I didn’t want to get up at 6 am on Saturday.
I didn’t want to catch a 7:05 ferry.
I didn’t want to get turned around in the dark and rain and end up going north on I-5. Then spend 20 minutes wandering around downtown Seattle trying to find my way to south I-5.
Sputter, sputter, sputter.
But, oh, NBCT teachers, if you ever receive an email invitation to an NBCT Policy Summit and wonder if you should consider going, I am here to tell you—it was definitely worth it.
After we all went through check-in and ate breakfast and had a chance to mingle, the morning panel greeted us. There were five people on the panel but three in particular stuck out to me, probably because they represented the three organizations that sponsored the summit:
- C-STP’s executive director, Nasue Nishida.
- OSPI’s deputy superintendent, Gil Mendoza.
- WEA’s president, Kim Mead.
The general message? Speak up. Stand up. Be heard. Make an impact.
But the specific message that reverberated back and forth from one panel member to the next was that teachers need to find their passion and focus on that passion.
I immediately took that message to heart. As soon as we were dismissed to mid morning snack time, I introduced myself to Gil Mendoza. I gave told him I’m on the Executive Board for WAETAG (Washington Association of Educators of Talented and Gifted). He replied enthusiastically about what a great organization it is and how lucky we are to have it in our state. I gave him my card and said, “If you ever need someone with a background in gifted to serve on a committee please keep me in mind.” He grinned—he’d just talked about how OSPI looks for teachers willing to serve on committees. Now he had a volunteer! He handed me his card and asked me to contact him again by email.
I’ve been teaching gifted in this state since 1989, and I’ve been on the board of WAETAG since 2008. But being in the room at the Policy Summit gave me a different level of access than I’d ever experienced before.
Breakout sessions met before and after lunch. Participants met in groups of about eight to discuss one of two issues:
- A—Second Tier Licensure (Professional Certificate) or
- B—National Board Incentive Structure
At our table in one of the B groups we started with the fact that we love having a bonus and, for those who get it, love having the extra bonus for challenging schools. What we don’t like is that fact that any bonus is a line item. It’s too easy to delete from the budget. For a long time those were our biggest discussion points.
Then I spoke up. I’d come to the Policy Summit with a slightly different point to make. As I told my table, I’ve been teaching for 38 years, and I’m not ready to stop. I hit 16 years’ experience a long, long time ago. I earned my MA in 1982 and I hit my 90 units beyond an MA when I was in my 50s and a long way from retirement.
The ONLY way for me to get any additional money was to become National Board Certified. So I got my NBCT in 2012. I plan to keep teaching until my certificate expires in 2022.
Having a salary schedule plateau early means veteran teachers can’t keep up with the rising cost of living, especially health costs.
So I suggested it would be beneficial to have some kind of step system that allows for longevity. For example, what if we got a bonus for the initial NBCT and an additional bonus at each renewal?
That led to a long examination of my idea. People brought up snags I hadn’t foreseen. They improved the original suggestion by adding a requirement that teachers who get the extra bonus demonstrate leadership—which spawned another tangle of questions. Who defines leadership? How many hours a year? How would the extra work be documented? How would OSPI track the paperwork? We even tossed around ideas for how much of a bonus although finally most of the questions were labelled TBD.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we not only kept my idea on our list of five “high leverage” ideas to submit to the group at large. In a surprise move, the members of my group voted my suggestion as the number one on the list because it
- encouraged teachers to pursue NBCT sooner rather than later
- encouraged teachers to take on leadership roles after completing their NBCT
- encouraged professional growth, not just professional development
Then came the mid afternoon snack. (Nasue warned me that her goal was to have each of us gain five pounds before the day was over!)
Our last keynote address came from Peggy Brookins, president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She spoke eloquently about those who surreptitiously do things for teachers but without teachers—for example, people who write education laws without bringing teachers to the table. Once again, she encouraged us to make our voices heard.
I came to the Policy Summit wanting to be heard. I hoped my peers would listen and understand and maybe empathize with the salary concerns of older teachers.
I left feeling empowered.
So think about coming yourself next time. And meanwhile, think about your passion and the difference you can make.