, Muskogee, OK

January 19, 2013

Four area teachers achieve national board certification

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Four Muskogee-area teachers have reached National Board Certified Teacher status, even as the future of state NBCT bonuses remains in doubt.

The four teachers were Hilldale Elementary second-grade teacher Christina Hamm, Okay Elementary teacher Stephanie Lomax, Tahlequah Middle School librarian Brenda Maddan and Tahlequah High School Spanish teacher Heather Willis.

In the past, Oklahoma paid a $5,000 bonus to the teachers for each year they have NBCT certification, which is good for 10 years.

However, the state pays the bonuses only if money is allocated for them in the budget, said Tricia Pemberton, a communications specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Education. She said the state put a moratorium on the bonuses for teachers who started the NBCT application process after June 30, 2010.

Hamm said the $5,000 is a bonus for her career, but she sees benefit from NBCT certification beyond the bonus.

“I felt I needed something to strengthen my skills and make me more of a quality teacher,” she said.

Hilldale Elementary Principal Kair Ridenhour said Hamm “always does what’s best for the kids.”

“She brings great knowledge of all subjects to the classroom,” he said.

Hamm said that what she learned during the NBCT application process was a “totally different learning process than what I had in college.”

“Now, every time I do lessons, I ask myself, ‘What did I do right, or what did I do wrong?’,” she said, adding the application process was “like having two different jobs.”

Lomax said the process “really makes you step back and think about what you’re doing for the kids and to reflect on what you’re teaching.”

She said a National Board Certification “should be a goal in everyone’s career.”

Willis, who also is the THS yearbook and “Tiger Review” adviser, said by email: “It feels fantastic to be an NBCT.

“When I logged into my account online to get my scores in November and saw ‘Congratulations, you are a Nationally Certified Teacher,’ it was a very emotional experience for me,” she wrote. “I spent many countless hours working toward national certification, and it was thrilling to finally reach it.”

Willis said the possibility of not getting a stipend “was not something that I thought about.”

“I am always looking for areas where I can improve as a teacher and find new ways to help all of my students learn.”

Maddan said earning the certification was a great accomplishment.

“It was something I wanted to do,” she said.

Tahlequah Middle School Principal DeAnn Mashburn called Maddan “absolutely wonderful.”

“She does a fantastic job of hooking students up to good books,” Mashburn said. “She offers a library class as an elective in the mornings.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or