Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

WCE Partners with OCS on ‘Bridge to Board Certified’ Program

Monday, November 08, 2021

Onslow County Schools, in partnership with the Watson College, has introduced a “Bridge to Board Certified” program to support teachers planning to pursue National Board Certification, the highest certification in the teaching profession. Tara Patterson ’17 Ed.D. initiated the program in June 2020, after assuming her role as the district’s Director of Human Resources and Professional Development.

“Onslow County is the 11th largest district in the state,” Patterson said. “We have a strong Beginning Teacher support program, but only two or three of our teachers were earning National Board Certification each year. When I asked why, teachers said there wasn’t a strong system of support for pursuing National Board Certification.”

Dr. Patterson reached out to Jenn Hatch Knight, assistant director of WCE’s Professional Development System Office and coordinator of WCE’s PDS National Board Certification support program. Together they developed a two-year, cohort-model leadership development program for Onslow County teachers in years 3-6. During the first year, teachers accepted for the program participate in professional development sessions designed to serve as a foundation for moving into the National Board certification program the following year. 

Eighteen teachers participated in Cohort 1 of the program during the 2020-21 academic year. They attended monthly professional development sessions focused on the National Board Standards and Five Core Propositions: dedication to student learning, advanced pedagogy, assessment, reflection, student engagement, equity and diversity. In addition, they practiced writing, and received coaching, mentoring and support from experienced National Board Certified teachers in the district.

The teachers are now in year two of the program, working on submitting their National Board portfolios this year, and a second cohort of 20 teachers began year one of the program in September.

“Feedback has been very positive,” Patterson said. “Achieving national certification isn’t easy, but our teachers say the bridge program makes it attainable. A key strength of the program is the mentoring participants receive from experienced teachers. Jenn and I can help teachers prepare generally, but having the opportunity to work with experienced teachers who are board-certified in their own core content areas is something they especially value.”

Deborah Hoffman, Principal of Jacksonville Commons Elementary School, is part of UNCW’s National Board Network and an OCS Bridge to Board Certified mentor. Ms. Hoffman has been an educator for 24 years. She was Onslow County Schools’ 2019-2020 Principal of the Year, and North Carolina’s 2020 Southeast Region Principal of the Year.

“The Bridge to Board Certified program is a subject that is dear to my heart,” Hoffman said. “NB strengthens both the teaching profession and individual practice. I am proud to have more than two decades learning with students and colleagues, and helping teachers develop their own leadership skills and abilities in the classroom, district and community is something I love to do.”

In partnership with WCE’s PDS Office, Onslow County has also added additional support for first-year teachers this year. Sessions focused on classroom management and student engagement were offered in September and November, with a third session on differentiation is planned for February.

“The beginning teacher sessions are open to all, but not required,” Patterson said. “It’s a great way for teachers to network with other BTs, and we hope it will serve as a pipeline for the bridge program, leading more teachers to pursue National Board Certification.”

“PDS has a long-standing relationship with the Onslow County school district through many access points, including internship placements, grants, NC New Teacher Support Program and professional development,” Hatch Knight said. “It is a pleasure to work with Dr. Patterson, Ms. Hoffman and teachers in Onslow County to provide a new targeted support plan for teachers. I can already begin to see how the professional development and support network created is developing reflective, student-focused  practitioners and elevating teachers into a natural leadership role within the district.”

About Watson’s National Board Certification Support Program

North Carolina leads the nation with the most National Board Certified teachers. Since 2001, WCE’s Professional Development System Office has offered a program to support teachers seeking this prestigious certification. WCE’s Assistant PDS Director Jenn Hatch Knight, a NB Certified Teacher (Early Childhood Generalist, 2006 and renewed certification in 2016), coordinates the program. For more information, visit Watson’s National Board Certification Support Program website or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards website.