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State vs. National Certification
by Stephanie Capalbo

Stephanie Capalbo is working toward National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist.

September 29, 2003

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about National Board Certification (NBPTS) and the realization dawned on me that for ten years it would supersede my Rhode Island State Certification. It seems fitting, therefore, to be able to compare the two. Achieving my initial elementary education certification seems like eons ago; in reality, it was eight years ago. I received my early childhood certification seven years ago. Mostly, I recall taking the prescribed courses as outlined by the college, along with practice teaching in different subject area. The major determining factor for certification was taking the National Teachers Exam (NTE). I don't feel that the courses and requirements prepared me to teach in Rhode Island any more than in any other state.

As a newly state-certified educator, I felt confident that I could be an effective teacher -- until I went into schools as a substitute teacher and saw all I had yet to learn. I am thankful that state regulations made it necessary for me to further my education. For the past seven years, I've had to take courses to retain my certification. I could have taken any nine credits, however, even a course on water aerobics. Most educators wouldn't waste their time or money on a course that wouldn't directly impact their students, but the truth is, you can take those courses and still be certified to teach.

The beauty of the National Board Certification process is that it exemplifies great teaching, no matter what content area you teach. It also makes me examine daily the lessons taught in my classroom for substance and for overall effectiveness. After teaching for seven years, I feel that I can more adequately evaluate my practices through the National Board certification process. I think state regulations serve a purpose for new teachers, and that working towards national certification should be reserved for teachers with some experience under their belt. Even if I do attain National Board Certification, I will continue to take professional courses and workshops in my field, not because I have to, but because I want to in order to meet the needs of my students.

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Meet Stephanie Capalbo

Stephanie Capalbo received a bachelor's degree in psychology with a concentration in elementary education from Rhode Island College in May 1995. She became certified in early childhood education in August 1997. For the past six years, Stephanie has been teaching kindergarten at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly, Rhode Island. In the fall of 2000, the kindergarten at Bradford became the first and only kindergarten in the district to receive accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In 2003, Stephanie was named Westerly's Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year.

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