Nearly 4 percent of the state's teachers who earned the profession's highest credential this year - National Board Certification - were from Columbia County.
"I think this is an unusually large number," Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price said. "Typically, it's a pretty rare endorsement of certification in our profession. Certainly those who have obtained this certification have distinguished themselves, and by doing so demonstrated that they met some pretty rigorous standards of professional development and teaching expertise."
It's been a long year, but the hard work finally paid off for Connie Spearman and 11 other teachers from Columbia County who have earned their National Board Certification.
"I will get a slight pay increase, but the personal rewards mean the most to me," said Spearman, a second-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School. "It gave me a lot of insight into teaching, to help me know my students' needs and how to better satisfy those needs."
The distinction comes with a 10 percent bonus on the state salary index, and Columbia County gives a one-time incentive bonus of 5 percent.
The 12 teachers from Columbia County were among 6,500 in the nation to receive the designation - a record number - according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. With 310 new certificates, Georgia ranks seventh nationwide.
The number of new National Board Certified Teachers in 2001 surpassed last year's announced 4,727, bringing the total to 16,035.
National Board Certification is a voluntary process that takes nearly a year to complete. Teachers must document their subject knowledge, provide evidence that they know how to teach their subjects effectively and demonstrate their ability to manage and measure learning.
Ms. Spearman said she had to critique a video of her teaching, analyze pupils' work and pass a six- to eight-hour test.
"It was something I felt I wanted to do," said Spearman, who has been teaching in Columbia County for 18 years. "Once I started with the process, it really helped me and gave me a lot of insight into my teaching."
The National Board hopes to certify 100,000 teachers by 2006.
States with the highest number of teachers achieving National Board Certification in 2001 include: North Carolina (1,260), Florida (992), South Carolina (928), California (516), Ohio (417) and Mississippi (405).
"This hallmark announcement is especially significant to education reform because research has shown that a quality teacher is the most significant factor on how well a child learns," said NBPTS President Betty Castor. "Our new cadre of National Board Certified Teachers tells us we're making excellent progress when it comes to ensuring top-quality teaching for our students in every school in the country."
More than 16,000 candidates have applied to pursue National Board Certification during the 2001-02 academic year, an increase of nearly 50 percent from a year ago.
New National Board Certified teachers in Columbia County:
Carol Jones Burton, Westmont Elementary School, early childhood
Patricia Carswell, Blue Ridge Elementary, early childhood
Diane Dymeck, Westmont Elementary, middle childhood
Kathleen Fulghum, Riverside Elementary, early childhood
Emily King, Riverside Middle, early adolescence/science
Jo Anne Lillis, Columbia Middle, early adolescence
Kay Wallace Moore, North Harlem Elementary, middle childhood
Connie Spearman, Riverside Elementary, early childhood
Lanese Thomas, Riverside Elementary, middle childhood
Christina Van Meter, Riverside Middle, early adolescence/English language arts
Deborah Varner, Riverside Elementary School, early childhood
Karen Whaley, Greenbrier Middle School, early adolescence
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