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 Slippery Rock University professor helps five teachers earn National Board Certification 



February 5, 2007
Contact: K.E. Schwab  -- 724-738-2199

Slippery Rock University professor helps five teachers earn National Board Certification

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - As every Slippery Rock University education major will tell you, personal attention results in successful learning. Claudia Balach, assistant professor of elementary education and early childhood, put that edict into practice to help five Sharon City School District teachers earn the prestigious National Board Certification Teacher designation.

           Balach, director of SRU's Center for Accomplished Teaching and herself a National Board Certified Teacher, said the designation is similar to that bestowed on certified public accountants or a board certified chiropractors.

          "The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and Professional Development School Network is dedicated to certifying highly qualified teachers. Its main focus is on student learning. The organization believes the best way to positively impact student learning is by providing the highest quality of teachers. Our program helps teachers reach that certification level," Balach said.

          "The designation, recognized across the nation, remains in effect for 10 years. In many cases, it serves as a way of allowing a good teacher to climb the education ladder while remaining in the classroom, rather than going into administration as a principal or superintendent. It also places them in great demand when being considered for employment," she said.

          The designation can also mean a pay raise and automatically gives the recipient the "highly qualified" designation needed as part of the federal "No Child Left Behind." "The certification also allows recipients to meet all of the
Act 48 requirements established by Pennsylvania," she said.

           Balach's most recent cohort, selected from teachers in SRU's Professional Development School Network, saw all five candidates pass the extensive national exam. "I am really proud of them: It is truly unusual for an entire group to pass, especially when the national pass rate is only 20 percent." Results from the latest exam bring the total number of National Board Certified Teachers in Pennsylvania to 297.

           Receiving board certification were:

  • Amy Sniezek-Simpson, who earned her undergraduate degree in elementary and special education and her master's degree at SRU, then went on for extended training at Edinboro University and Westminster College. She has taught in the Sharon district for 12 years;
  • Cecelia Garton, a Clarion University and Gannon College graduate, with 24 years teaching experience. She is a Sharon Middle/High School teacher;
  • Laura Harper, a Grove City College and Westminster College graduate, with six years teaching experience and at the time a fourth-grade teacher at Sharon's C.M. Musser Elementary School;
  • Nanci Kleese, who earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Westminster College, has taught English for six years and serves as assistant principal at the Sharon Middle/High School; and
  • Maria Rodenbaugh, who earned both her bachelors and master's degrees at Westminster College, has six years teaching experience as a seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher, including three at the Sharon Middle/High School.

           Those who enter the program have the opportunity to earn nine graduate credits through SRU's College of Education in addition to mentoring and evaluation work conducted by SRU faculty. A $1.4 million, three-year grant to SRU from the U.S. Department of Education supports participants tuition.

           As part of their work, participants must create a portfolio documenting the impact they have on student learning and complete a series of assessment center exercises.

           "Teachers must have three years of successful teaching, a Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate and have at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution before enrolling," Balach said.

           SRU's program of helping teachers attain the certification has already drawn national attention. "We've been very successful, in part, because of our personal attention to those enrolled and because of the commitment of our faculty to making sure every teacher is successful," Balach said.

           Another advantage of the program, Balach said, is "our education majors doing field work, observation, or their own student teaching will now be able to spend time under the guidance of some of these National Board Certified Teachers. As these teachers serve as mentors to our teacher candidates, we augment the quality of an SRU education."

           The next program cohort also involves five teachers, including two each from the Pine Richland School District and the Sharon City Schools, and one from the Slippery Rock School District. "We hope they will be as successful as the first group. We will continue working with teachers from our Professional School Development Network, all with an eye toward continually improving the quality of instruction reaching young students," Balach said.

           In addition to federal funding, the project received $5,000 grants from State Farm Insurance and the Winner Foundation in Sharon.


SlipperyRock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.



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