Purzycki earns board certification
December 17, 2005
For Park City High School science teacher Mary Purzycki, what could have been the third strike became her third-time charm.
Purzycki recently earned her certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an independent organization that aims to improve teacher quality through a rigorous process that can take years. This was the third time Purzycki tried, having missed certification the second time because she was two points short on one of the tests.
"You feel like you won, trust me," she said, noting if she’d failed this time she "was not gonna do that again." National Board Certification is voluntary and enhances, but does not replace, state licensing. It is a professional certification used by many states as an option for advanced licensing status, and fulfills the No Child Left Behind requirement for a teacher’s "highly qualified" status. Only 83 Utah teachers are nationally certified, and Purzycki is one of eight in the Beehive State to earn hers this year. Other Park City certified teachers are Jennifer King, Shelley Pierce, Lorie Anderson. Kevin King, a former PCHS teacher who now works at the Utah State Office of Education, is also certified.
"If you really want to look at what you’re doing when you’re teaching, this is really it," Purzycki said. Jennifer King spent more than 600 hours preparing a portfolio and many more preparing for a final examination. "I always thought I was doing things really, really well, but I have made some significant changes as a result of going through the process," King said, in a previous interview. "It’s probably one of the most professionally rewarding things I’ve ever done or will do." The process In order to qualify for National Board certification, a teacher must have: * a bachelor’s degree * completed three years of successful teaching (or as a school counselor) in one or more early childhood, elementary, middle, or secondary school(s) * a valid state teaching (or school counseling) license for each of the three years of employment Teachers compile an extensive portfolio and take examinations. The process has taught Purzycki empathy for student test-taking. "It gives you a little more perspective on that kind of examination," she said. The certification portfolio includes video components, so Purzycki filmed herself teaching students about the scientific method. "That’s the most unnatural thing in the whole world," she said. "It was really hard to show that’s what you’re doing."
Park City has increased emphasis on board certification. As part of this year’s teacher negotiations process, the Board of Education increased compensation for nationally certified teachers from an additional $600 per year to $1,500. But even before the compensation increase, Purzycki wanted to obtain the certification for two specific reasons. One was very practical: in case she had to move. National Board Certification carries from state to state, whereas teaching licensure must be obtained in each state. Because she’s moved around the country, Purzycki has already had to apply four times for licensure. In New Jersey, the process cost her $200. The second reason was more philosophical. "I was at a point in my teaching where I really wanted to look at my teaching," she said. Certification is good for seven years, at which point teachers must reapply "so you don’t get into teaching ruts of doing the same thing over and over again," Purzycki said. When she started, several other PCHS teachers were working on certification, so she was able to do it as a group. "We had people who understood what you were supposed to be doing," Purzycki said. For more information, go to nbpts.org.