Centered

Arizona K12 Center Executive Director Dr. Kathy Wiebke reflects on the Arizona K12 Center's work and growth through the past decade.

Feb 10, 2020

As we move into 2020, I can’t help but reflect on the last decade. As I look back, I am in awe of what we have accomplished. Central to it all has been our faith in the impact of great teachers and our unwavering belief in the potential of National Board Certification.

It is hard to believe that in the 2009-2010 school year, we started to tell the story of 20 teachers at Mitchell Elementary School as they pursued National Board Certification. I remember these teachers well. Almost all of the teachers were minority educators themselves: English was a second language for them and many were born outside of the United States. They mirrored the community they served. What impressed me most was their resilience and determination. The documentary premiered in 2011 and won a Rocky Mountain Emmy Award in 2012. To this day, I hear stories from across the United States of teachers who were prompted to take their teaching practice to a higher level because of that documentary.

Within four years of that award, we received $2.8 million to increase the number of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) and leadership roles for Board-certified teachers. As I look back, I marvel at all that was accomplished with those resources and what is happening in school districts today as a result of money received over five years ago. Balsz School District has embedded the pursuit of National Board Certification in the career paths of their teachers; NBCTs in their district have access to meaningful leadership roles both in and out of the classroom. Lake Havasu School District has taken the National Board’s Five Core Propositions and embedded them in every facet of their work. The Phoenix Union High School District has embedded the pursuit of National Board Certification as a dimension of their teacher evaluation system.

For me, it is not about the numbers but, rather, the impact. Last year, we received $500,000 from the state to provide support for 200 Arizona teachers to pursue National Board Certification. As a result, this opportunity is reaching teachers both in remote areas of the state and in our most urban communities. Most important, it is building a network of teachers all committed to one thing: improving their practice and the learning of their students. I can’t wait to see how the impact of this current work unfolds in the next several years.

Early in my career, I wanted to elevate what it meant to be a teacher. After all, it was a profession with a prescribed set of skills, knowledge, and dispositions. It wasn’t a part-time job for women but a demanding career that required the nuanced application of knowledge to teach young people to learn, think, and create. When I first learned about National Board Certification, I thought that might be a way to raise the standards of a profession I was passionate about. In 1995, I set out on my journey and, in 1996, I became Arizona’s first National Board Certified Teacher. That experience, along with many subsequent opportunities, were what I wanted other Arizona teachers to experience. Through it all I learned that meaningful change is incremental and slow. I have also discovered that I am patient yet relentless.

I have no idea what the next 10 years will bring the Center, but at its core will be teachers and the students they serve. We will continue our work around accomplished teaching practice because of our unwavering belief that all children deserve to be taught by an accomplished teacher. At a recent workshop, one candidate for National Board Certification made the following comment on why to pursue National Board Certification, “I feel the push to be better each day in my classroom. I feel the drive to find new ways to reach our students and our greater community. I want to help every single student succeed in their education, and our district not only encourages that mindset, but also fosters it.”

There are many books written for children that I think carry an even stronger impact on adults. What to Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada is such a book. It tells the story of a young child who has an idea but is afraid of what others might think of it. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea. At the end of the book the author writes, “I don’t know how to describe it, but it went from being here to being everywhere. It wasn’t just a part of me anymore...it was now a part of everything. And then, I realized what you do with an idea… You change the world.”

We are changing the world at the Arizona K12 Center one teacher at a time.

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