Fergus English teacher earns National Board Certification

Jessica Vallincourt becomes first Lewistown teacher to gain NBC
By 
Doreen Heintz
Special to the News-Argus
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
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Jessica Vallincourt

Jessica Vallincourt, a ninth- and eleventh-grade English teacher at Fergus High School, recently joined the ranks of teachers throughout the U.S. to have gained National Board Certification. Vallincourt, who finished the vigorous process of earning her NBC, joined nine other teachers in Montana who recently gained their certification.
According to the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation, which administers the program in Montana, the state now has 164 National Board Certified Teachers. Vallincourt is the first teacher in the Lewistown School District to gain her certification.
“Earning National Board Certification is a crowning achievement,” said MPTF Chair Amanda Curtis. “The nine professional educators deserve congratulations for their incredible feat they’ve accomplished. These educators have dedicated their lives to providing their students the best education in America, and Montana families are grateful to them.”
“Jessica is an incredible teacher - I could sit in her class all day,” said Lewistown School Superintendent Thom Peck. “The NBC demands that teachers self-reflect and evaluate their own teaching techniques. It is very rigorous, and I love that it is very practical, based on practices and techniques used in the classroom and not theoretical based.”
Achieving National Board Certification is not an easy venture. Educators can take up to five years to achieve certification in their area of expertise. There are four components to the certification process – content knowledge, differentiation of instruction, teaching practice and learning environment, and effective and reflective practitioner.

A teacher must register for the NBC and must meet several prerequisites to begin the certification. A teacher must complete three years of successful teaching in one or more early childhood, elementary, middle or secondary schools before they are eligible to begin the rigors of becoming nationally certified. There is a $75 nonrefundable fee to register for the program. There is then a $475 payment for each component. It does not matter the order in which a teacher completes each component.
“I completed the content knowledge component last though it’s technically the first component,” said Vallincourt.

Vallincourt began NBC
after completing her
Master’s Degree
“I was credentialed in California, and in California, National Board Certification is the next development step for a teacher after she completes her master’s program. I always knew I was going to pursue National Board Certification; it was just a matter of when,” said Vallincourt, who is in her ninth year of teaching in Lewistown.
Vallincourt came to Montana from California when she married her husband, Noah. Noah and Jessica have a 4-year old girl named Noelle and an 8-month old boy named Beckett.
A stipend by the state and now by the Lewistown School District were further encouragements for Vallincourt to complete the arduous process. Currently, Vallincourt will receive a stipend of up to $2,000 from the state of Montana and a $1,000 stipend that was negotiated into the last Lewistown Education Association contract with the Lewistown School Board.
“For each of the classroom-based portfolio entries, of which there are three, I assessed student needs in the portfolio area and developed, implemented, and measured the effectiveness of a development strategy to meet those needs,” Vallincourt said about completing her classroom-based portfolio entries.
Student work samples collected by Vallincourt demonstrated the students’ growth over time and included a written commentary that analyzed her instructional choices.
“One of the experiences that I found most beneficial to my own growth was videotaping my facilitation of small-groups, a required component of portfolio three. I realized that although I perceived facilitation to be one of my strengths, there were definitely areas in which I could improve,” Vallincourt said. “I was stepping in too quickly and too often when it would have been more beneficial to let the students work through it on their own.
“Michelle Trafton, the high school’s Library Media Specialist, worked tireless in helping me to capture film that would effectively demonstrate all of the requirements of portfolio three. In addition, eight or nine of my colleagues at FHS analyzed the final video clip and gave me valuable feedback. They say it takes a village to educate a child. Well, it certainly takes a village to produce a nationally certified teacher. NBC is not something a teacher can achieve in isolation.”
In addition to the video, Vallincourt had to submit two written commentaries, in which she described, analyzed and reflected on her teachings and interactions. The video and the written commentaries demonstrated how Vallincourt engaged her students and impacted their learning.
Now that Vallincourt has completed her national certification, she cannot just sit back and relax. All teachers have to obtain so many credit hours every five years to maintain their teaching certification. The National Board has revised its policy for maintaining certification.
According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards web-site: “A process is currently being designed that will allow a NBCT to extend certification in five year increments. The process is being designed to ensure that Board certified teachers are continuing to grow professionally, while maintaining a strong impact on student learning.”
Vallincourt is encouraging other teachers to work on their board certification. She said the stipends one receives after completing the certification are an added benefit of obtaining the certification.
“It is an opportunity for teachers to hone their skills and positively impact student learning,” Vallincourt said in response to a question about how to get other teachers to become nationally certified. “This was the most meaningful professional development I have ever done, over and above the completion of my master’s program.”
“There were times I really wanted to give up, but I am so glad I stuck with it,” added Vallincourt. “I urge all teachers to try to work to gain national certification. It is well worth your time and effort.”

Achieving National Board certification

According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the Board was founded as a not-for-profit professional organization and is governed by practicing teachers and their advocates. The first teachers earned Board certification in 1994. Now over the last 30 years, the National Board has advanced the teaching profession by establishing and maintaining the definitive standards of accomplished teaching and certifying more than 125,000 teachers across the country against the rigorous standards.
Today, the National Board Certification remains the same as when the first teachers gained certification in 1994 – performance-based and peer-reviewed.
The NBC process is designed to collect standards-based evidence of accomplished practice. In all 25 certificate areas, candidates for National Board Certification must complete four components:
Component 1: Content Knowledge
In this computer-based assessment, candidates demonstrate knowledge of and pedagogical practices for teaching their content area. Candidates must demonstrate knowledge of developmentally appropriate content, which is necessary for teaching across the full-age range and ability level of the chosen certificate area.
Component 2: Differentiation in Instruction
This classroom-based portfolio entry is primarily composed of samples of student work and accompanying written commentary. Candidates will submit selected work samples that demonstrate the students’ growth over time and a written commentary that analyzes the candidate’s instructional choices.
Component 3: Teaching Practice and Learning Environment
This is a classroom-based portfolio entry that requires video recordings of interactions between candidates and their students. Two written commentaries, in which the candidate describes, analyzes and reflects on their teaching and interactions will also be submitted. Both the videos and the written commentaries should demonstrate how candidates engage students and impact their learning.
Component 4: Effective and Reflective Practitioner
This portfolio entry requires candidates to gather information from a variety of sources about a class of students with whom they work and demonstrate their knowledge of assessments and assessment practices to effectively plan for and positively impact student learning. The portfolio will also require candidates to provide evidence of collaboration with families, community, and colleagues and the candidate’s contributions to learning communities to advance student growth.

Information from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards website.

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