Sarah Payne, professional learning specialist with the Office of Professional Growth and Innovation (PGI), received the 2017 Karen Shinn Award from the Southeastern Virginia (SEVA) National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) Regional Network. The award honors individuals who support and promote National Board Certification.
The award’s namesake, Karen Shinn, was a Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) teacher and one of the early advocates of National Board Certification. Shinn graduated from Princess Anne High School and taught at Kempsville High School for 30 years. She was the first secondary science teacher in the school division to earn National Board Certification. She also was one of the founding SEVA members and the first recipient of the award.
“Knowing that this award is named for a Virginia Beach teacher who was one of the pioneers of National Board Certification makes this honor even more heartfelt and inspires me to feel more invested in carrying on the work that she started,” said Payne, a NBCT herself who joined VBCPS in 2005.
Payne is a former English as a second language teacher who holds a Master of Education degree from Marymount University and an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) graduate degree in Educational Leadership from Old Dominion University. She now leads the division’s support programs for National Board Certification candidates.
In this role, Payne offers informational sessions throughout the year for teachers to learn about the process, which the division supports by reimbursing half the costs.
To further assist those who decide to go through the process, Payne partners candidates with knowledgeable, well-trained mentors. She also coordinates monthly Saturday sessions where mentors and facilitators help candidates prepare their certification portfolios. An estimated 40 to 50 teachers attend these sessions.
Additionally, Payne brought the National Education Association’s Jump Start program to Virginia Beach. This program, which helps demystify the certification process, was previously only offered in other regions of the country.
Payne also launched a divisionwide NBCT Ambassadors program to increase awareness about National Board Certification within schools and throughout the year coordinates celebrations to recognize the division’s NBCTs.
First Colonial High School teacher Lynn Hull, one of the division’s 136 NCBTs, said she was “very happy” when she learned of Payne’s recognition.
“Sarah was such a valuable ally in my journey. She was so patient with me as she kept redirecting me to focus my writing on student achievement—not what I was getting out of an activity, but how my students were benefiting,” Hull added. “I worked at my own pace but she was very good about keeping me accountable so I could accomplish everything that year.”
Alanton Elementary School third-grade teacher Amy Paulson, who is currently working on her certification, describes Payne as “an extraordinary leader and mentor.”
“Her expertise, insight and support have truly been invaluable to me and all the National Board candidates during the certification process,” Paulson added.
Ironically, Payne first learned about National Board Certification by happenstance in 2009 when she was an English as a Second Language teacher.
At the time, she had just been assigned a student teacher.
“It was a really eye-opening experience for me because I was having to teach someone how to teach. As I was watching my student teacher I needed to think about the adjustments that she needed to make in her student teaching and I was thinking about the adjustments that I needed to make in my teaching.”
That’s when she came across a newsletter article that caught her attention. That story was about National Board Certification.
“That sounded like a process that I should do because I saw it as something that was going to help me improve my teaching,” Payne said.
Just like it was for her, Payne states that National Board Certification is something that teachers do for themselves and their students. That is the reason she doesn’t push teachers, but instead encourages them to go through the process.
“Teachers are thinking of better ways to meet student needs,” she added. “Teachers are asking themselves, what can I do differently? How can I get to know my students better? How will it help me teach them and assess their learning” she said adding that they will answer these questions when they go through the certification process.
Payne emphasized that candidates will be surrounded by support. She credits her mentor Christopher Farms Elementary School teacher Deb Gaskin with helping her achieve certification.
Director of Teacher Learning and Leadership Janene Gorham thinks Sarah’s secret to success is that she brings “a wealth of knowledge and expertise that she is able to share. More importantly, she truly cares for all employees and is willing to work tirelessly and unselfishly to help them achieve their goals.”
Although Payne leads the support program for NBCTs, she, like her colleagues in PGI, also help with the department’s multitude of leadership development programs for all employee groups. Supporting a culture of growth and excellence is Goal 4 in the division’s Strategic Plan, Compass to 2020.
Payne was recognized Feb. 3 during SEVA’s annual recognition ceremony celebrating all of the region’s newest NBCTs and those who renewed their certifications. Payne was also surprised with a special recognition during the division’s Feb. 16 reception to celebrate the division’s five newest NBCTs and staff members who renewed their certifications.
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