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Cal State Fullertonís Professional Teaching Development Center assists local educators become National Board Certified Teachers. Assisting in this effort are, from left, Tara D. Barnhart, lecturer in secondary education and center director; Mark Ellis, chair and associate professor of secondary education who helped launch the center; and Leslee Milch, a National Board Certified Teacher and CSUF alumna who mentors K-12 educators pursuing certification at the center. Photo by Mimi Ko Cruz

Top Teachers

Teaching Center Supports Educators Seeking National Board Certification

July 27, 2010

By Debra Cano Ramos

Leslee Milch, a National Board Certified Teacher and 17-year educator, helps K-12 teachers earn the national certification ó one of the highest accomplishments in the teaching profession.

To help local K-12 educators achieve recognition as a National Board Certified teachers — one of the highest accomplishments of the profession — Cal State Fullerton was recently awarded a $72,000 grant from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Teachers achieving certification demonstrate a commitment to teaching and are considered highly accomplished and effective educators who meet the rigorous standards set by the Arlington,Va.-based National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

In 2008, the board selected Cal State Fullerton and its College of Education as a Professional Teaching Development Center.

The grant supports the university’s Professional Teaching Development Center, which promotes teacher professional development and offers preparation assistance to teachers pursuing the national certification. It pays for costs associated with providing a wide range of support to the National Board candidates, as well as school outreach and recruitment activities, said Tara D. Barnhart, lecturer in secondary education and center director.

The national board awards scholarships to teachers seeking support at the center to help offset the cost of the certification process, which is about $2,500, said Mark Ellis, chair and associate professor of secondary education, who led efforts to establish the campus center.

To date, candidates have received nearly $70,000 in scholarships, Ellis said.

The center is seeking new funding since the national board grant funds end this year. The center is expected to receive a final grant installment of $36,000 this fall.

Ellis, a former middle school teacher certified in early adolescence mathematics, said it is critical that Cal State Fullerton continue its commitment to supporting teachers’ professional development.

“The university gains great benefits from establishing connections with so many accomplished educators in the region, who may in turn lend their expertise to our teacher preparation programs,” Ellis said. “As teacher quality is being discussed in the media, it is also important that the College of Education help the general public recognize that National Board certification exists as a measure of teaching excellence.”

Accomplished Teachers

In efforts to help teachers succeed in the certification process, funds also are used to pay stipends to local National Board Certified Teachers to mentor candidates.

One of the center’s lead candidate support providers is Leslee Milch, a 17-year educator and 2002 Cal State Fullerton graduate who earned a master’s in education with a concentration in reading. Milch teaches kindergarten at Carl E. Gilbert Elementary School in Buena Park and achieved national certification in early childhood education in 2003.

“Earning national board certification is the most profound professional development opportunity available for teachers,” Milch said. “It’s a true performance-based assessment of what we do everyday in our classrooms.”

Milch, who currently serves on the board’s committee to revise standards for early childhood certification, is a strong believer in the process because of the impact it has on student learning.

“National Board certification not only improves teaching quality and teacher retention, but also has a positive impact on student achievement. Certification helps teachers become reflective practitioners who are more effective in everything they do, every single day, with every single child,” said Milch, who also is the Orange County Department of Education’s outreach and recruitment coordinator for teachers pursuing the certification.

National Board certification is an advanced teaching credential and complements a teacher’s state credential. Certification can be a one- to three-year process and only about 3 percent of the nation’s teaching force earns the certification, according to the National Board.

Teachers spend an average of 300 hours engaging in intensive study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review before attaining the certification, said Barnhart, a former secondary teacher who is National Board certified in high school science.

The Professional Teaching Development Center currently supports 53 local teachers wishing to achieve national certification. The center serves educators in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and eastern Los Angeles County.

In 2008-09. the center supported 35 candidates and all completed the assessment process, Barnhart said. Of those, 13 teachers were deemed to have successfully met the required standards and achieved National Board certification.

Barnhart pointed out that due to the rigorous standards, the first-time candidate certification rate is less than 40 percent.

“Advanced candidates — those who did not achieve certification on their first attempt — have the opportunity to receive continued support through the center in efforts to refine their teaching practices to meet the high standards set for certification,” Barnhart said.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers 25 certificate areas for K-12 teachers that cover a variety of subject areas and student developmental levels. In 2009, nearly 8,900 teachers nationwide achieved certification, bringing the total number of teachers and counselors certified by the National Board to more than 82,000.

In California, there are more than 4,500 National Board certified teachers, including about 200 in Orange County schools, Milch said.

As a result of the state budget crisis affecting school districts and teaching jobs today, more and more teachers are seeking certification to boost their careers and salaries, Milch said.

“National Board certification can open many doors for teachers as educators and as leaders because they are deemed highly effective and exemplary models of the teaching profession,” Milch said.


New Center Bolsters Quality, Student Learning
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Media Contacts:

Tara D. Barnhart, Professional Teaching Development Center, 657-278-3113 or
Debra Cano Ramos, Public Affairs, 657-278-4027; 657-278-2414 or

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