Coomer completes national certification

Thursday, December 23, 2010
Karen Coomer is the first Piggott teacher to receive national certification

Karen Coomer has long been a respected educator at Piggott High School. During her 28 years of teaching, she has offered students instruction in math, family and consumer sciences and driver's education.

Coomer recently achieved a professional and personal milestone, completing her National Board Certification.

To earn certification, teachers must successfully complete a voluntary assessment program. This program, which is essentially an advanced teaching credential, requires participants to complete 10 assessments which are reviewed by trained teachers in their certificate area, which in the case of Coomer is mathematics. Coomer was required to complete each assessment, which gave detailed information on her teaching practices, as well as her knowledge of mathematics. Coomer said each assessment, or portfolio, amounts to about 25 pages of work.

With the sheer amount of additional work, combined with the rigorous teaching and activity schedule, plus the day-to-day events of life, Coomer was very busy this past year. However, her efforts paid off, as she became the first Piggott School District teacher to receive National Board Certification.

"It was a lot of work," Coomer said with a slight smile. "But, it was something I wanted to do and I did it. It took a lot of weekends and nights, but I got through it."

In Coomer's case, she was not only a trailblazer, but also an apt pupil, completing the program in just one year, something less than half of those who complete certification are able to do.

In fact, Coomer estimates she spent around 400 hours completing the certification process.

While certification requires additional work, it also offers compensation to those who successfully complete the process. Certified teachers receive an annual stipend from the state for the 10 year period of certification. Once the 10 year period is complete, teachers may go through the process again to be recertified.

The certification process was started to ensure participant teachers maintain a high level of knowledge in their fields and teaching practices, thereby allowing them to better instruct students. In the end, the program benefits not only teachers, but also their classes.

There are some hurdles to the program. In addition to the workload, the program also requires a $2,500 application fee. Arkansas does offer a grant program which will pay half the application fee, which Coomer utilized.

However, economic uncertainty has been a factor in creating hesitation among many teachers. Paula Blackwell of Piggott State Bank has implemented a program to help Piggott teachers interested in pursuing certification. The bank is offering loans of the $1,250 not covered by the state grants, in the hopes completion of the program will help both the school and the community. This announcement has opened the door to certification for many teachers, with Coomer estimating there are 12 Piggott educators currently undergoing the certification process.

"That will really help a lot of teachers who wanted to become certified, but might not have been able to afford it," Coomer said. "It's wonderful that Piggott State Bank has stepped forward like this to help."

Now that Coomer has earned her certification, she says she is considering becoming a scorer, one of the teachers who help grade certification portfolios. Coomer said she would like to begin work on this next phase during the summer.

"That way I can be a help to those who are starting the process," Coomer said.

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