Albemarle County Sees Rise in Certified Teachers

December 14, 2012

The number of nationally-recognized teachers in Albemarle County Public Schools is on the rise. Eleven teachers have recently achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

That nearly doubles the number of county teachers who have undergone the one-year certification process, and three dozen more are currently attempting certification for next year.

Only three percent of teachers in the country are board certified. Even fewer Virginia teachers, two percent, have the distinction. Phil Giaramita of Albemarle County Public Schools said the hope is to get ten percent of county teachers board certified, and they're on their way.

"This program has gone from something that a few teachers in isolated areas were taking part in to being a movement here in Albemarle County," said Rebecca Bergey, a Jouett Middle School English as a second language teacher.

Bergey, who became board certified last month, called it a "rigorous" and "complex" process. Teachers who apply for the certification have to submit videos of their instruction, provide examples of student work, a list of accomplishments and an analysis of their teaching methods, among other requirements for critique.

Bergey said it takes the average applicant about 200 hours to gather and submit all the necessary material, and all of that is on top of their regular teaching duties. But a growing number of Albemarle County teachers are doing the extra homework.

"There are teachers here who are committed to student learning and who are going above and beyond even the everyday tasks of teaching to make sure that they are the best teachers not just here in Albemarle County, but they're master teachers recognized by the whole country."

Nationally, only about 40 percent of first-time applicants achieve certification. Among Albemarle County applicants, 70 percent pass after their first attempt. Bergey attributed that success in part to county mentor groups where teachers can collaborate during the year-long process.

Any teacher can apply to become board certified. The application fee is about $2,000. Bergey said the county and state have been supportive in providing teachers reimbursements for that cost and also said there can be a financial incentive for teachers who successfully achieve certification.

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