One goal that Mary Cathryn Ricker has at the Minnesota Department of Education is to “reinvigorate” the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards work that is going on in the state.
“At one time, Minnesota was one of the state leaders in creating pathways for board certification for our teachers,” the acting commissioner said. “Over time, that has waned quite a bit.”
Of the 67,000 teachers in the state, slightly fewer than 500 have achieved national board certification, according to Ricker. She compares that with medical doctors, who have a similar voluntary board certification process, but have 89 percent of physicians board certified.
“There is our model,” said Ricker, who serves on the board of directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “There is our aspiration.”
Ricker, who awaits confirmation from the Minnesota Senate of her appointment by Gov. Tim Walz, said the key to increasing the number of board certified teachers comes through education, helping more teachers understand the value of the certification process and how it can change and improve their teaching.
“We have done good work in shining a light on recruiting and training and licensing teachers,” she said, “and now it is time to shine a light on the career that we are welcoming those licensed teachers into, as well. The option of board certification at some point in your career should be available, and you should know that option is available.”
The board certification process requires teachers to write essays that describe their students and lessons, analyze the results of the lessons, as well as reflect on what did and did not work in the lessons and how those lessons could be improved in the future.
“I know what that reflective practice does to improve and support a career in teaching,” said Ricker, who is a National Board Certified teacher for middle school English. “Why would I not want that as an option for Minnesota teachers? I want to renew the attention.”
Individual school districts in the state have the option to reward teachers who achieve national board certification. At this time, there are 63 districts that offer recognition, compensation, or both, according to Ricker.
While she wants that number to be higher, “That’s a good place to start,” she said. “The good news is that we are not starting at zero.”
Ricker said she likes to quote Peggy Brookins, the president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, when she says, “Every student deserves a national board certified teacher.”