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ELA teacher achieves National Board Certification

Posted Friday, Jan. 3, 2019 — 


Geneva High School English teacher Ryan DeWolfe was sitting in a café grading papers when he received notice that he had passed all requirements for National Board Certification.



"I was very, very happy," he said, admitting the congratulatory e-mail made him a bit emotional.


Just a year ago, Ryan was in a different mood—at that time he learned that he'd missed the mark for National Board Certification by a single point. “It’s very frustrating,” Ryan admitted. “I had missed it by one point.” In contrast, colleague and Geneva High math teacher Rachel Gillotte had passed by just one point. The pair were part of the first cohort to attempt certification in a newly redesigned program—so new, in fact, that the requirements were still unclear. “The whole thing had changed,” said Ryan. Without a concrete sense of what was truly necessary for certification, the application process was a bit of a moving target.


National Board Certification is a nationwide program that develops and recognizes teachers of all disciplines. The certification is recognized by many states in their own licensure process, and is known as the "gold standard in teacher certification."


Achieving national certification was always a goal of Ryan’s. “I feel like I always wanted to prove that I can be the best teacher I can, and I want to be the best teacher I can be,” he said.


Ryan had been open with his students about his work toward National Board Certification, so he chose to remain open about the setback a year ago. “I was always very vocal with them about what I was doing, why I was doing it,” he said. “I’m not done learning—you’re not done learning.”


Ryan chose to redo one of the four components of National Board Certification, choosing his weakest content area to improve upon: a video of his work in the classroom in conjunction with a paper about his instruction. His second attempt led to a score well above what he needed for National Board Certification, and Ryan now joins the ranks of about 125,000 teachers nationwide with the certification. He was notified of his success in December; his students responded to the news with cheers.


Meeting the requirements was not the only benefit of repeating one of the certification components: Ryan now has a catalog of classroom videos his students can access for personalized instruction. “I use those videos for a lot of things, and it’s really helped a lot of students,” he said. “It really does personalize their learning.” It also forced him to take a hard look at his work and make some important changes. “Had I not needed to do that for National Board, I wouldn’t have,” he said.


Ryan is also a National Board Certification trainer, and will use his expertise to help other Finger Lakes teachers achieve national certification.


His certification was made possible by the Dorothy J. Mills Scholarship. Dorothy was a Geneva teacher who dedicated her life to education. Her family created the scholarship for Geneva City School District teachers in her memory.