published Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Seven Hamilton teachers earn national certification


by Kelli Gauthier

NEW CERTIFIED TEACHERS

* Jane Varnell: Eighth-grade language arts/social studies teacher at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts

* Heather McIntyre: Fashion/marketing teacher at Ooltewah High School

* Michael Perryman: Music teacher at Harrison Elementary

* Karrah Singletary: Resource/inclusion teacher at Snow Hill Elementary

* Elizabeth Renneisen: English teacher at Tyner Academy

* Kathy McCormack: Math and science teacher at Signal Mountain Middle-High School

* Jamelie Kangles: Math lead teacher on special assignment

NATIONAL BOARD-CERTIFIED TEACHERS

* Tennessee: 483

* Georgia: 2,604

* Alabama: 2,008

Source: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Seven Hamilton County educators will be honored at tonight's school board meeting for receiving the highest possible teaching certification.

This batch brings the total number of national board-certified teachers in Hamilton County to 22.

"Becoming a national board-certified educator is a tremendous accomplishment for these teachers," Superintendent Jim Scales said. "We are fortunate to have them teaching in Hamilton County."

Tennessee, which historically has had low numbers of board-certified teachers, added 70 certifications during the 2009-2010 school year, for a total of 483. Georgia added 19, for a total of 2,604, and Alabama added 225, for a total of 2,008.

To encourage more teachers to become certified, the Hamilton County Education Association this year offered mentors to help them. The association also partnered with the Chattanooga Area Schools Credit Union to offer one-year, interest-free loans for the $2,500 certification. Once certified, Hamilton County teachers receive a $4,000 bonus every year.

A state grant allows the teachers union to offer up to 100 teachers a tuition subsidy, so they paid $100 rather than $395 for one of the four components of the certification. About 50 teachers have used the Take One initiative, said Sharon Vandagriff, president of the Hamilton County Education Association.

About 26 teachers in Bradley County have taken advantage of a similar opportunity offered by the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation.

Becoming board certified requires teachers to create teaching portfolios, videotape their own classes and critique and reflect on their performances.

"This is the most grueling thing you'll ever do; you question yourself so much," said Jane Varnell, a language arts teacher at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts who became certified this year.

"You're constantly looking at [your work] going, 'How did this impact my students' learning? Is it making an impact?' It causes you to truly reflect on your profession and what you're doing for kids."

For Varnell, national board certification let her challenge herself and continue growing in her career.

"I got my master's 10 years ago, but I'm not one who's ever been interested in going into administration. At this point in my career, I needed to challenge myself to a different level," she said.

Karrah Singletary, a special education teacher at Snow Hill Elementary, said the process helped her to look at her students' needs on a more individual basis.

"The most challenging thing was looking at each kid, looking at his disability being different and figuring out what I needed to do for that kid, and processing it through the certification," she said. "Usually with regular special [education], you have to tailor it to a group of kids. If you have five third-graders and two of them are on a kindergarten level, you work them together. But with this certification, you really have to be on the money."

Contact Kelli Gauthier at kgauthier@timesfreepress.com or 423 757-6249. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/gauthierkelli.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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