Return to Headlines

SSP science teacher earns National Board Certification, demonstrates teaching excellence  

Mr. Burk teaching student Monday, April 8, 2019 — South St. Paul Public Schools (SSPPS) congratulates Joe Burk, SSP Secondary science teacher, on recently becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (NCBT), an advanced credential that indicates teaching excellence. Burk has been teaching in the district for 22 years, proudly noting that SSPPS was his first job out of college and he continues to enjoy teaching in South St. Paul.

“We are so proud of Joe for committing the time and effort that it takes to complete this prestigious certification process,” said Superintendent Dave Webb. “It demonstrates Joe’s dedication to the profession of teaching and to our South St. Paul students.”

National Board Certification is the highest credential available to American educators and is presented through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. It is achieved through a rigorous, performance-based, peer-reviewed assessment of a teacher's pedagogical skills and content knowledge. Teachers must submit videos of their teaching, provide samples of their student’s work that demonstrate academic growth, and analyze their own teaching against student needs. According to Burk, the process included many weekends working on the documentation for each of the certification components, each of which required 30 pages of writing plus evidence of work and application of learning.  

When asked why he wanted to pursue the certification process, Burk said that he was intrigued by what he heard in a presentation from the Minnesota Department of Education four years ago about the process. “The presentation talked about how the certification program made you reflect deeply on your teaching practice and it caused you to improve your teaching practice,” he said. “I am always looking at ways to improve my teaching practices and this certification process looked like a challenge that would help me do that. The presenter also mentioned that Minnesota has one of the lowest numbers of board certified teachers in the country and I wanted to be part of changing that.”

One of the main lessons learned throughout the process according to Burk was that, when done well, teaching is both a critically important and very difficult job. “In order to meet the challenges of this job it is important to constantly reflect on our practices and be willing to change our practices when they are not working or when there is a better method available. It is important to have a growth mindset and be willing to change when necessary, which is often in today’s educational climate.”

Overall, Burk said the certification process made him stop and think about many of the decisions he makes in the classroom and of the materials that his teaching team has developed over the years. “Reflection is an important part of the teaching practice but is often pushed to the side when time is lacking, and time seems to always be lacking,” Burk said. “The certification process made me stop and reflect, and it reminded me how important it is to make time for reflection on a regular basis. Doing so helps me be a more engaged and effective teacher for my students.”