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Smith School Teacher Receives Prestigious National Board Certification

Trish Peterson

National Board Certification is the most respected professional certification available in education. It was designed to develop, retain, and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. 
 
In the state of New York, only about 1% of teachers have completed the NBCT process. Smith School Teacher of the Visually Impaired & Speech Pathologist Trish Peterson is one of them -- and she did it twice. 

Trish Peterson was born in Pittsburgh, PA and went to Pennsylvania State University to become a teacher of the Deaf/Hearing impaired. Throughout her career, she has taught in Missouri, Maine, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Seattle, and New York state.

Peterson started at TST BOCES in February 2007 as a speech therapist. When asked to be the Speech Assistive Technology member on the CAST team, she completed a graduate certificate program in Assistive Technology to bring the most recent evidence-based practice to the TST region.

“I first learned about National Board certification when a colleague encouraged me to attend an informational meeting,” said Peterson. “I shared that I was certified in Special Ed K-12 but was employed at TST as a speech therapist.”

That is when Peterson was approached by Laura Havill, a National Board Certified Instructional Coach at TST BOCES Exception Education Department. Havill shared with Peterson that she could apply for NBCT in Exceptional Education even though she was not currently employed as a full-time Special Education teacher.

“I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to grow as a professional,” said Peterson.

As one of the facilitators for TST BOCES’ Candidate Support Cohort, Havill was instrumental in helping Peterson succeed. By sharing the reasons for the strategies used in the program and focusing on improving student outcomes, Havill successfully coached Peterson through the program. 

While completing her first National Board certificate, Peterson worked as a speech therapist in Foundations, an Autism program that was just being introduced at TST. “It was a nice way to make sure the speech curriculum I was creating for a new program utilized current evidence-based best practices,” said Peterson.

The National Board believes that reflecting on current practice and focusing on evidence-based strategies is vital to growing as a professional. As part of the COSER cohort, candidates pursuing their own National Board certification meet on Saturdays to work on their submissions and receive feedback from each other as well as certified NBCT professionals.

Throughout this process, Havill guided meaningful discussions that both supported and challenged the class. Participants were encouraged to revise their work to be more concise and add more concrete examples of strategies used, students’ outcomes and how to change instruction to improve student success.

“Laura was helpful in the application process to receive the Shanker Grant to offset the cost of my original National Board components,” said Peterson. “I would tell any teacher considering National Board certification that the process is challenging but very rewarding.”

NYSUT supports the reflection inherent in National Board work through their ELT credits offered through Empire College. This meant that for each component Peterson completed, the process itself would earn her three graduate credits. By the time Peterson passed her original National Board certificate, she had earned 12 credits that benefited her salary for the rest of her career.

“The professional growth that I felt had real financial benefits, too!” said Peterson.

TST had a vacancy for a teacher of the visually impaired and, although missing some credentials, Peterson knew she was perfect for the job. Shortly after submitting her NBCT components, Peterson learned that Dominican College offered an online program for certified teachers to add the coursework needed to add "visually impaired" to their teaching credentials. She applied and was accepted. This moment became one of the growth reflections that Peterson later recounted for her Maintenance of Certification (MOC).

The recertification process must be completed every five years to keep the National Board credential. Peterson is now an NBCT certified teacher in Exceptional Education Birth-Adult through December 2027.

“My work with the National Board gave me the confidence and written skill set to be successful in both the TVI graduate program and the written portion of the NY State TVI Content test required for certification,” said Peterson. “I am thoroughly enjoying my new position as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired.”

Currently, Peterson is taking graduate courses in Cortical/Cerebral Visual Impairment, which will be used as her next growth reflection.  During the course, Peterson was asked to edit the final group project. Her colleagues and teachers shared that her writing on the discussion board was more professional and concise than their own. Peterson credits that success to her time with Havill.

“That is a skill I learned during the revision process of my National Board submissions,” said Peterson.

That confidence is also what led her to apply for an adjunct faculty position teaching American Sign Language at Elmira College. Peterson now teaches ASL I in the Fall and ASL II in the Spring.

“Between working with the visually impaired, including a deaf/blind child, and teaching ASL, my teaching career has definitely come full circle,” Peterson reflected.

Peterson has continued to grow as a student, an educator, and a leader throughout her time with the cohort. She is now looking forward to finishing her teaching career working with students that have a visual impairment throughout the TST BOCES region.