Oak Glen teacher makes history, achieves National Board Certification

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Christina Gaura is the first teacher in District 158 history to achieve the distinctive credential

By Jennifer Yos

LANSING, Ill. (January 28, 2021) – In December, Christina Gaura achieved a personal goal and made District 158 history by receiving her certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). National Board Certification is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education, and no teacher in the district’s history has achieved it.

A rigorous certification process

Gaura, a Reading Specialist at Oak Glen Elementary School, volunteered to start the certification process in August of 2017, a process that entails rigorous assessments. As a certification candidate, Gaura was required to answer multiple-choice questions, write essay responses, and keep portfolios with student work samples, classroom video recordings, and evidence of collaboration with families, community, and colleagues—all with written commentaries, reflections, and analyses. Gaura’s assessment process took over three years to complete, concluding on December 12, 2020, when she earned her certification and made District 158 history.

Christina Gaura
Reading Specialist Christina Gaura chose to complete National Board Certification as part of her professional development in helping Oak Glen students improve reading skills. (Photo provided by Christina Gaura)

Principal Michael Earnshaw appreciates the determination and effort that Mrs. Gaura demonstrated in those three years: “Words can’t express how proud I am of Chris Gaura for her accomplishment of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher! It has been an exciting ride to watch her these past few years, through the highs and lows, the smiles and frowns, the excitement and frustrations. This task has not been easy, and watching Chris’s determination, grit, and never-give-up attitude has been nothing short of inspiring! I applaud her for her dedication to setting goals and working hard nonstop to reach them. She is a role model for all of our staff and students!”

Lifelong learner

At this time there is no monetary compensation for District 158 teachers who become board certified, but Gaura’s motivation was not monetary. “I am a lifelong learner” she explained, “and wanted a goal to keep learning and to improve myself professionally.” Gaura has two master’s degrees—Reading, and Curriculum and Instruction, K-12. “I was considering another degree,” she said, “but felt that National Board would afford me the opportunity to improve my practice and help more of my students. Also, National Board appealed to me because it was created by educators for educators. Portfolio entries and assessments are peer reviewed by National Board Educators, and the process included National Board Teacher mentors throughout.”

The NBPTS assessment process has four components: component one assesses the educator’s content knowledge; component two assesses differentiation in instruction; component three assesses teaching practice and learning environment; and component four assesses the educator as an effective and reflective practitioner. Each component currently costs $475, but because Oak Glen School qualifies for Title I assistance, Gaura qualified for the Illinois National Board Subsidy that covered all but the annual $75 registration fee.

Reading Specialist

As an Oak Glen reading specialist, Gaura’s duties include providing Tier 3 (highest need) Response to Intervention (RtI) for regular education students in grades 1-5. She regularly monitors student growth by running record assessments, sight word checklists, and Reading Curriculum Based Measurements (CBMs). She collaborates with classroom teachers to analyze student assessments and classroom data, and when students show reading improvement, she works with the school team to determine movement to a lesser intervention within the classroom.

Gaura created Fry Sight Word bulletin boards outside both the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. They feature different levels of word complexity monthly, along with previous monthly words hanging on rings (upper left). Teachers lead students in practicing the new words and students can also read the rings of the old words and then pass them down the line . (Photo provided by Christina Gaura.)

Professional development for Christina Gaura and others

Gaura shared thoughts on what she learned from the certification process: “I really loved the opportunity to examine my practice within the framework of the 5 Core Propositions of teaching. Every piece is interconnected. I really took the time to consider what I specifically accomplish that contributes to student learning both within my practice and within the school community. I reflected on areas where I could continue to improve or further support my students and school. Board Certification is an all-consuming endeavor, but it has been the best professional development I have ever completed.”

Superintendent Dr. Nathan Schilling expressed district pride in Gaura for her achievement, saying, “Lansing School District 158 is incredibly proud of Mrs. Christina Gaura for receiving licensure from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This is the most rigorous and respected certification available to professional educators in the United States and only about 5% of Illinois teachers hold this credential. Mrs. Gaura is the first District 158 teacher to become National Board Certified but will hopefully not be the last. She is planning to become a mentor for others pursuing this license and we applaud her dedication, initiative, and perseverance.”

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, founded in 1987, is a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing the quality of teaching and learning. According to nbpts.org, the purpose of NBPTS board certification is “to develop, retain, and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide.” The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) moves teachers with NBCT designation on their licenses to Master teacher designation. Gaura has signed up to be a mentor with the National Board. Her hope is that District 158 will be able to start a National Board Professional Development District, which will help more D158 teachers move to NBCT designation.

Oak Glen Elementary School is located at 2101 182nd Street, Lansing, IL.

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Jennifer Yos grew up on Walter Street in Lansing with nine siblings. She attended St. Ann’s School and T.F. South, and she earned a BA in the Teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a MS in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. For 34 years she taught English, as well as Creative Writing and Drama, at Lincoln-Way High School. She dabbled in freelance journalism for the Joliet Herald News Living section. Now retired, Jennifer appreciates the opportunity to write for The Lansing Journal and is uplifted by the variety of positive people she has already met who are making a difference in Lansing.