succeed, she said. In addition to sessions during the application process, Roberts counsels teachers before scores are released to prepare them for what she describes as a grieving process if they learn they didn't pass.

For Duginske, in District 300, failing her first attempt at the national boards was the first time she had ever failed at anything. But like many teachers, Duginske tried again and can look back now and recognize that the challenge left her better off.

Last year's roster pushes the nation's count of nationally certified to 102,237. At U-46, the total number is 72 -- and counting. The teacher effectiveness initiatives department ensures board certified teachers are not only helping their own students, but the students of the teachers they mentor. Everything the department does is built off a model supporting teacher growth.

"It's about supporting teachers in growing and developing in their practice," Roberts said. "National board is just another piece of that in the pipeline of things we do in our department here.

Consolidated School District 158 in Huntley added five new board-certified teachers this year, pushing its total to 17. And Lori Ratliff, an English teacher at Crystal Lake South High School, adds her name to District 155's eight nationally board certified teachers, all of whom passed the board on their first attempts.

District 300's Corriveau said the newly certified teachers are outstanding educators who deserve the gratification that comes with the certification title.

"You're starting with a teacher that's already great," Corriveau said, "and you're stretching them to really be outstanding,"

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