Living and teaching in Oklahoma places me, a veteran teacher of 30 years, in one of the lowest ranked states for teacher pay. However, this state stepped up to offer scholarship incentives for teachers to pursue a National Board Certified Teacher license. And then they also provided a stipend of $5,000 (around $3,700 after taxes) for those that were awarded the ten-year certificate "provided that funds are available."
I went through the emotional, time-involved year-long process and earned my certificate in Library Media in 2002 with the first class of school librarians recognized with the National Board award. Although the process of providing documentation through a portfolio of written commentary and video clips as well as the online assessment was daunting while teaching and tending to family full-time, I experienced great professional and personal growth as a result.
Although there have been years when the stipend funding was threatened, state legislatures found ways to fund the award during the days of State Superintendent Sandy Garrett. Those funds were used to provide laser eye surgery for both of my children, assisted in college tuition payments, and helped to allow a life-long dream of a cruise to Alaska with my husband and two children to come true.
Since I am passionate about what I do and plan to continue teaching for several more years, I decided to take the challenge to renew my National Board this past year paying the $1,450 fee with state money I was awarded the previous year. The news of passing will not be revealed until the end of this year so I am still on pins and needles wondering if I provided adequate documentation that I strive to continue to practice teaching strategies of National Board's high standards.
Sadly, with the economic crisis in the state as well as the nation, funding for National Board stipends in Oklahoma will end in the 2012 financial budget. The deciding vote to cut the financial award to those Oklahoma teachers that chose to subject their teaching to be evaluated by a national set of standards was placed by our newly elected State Superintendent Janet Barresi.
I understand that the National Board stipends were "provided if funds were available" and I understand that Oklahoma is experiencing budget cuts all along the board. However, I was not prepared to have what should be my strongest advocate in education to place the deciding vote to basically say that teachers meeting national standards have no merit in Oklahoma.
Yet, I have hope that some of our state legislators will understand the need to acknowledge our National Board teacher recipients and will find a way to financially award us for our efforts to help build the status of education in Oklahoma with highly-qualified and nationally recognized educators. I'm hopeful that our legislature will step up again.