After 29 years of teaching middle school students in Gwinnett, Elaine Crowell is now preparing to teach fellow teachers.
This new opportunity is the result of her receiving National Board Certification – one of the highest recognitions a teacher can earn for their professional knowledge and skills.
A 2002 graduate of Mercer University’s Tift College of Education in Atlanta, Crowell completed her National Board Certification through an innovative option offered by Mercer to its graduate teacher education students. Students can select to receive training for the rigorous certification process during their graduate studies.
Awarded by the National Board of Certified Teachers in conjunction with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, National Board Certification serves as a credential of the teacher’s assessment by his or her peers as an accomplished and effective judge of student learning. It also allows teachers to exhibit their commitment to excellence in the classroom.
"National certification is the highest honor an educator can receive aside from a doctorate," said Crowell, a seventh grade teacher in the Gwinnett County School System. "The training is strenuous, and though only about 38 percent of the applicants make it through on their first try, Mercer’s program made certification a possible goal for me."
Bruce Sliger,Ed.D., associate professor of Teacher Education, leads the 40-hour summer program at Mercer, as well as a weekly support group during the spring semester. The program is in its third year at Mercer with 11 students currently preparing for national certification.
"The idea is to improve classroom teachers," said Sliger. "Only 30 to 40 percent of teachers nationwide become certified, so having this level of certification certainly makes our teachers more marketable and able to become more reflective practitioners."
After successfully completing the process while earning her specialist in middle grades math degree at Mercer, Crowell has found her national certification has already opened new doors in the education field.
"I am having exciting adventures," said the Roswell resident. "I am now training for the Georgia Teacher Center and taking a trip to Indiana to participate in a team designing curriculum for our state."
Crowell recommends Mercer’s National Board Certification option for both its opportunity and the supportive process Mercer faculty provides.
"We received a personalized approach to graduate education that you just don’t get in a large group setting," said Crowell. "The individual attention and guidance we received through faculty members like Dr. Sliger wouldn’t be available at a large university. I loved the small classes and the close, lifelong friendships I made in our group of students."
As one of the most widely recognized and prestigious certifications in education, National Board Certification allows teachers like Crowell to go beyond the classroom in reaching students. Student interest in the program also grows each year as teachers see its benefits.
"After so many years in the classroom, I needed something to rekindle my fire," said Crowell. "Now I am pursuing new challenges and getting my National Board Certification was the way to do it."