Three Danville Teachers Achieve National Board Certification
Three Danville Teachers Achieve National Board Certification
Posted on 01/09/2018

Three Danville Independent School District (DISD) teachers are among 316 Kentucky teachers to receive National Board Certification this year from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). 

"There is no higher honor or credential for a teacher than to be Nationally Board Certified,” said Superintendent Keith Look. “This certification signifies that the learning process will be deep, meaningful, and sustained for all students who come into contact with that teacher.” 

The newly certified teachers are Kristi Sigola (Edna L. Toliver Elementary), Helen Blevins (Mary G. Hogsett Elementary) and Derek Otto (Danville High School) bring the district’s total to 11.

“It takes teachers anywhere from one to three years to seek certification — while teaching full-time,” said Suzanne Farmer, Director of Kentucky Network to Transform Teaching. “These teachers are a part of the first class to certify since the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards revised the program to be more flexible started. It took a lot of courage to enroll in something when there are a lot of unknowns in the process,” said Farmer.

Farmer, who is on leave from the DISD to serve as the Kentucky Director of the Network to Transform Teaching, said the certification process requires that teachers demonstrate standards-based evidence of the positive effect they have on student learning in alignment with the Five Core Propositions. 

“As a parent, the core proposition that speaks to me is number one — teachers are committed to their students and their learning,” said Farmer. “I want teachers to know my kids and make the right decision based on what they know about my kid.”

Kristi Sigola, a third teacher at the Edna L. Toliver Elementary School, began her three-year journey to certification after attending a meeting at the DISD central office. The meeting, led by Superintendent Keith Look and Suzanne Farmer, gauged interest and answered questions about the National Board Certification process.

photo“Having my superintendent champion national board certification inspired me to want to begin the process,” Sigola said. 

As part of her portfolio submitted in June, she had to videotape lessons and show other kinds of evidence that her teaching actually had an impact on students.

“I consider myself a life-long learner. I am always looking for ways to improve my practice,” she said. “This was the perfect opportunity to improve my teaching.”

Despite it being a rigorous process Sigola said, it was definitely worth it considering what she has learned about teaching and her students.

“The analytic nature of the certification components are the most challenging and rewarding part of the process,” said Sigola. “By nature I’m more of a descriptive person. Now I look at activities and say it looks like a fun activity but how will it impact my student’s learning?” 

Helen Blevins received her National Board certification in Early Childhood Generalist. 

photo“From this experience, I have become more reflective of my teaching practices," said Blevins. "Through data I am able to evaluate student’s learning and modify my work in the classroom."

As a math intervention teacher at Mary G. Hogsett Elementary, Blevins desired to earn National Board certification but did not think it was a possibility due to having to complete a literacy component.  

“After a lot of encouragement from fellow teachers I taught a few reading groups by teaching math literacy,” said Blevins. “It didn’t work but I didn’t give up.” 

Instead, Blevins found another way to complete the literacy component. Driven to earn the certification she taught first and second grade reading groups during her planning period. 

“I was trying to bring literacy into Math. I realize I needed to bring math into literacy,” said Blevins. “It was through my reading groups that I realized all subjects are inter-related.”

In the state of Kentucky, NBCT certification is one pathway to a Rank I professional certificate. That was one motivator for Derek Otto, an English teacher at Danville High School. 

photoOtto’s disappointment in the coursework and techniques taught in his master’s degree program also sparked his interest in national board certification.  

“I didn’t feel like it (master’s program) made me a better teacher — and that was I wanted,” said Otto. 

The four components required for certification allowed him to analyze techniques he already used with his students. Each review was a boost for the English teacher’s confidence.

“As a teacher, you go out of your way to connect material to the real world or make learning collaborative to get through to students,” said Otto. “The process showed me the extra steps are worth it and that I am on the right path with a lot of things I do in my classroom."

Like Blevins and Sigola, Otto said the most challenging part of the process was finding the time.

“Doing each component in one year allowed me to focus on one or two aspects of my teaching,” said Otto. “Trying to do it all at once would have been grueling."

In just a few months since earning the certification, Otto is already sharing the strategies he learned with other staff members in the English department. Additionally, he encourages his colleagues to seek their NBCT after they have been in the classroom for a few years. 

“National Board certification components are the best professional development I have ever taken,” said Otto. “For teachers who want to stay in the classroom and want to earn their Rank I it makes sense.”

Kentucky teachers with national board certification earn an supplementary $2,000 a year. To encourage teachers to earn National Board Certification DISD offers teachers an additional $500 yearly stipend.

To learn more about the National Board Certification program, visit