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Agnes Zellin achieves National Board Certification

Berne-Knox-Westerlo Elementary School Teacher, Agnes Zellin, has earned National Board Certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

Agnes Zellin teaches her fifth grade class

  Q & A with Grade 4 Teacher, Agnes Zellin

Q: National Certification is a voluntary process – what made you decide to apply for it?

A: Just like I challenge my students, I decided to challenge myself. I know there are standards for students and for curriculum, and National Board Certification is theoretically the highest standard for teachers. I wanted to see what qualities and practices were defined as the standards and then aim to achieve them.

Q: You mentioned the students were an integral part of accomplishing this certification – how did they participate?

A: When school started in September for the 2012-13 school year, I let my students know that I was “in school” too. I told them that I wanted to continue to learn and aim for high standards in the work I do. I think it’s important for students to know that their teachers are constantly learning…that life is about learning, and it should never stop. That year, my students were a big support to me. I saw them working hard, and National Board gave me a framework to understand just how hard my students work and how I need to support them.

Q: What have been your favorite things about teaching?

A: Teaching gives me an incredible sense of purpose. There’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing you’ve taught a good lesson and then seeing the look on a student’s face when they “get it.” What better job is there than knowing that, along with parents, you’re helping to shape a student’s heart and mind?

What is National Board Certification?

NBPTS is the organization that sets and maintains the standards for teaching excellence in this country. National Board Certification is a voluntary assessment program that is designed and developed to recognize and retain accomplished teachers. By successfully completing the process for certification, Zellin continues to meet the nation’s highest teaching standards. She is among the tens of thousands of National Board Certified Teachers who are part of this country’s education reform movement focused on ensuring that every student has access to an accomplished teacher.

National Board Certification for Professional Teaching Standards is based on five core propositions:

• Teachers are committed to students and their learning
• Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students
• Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning
• Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from their experience
• Teachers are members of learning communities

Zellin’s Road to Certification

The certification is achieved through a performance-based assessment that typically takes one to three years to complete and after completed, the certification remains valid for 10 years. Over the course of the 2012-13 school year, Zellin completed four total separate project entries that made up her performance-based assessment, two of which required videos of in-class work that showed students working collaboratively and one that demonstrated how she conducted partnerships with student families and the local community.

Her projects met National Board Certification requirements by showcasing that her students were engaged in writing and analytical thinking, learned about social studies in a collaborative environment and that their units unified concepts of math and science.

“To further writing and collaboration skills, I had the students study the impact of European exploration on Native Americans in New York,” explained Zellin. “The students created story boards and used them to practice their writing skills for different audiences and perspectives.”

“They also studied Native American clan culture, the roles within a clan and how each role was important to the democratic structure of the clan,” said Zellin. “This not only let students learn and understand community structures, but supported students in their social and emotional development.”

Fifth grade students work on math concepts


Students worked on applying math concepts to science concepts. Here students are modeling science concepts of water distribution on earth with concrete materials that led to graphing the data.


















Fifth grade students work on math concepts


Students first modeled science concepts, than graphed. Finally, students explained their understanding to their buddy classmates.











Fifth grade students work on math concepts


Unifying concepts of math and science: Here students are measuring in metric units the distribution of water on earth.

Fifth grade students work on math concepts


Students worked cooperatively to define their clans and used wampum beads to practice respectful communication.