Appreciating Teachers (Like Never Before)

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This guest post comes from Ellen Sherratt, vice president of policy and research, Peggy Brookins, NBCT, president and chief executive officer, and Gavin Payne, board member at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Views expressed in guest posts are those of the authors.

It is Teacher Appreciation Week. There may have never been a time in history when teachers have been so appreciated. With schools closed and parents striving to help their kids continue to learn, a newly energized respect for the challenges of teaching and learning has emerged.

Within days of school closures, the Twittersphere was rife with teacher praise, from TV producers tweeting that “Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year — or a week” to political candidates tweeting “At the end of the first day of … homeschooling … my conclusion … teachers are superheroes. The end.” Below we spotlight courageous ways National Board Certified Teachers are seizing the opportunity to step up and lead during this national crisis, and offer recommendations for policy leaders to recognize, encourage and support more teacher leadership at this time.

Teachers are going above and beyond the call of duty on distance teaching, as described in a new brief on teachers leading in the COVID-19 pandemic. To name a few:

From his New York City apartment, José Vilson, NBCT, is advocating for a proper inventory of the myriad ways students have been impacted, is live-streaming math lessons for the public, and presenting on “disaster distance learning” and equity and justice in the pandemic’s epicenter.

Bringing teachers together across the nation, Florida’s Elizabeth Brown-Davis, NBCT, and Nevada’s Tonia Holmes-Sutton, NBCT, are leading the National Board Network of Accomplished Minoritized Educators and Women of Color in Education in virtual breathing and mindful meditation courses to support teacher’s social and emotional needs. From her tribal school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Susan Solomon, NBCT, is manufacturing masks for health care workers in her classroom maker space using 3D printers and donated filament, window seal, air conditioning filters and hot glue.

Notwithstanding the pandemic, Leslie Anaya, NBCT and the newly launched Texas National Board Coalition for Teaching are persevering in their efforts to scale accomplished teaching in the Lone Star State by educating 1,227 school districts about new legislation supporting universal access to accomplished teachers. Meanwhile, Sarah Yost, NBCT, worked with Kentucky legislators to pass a bill in the midst of the pandemic that makes it easier for teachers to pursue Board-certification earlier in their career.

Several dozen Board-certified teachers from across the country have shared their expertise to build the distance learning skills of over 110,000 teachers through the National Board’s Teachers-Helping-Teachers: Core Connections Webinar series.

While Board-certified teachers are uniquely primed and highly skilled in continuous improvement, educational technology, and structured learning communities, this type of extraordinary skill can be brought to bear by any teacher. Beyond spotlighting extraordinary teacher leadership in your state or district, how can policy leaders support, encourage and show their appreciation — from a distance — for teachers at this time? Here are 3 suggestions:

1. Seek out and listen to teachers at scale. State leaders can create avenues for open communication with teachers to learn what they and their students need to continue learning in these unprecedented times. For example, Minnesota’s state Chief, Mary Cathryn Ricker, NBCT, held a statewide virtual convening of Board-certified teachers on equitable distance learning for students who lack access to technology.

2. Trust, support and encourage teacher leaders’ ambitions. Whether vocalizing support for extraordinary teacher leadership during the pandemic or supporting teachers’ self-selected professional learning, the knowledge that state and system leaders stand behind their efforts is a strong motivating force for teacher leaders. This trust may extend to finding ways to relieve teachers of unnecessary time burdens so they may attend to higher impact pursuits — personal or professional — in this time of crisis. For example, state leadership in Arizona, Utah and Wyoming have recently relieved some or all Board-certified teachers of state licensure renewal requirements, while those in Louisiana have relieved some requirements to become state-certified mentors.

3. Invest in teachers – particularly in solutions that strengthen practice and build leadership capacity. While the economic impact of the pandemic will likely touch all aspects of society, reassurance that teachers are valued by state leadership can be a source of empowerment. Teachers 2020, a campaign to uplift teacher voice leading up to the 2020 election, provides an opportunity for policy leaders to voice support for teachers and open a conversation about bipartisan topics of importance to maintaining a strong teaching profession. Policy leaders can sign and circulate the campaign’s Teachers’ Bill of Rights on social media or hold a virtual town hall to discuss how the principles of the campaign apply in their local context. Most importantly, state policy leaders can lead with compassion, recognizing the unprecedented stress teachers face in these unprecedented times.

If you are interested in learning more about how your state or district can support and recognize your Board-certified teachers that are leading during the pandemic, please email Ellen Sherratt.

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