Ridgefield School District's 2020-21 National Board Certified Teachers

Five educators from the Ridgefield School District (RSD) earned certification in 2020-21 from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This accomplishment marks the successful completion of a rigorous, one-to-three year program aimed at honing teaching techniques and styles that bolster students’ enthusiasm for learning.

National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensure. Only about 40 percent of educators earn the certification on their first attempt, but participating in a support cohort increases the success rate. Ridgefield schools now have 29 National Board Certified Teachers.

“The fact that these candidates continued in the national board process during a global pandemic and distance learning is an amazing feat,” said Debora Ortner, Elementary Professional Development Teacher on Special Assignment for RSD. “National Board certification takes a great deal of time and dedication, and we are proud to have teachers who are so passionate about teaching and learning.”

The RSD provides the National Board cohort support through three trained facilitators at no cost to certificated staff. Through the cohort, facilitators help candidates navigate the National Board process, provide feedback on candidate portfolios, and even help candidates capture video evidence. Teachers from neighboring districts who wish to take advantage of shared resources and support are able to join RSD’s cohorts.

Ridgefield School District’s 2020-21 recipients are:

  • Kristen Sullens Kindergarten Teacher, Union Ridge Elementary - Literacy: Reading-Language Arts: Early/Middle Childhood 

  • Jamie Heim Special Education and English Teacher, Ridgefield High School - Exceptional Needs Specialist: Early Childhood/Young Adult

  • Elizabeth Stamp Kindergarten Teacher, Union Ridge Elementary - Literacy: Reading-Language Arts: Early/Middle Childhood

Additionally, the RSD had two teachers renew their National Board Certification:

  • Austin Biel Math Teacher, Ridgefield High School Mathematics: Adolescence/Young Adulthood

  • Jennifer Sawyer Teacher on Special Assignment for Elementary Professional Development, Literacy: Reading-Language Arts: Early/Middle Childhood

“Anytime a teacher reflects upon their practice, students are the ones who ultimately benefit,” Biel said. “Although it is a lot of work, obtaining national board certification is more than worth it to better serve the students of Ridgefield.” Special Education and English teacher Jamie Heim said her primary reason for pursuing national board certification was that she wanted to grow as a teacher. “I knew that the National Board Certification process would be challenging, improve outcomes for my students, and help me dig into my instructional practices,” Heim said.

“Ultimately, the process helped me to reflect on why I make specific instructional decisions and how each decision impacts the learning of my students.” “Becoming board certified was a rigorous learning process,” said kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Stamp. “It showed me where I needed to improve and what I was already doing well. I appreciated the support of our cohort and would highly recommend the process to anyone who wants to do it.”

“Going through the process of becoming board certified completely transformed me,” said kindergarten teacher Kristen Sullens. “The lens through which I now teach has shifted in a way that has helped to strengthen my practice and support student learning in ways I never imagined. Going through this process during a global pandemic was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was also one of the best decisions I ever made.”

“Pursuing National Board certification, and now renewal, has allowed me to hone my skills with a laser focus on the practices of accomplished teaching and knowledge of the students and teachers that I work with,” said Jennifer Sawyer, RSD’s Teacher on Special Assignment for Elementary Professional Development. “It challenged me to live out my goal of being a life-long learner, and continue to grow and improve in the work that I love. As a result of this process, I have become a highly reflective and intentional practitioner, and that has made all the difference for me and for those whom I serve.”

National Board Certified Teachers are highly accomplished educators who meet high and rigorous standards set by the NBPTS. Board-certified teachers benefit the school district by sharing their information, knowledge and experience with other teachers who can then take the knowledge into their own classrooms. Most importantly, students benefit from the enhanced skills of board-certified teachers who make the most of their interactions with the children they teach.

The state awards stipends of approximately $5,505 a year to national board certified teachers in Washington State. With more than 11,600 National Board Certified Teachers, Washington state has the third largest group of NBCTs in the nation.