November 2022 Teacher Voice

Pursuing National Board Certification in a Rural District by Karl Remsen  

Each newsletter we will highlight the voice of an educator within Colorado to share some of their amazing work and ideas. In this issue, Karl Remsen shares the National Board Certification journey of Lake County’s Math department.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to ensure that my students become the best mathematician that they can when they are in my classroom. I do not want where they are growing up – our small, rural mountain town – to limit their future endeavors. 

As is probably the case for most rural districts, we lack access to high-quality and consistent professional development. I don’t blame our school leadership or our district; they have lots of problems to solve just to keep the school and district running day-to-day. I realized early on in my teaching career, that as an educator in this setting, I would need to seek out my own professional development in order to grow into the teacher I aspire to be. What I found for myself, and eventually for our entire math department, is National Board Certification

One of the things I appreciated most in pursuing National Board Certification, was that I was allowed to focus on my classroom, rather than just reading research on techniques that worked in other places. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed reading research articles! But I found the focused work on my own practices to be the most beneficial. The process forced me to reflect on what was and was not working in my own classroom. It was through this process that I gained the confidence to focus my time and energy on the things that had the most impact on my students and colleagues. In my setting, our 7-12 high school has five math teachers. Two of us are now Board Certified and the other three are entering their final year of submitting components. In about a year’s time, we are hopeful that our entire math department will consist of National Board Certified Teachers, possibly the only math department in the state that will be able to say this! 

Pursuing Board Certification can be daunting, and this feeling is amplified for rural educators who are often isolated and may have limited access to resources. Board Certification involves a significant cost in terms of both time and money. It is challenging to know where to even start when you are doing it by yourself. That is where the Colorado Center for Rural Education steps in. With their stipend for rural educators pursuing National Board Certification, teachers receive support along the way, including full financial support. I was able to be part of the inaugural cohort of educators in this program where I met other teachers from around the state and had two wonderful board certified mentors to guide me through the process. This made all the difference in my learning and ultimately my success.

A decade of research that shows that students of board-certified teachers learn more than their peers without board-certified teachers and outcomes are even greater for minority and low-income students. In the end, that’s what we want–better outcomes for our students. 

If you are committed to teaching math as a career and are looking for a worthwhile professional development that is focused on you, your classroom, your school, and your students, I would recommend that you consider pursuing National Board Certification.