A local teacher has achieved what some consider her profession's "gold standard."
Amanda Zullo, a Saranac Lake High School science teacher, is one of 156 New York teachers who were awarded certification this year through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Zullo is the first Saranac Lake teacher to achieve the honor, and one of only four in the region who have national certification.
"It was a good experience, and I would hope to encourage more teachers from around this region to take the leap and pursue it," Zullo told the Enterprise Wednesday.
Saranac Lake High School science teacher Amanda Zullo, right, stands with state Education Commissioner John King following a Monday ceremony at Schenectady High School where 156 New York teachers, including Zullo, were recognized for achieving national certification this year.
(Photo — New York State United Teachers)
Zullo and the rest of the National Board's "Class of 2012" were introduced Monday at a news conference at Schenectady High School, where 14 teachers became National Board-certified this year. State Education Commissioner John King was among the attendees.
"New York already has some of the finest educators in the nation, and this new cohort of nationally certified teachers will raise the bar even higher," King said in a press release. "All of these talented teachers have shown a remarkable commitment to improving their practice and helping their students climb the ladder to college and career readiness."
"These teachers invest in their students, their schools and their community, and research shows their work leads to greater student achievement," New York State United Teachers union President Richard Iannuzzi said in the release.
To achieve national certification, candidates have to demonstrate through teaching portfolios, student work samples and thorough analyses of their teaching and students' learning that they know their subject area and how to teach it, while also demonstrating successful outreach to parents and community.
A Gloversville native, Zullo started teaching in 2004 at Schenectady High School before taking her current job in 2005. She said she first became interested in achieving National Board certification when she got involved in a national curriculum project. Many of the teachers she worked with were board certified.
"Once that was finished, I had the time and decided it would be a good thing to pursue," Zullo said.
The process of achieving certification was rigorous. Zullo said it took her between 200 and 400 hours over the course of a year.
"You have to analyze your student work and videos of you teaching," she said. "I had to tape two different types of lessons and supplement that with student work that demonstrated their gain of knowledge, and track a topic over time as well. I had to write four different papers that were about 15 to 20 pages in length. It took up most of my free time. It's kind of an all-encompassing process. Even when you're not working on it, you're thinking about it."
Zullo is now nationally certified in seventh- through 12th-grade physical science with a specialty in chemistry. She said she's already seeing the benefits of the process.
"I've got a diverse group of kids this year, and I've been able to meet their needs and react and understand a little bit better about how to accomplish my instructional goals. It's been great, and I appreciate everybody's support."
Looking ahead, Zullo said she hopes to get involved in more national-level education projects. She said she's already working with the College Board, the nonprofit group that administers the SAT and other college readiness programs.
Saranac Lake High School Principal Bruce Van Weelden said he and the school's staff are "extremely proud" of Zullo's achievement.
"It takes a great deal of time, effort and dedication in order to gain this certification," Van Weelden wrote in an email. "Amanda did this in addition to her teaching, coaching, extra curricular and professional obligations. To say that Amanda has gone the extra mile is an understatement. She has positioned herself to be a resource and expert with regard to the Common Core standards and the direction that the Regents Reform Agenda wishes to go."
The full listing of New York's new Nationally Board-certified teachers can be found at www.nysut.org. More information about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is posted at www.nbpts.org.