Three Knox teachers earn one of K-12’s highest credentials

Sheila Mills, Olivia Holstein and Tabitha Frederick photos stacked

Three Knox County elementary teachers are now among an elite group of educators nationwide that have demonstrated their effectiveness in the classroom every day.

Lay Elementary’s Tabitha Frederick and Central Elementary’s Olivia Holstein and Sheila Mills are now National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT).  Through a tedious process of providing documentation, analyzing lesson videos, and sharing their teaching philosophy, the three learned on Saturday, December 7 that they had passed the test.

What does it mean for your child to be enrolled in a classroom with an NBCT?  The classroom teacher is committed to professional learning, in their practice, and in their content areas.  They are often seen as “experts” in their school and are invited to serve on committees and school leadership teams.

“We are exceptionally proud of these teachers for taking the next step in their profession,” said Stacy Imel, Director of Next Generation Professionals for the school district.  “By earning the NBCT credential, they are demonstrating to their students and their colleagues what it is to have a growth mindset.  We must never stop learning as professionals in education.”

Get to know our latest National Board Certified Teachers.  We invited each to share their story of the application process and what it means to earn the certification.

Tabitha Frederick, Lay Elementary

Tabitha Frederick stands outside her classroom door at Lay Elementary.

NBCT has impacted my instruction because it has caused me, as a teacher, to really focus on data and the importance of daily reflection of my students and my teaching. All teachers know that reflection is important, but what I don’t think most of us do is give ourselves enough credit for the daily things we do that impact our students. NBCT forces you to take a deep look at what you really do as a teacher each and every day that impacts every student in your classroom. Through this process, I have not only been able to help most students increase their KPrep and IReady scores, but also their self-confidence by realizing that math is actually fun and that they are more than capable of reaching their potential.

As a professional, I think this process was well worth the time and money. I learned to break down data in a whole new way. It wasn’t just about what the kids were or weren’t getting, but what I was or wasn’t doing to help them. It forced me to take a good look at myself professionally and ask myself one question… “Am I the teacher I would want my own children to have?” That was eye-opening to me.
The NBCT process can take a long time to complete. It’s very rigorous and demanding. I worked for about three months just on one component collecting data, videoing lessons, collecting work samples, writing my commentary and continually revising my commentaries until I got them how I wanted them.
I would like to thank everyone who sent up prayers for me and helped me in any way throughout this process. My parents, husband, family, and co-workers have been very supportive. A very special thank you to Jennifer Mills who was more like a mentor to me throughout this past year. Sometimes the Lord knows who to put in your path at the right time and I believe He put her in my path because she was the boost of confidence that I needed. She was there to listen and give advice when I needed it most. I could never thank her enough.

Olivia Holstein, Central Elementary

Mrs. Holstein poses for a quick photo in front of a bulletin board inside her classroom.My friends were messaging me to see if I saw the screen with fireworks on the website when I checked the website to see the results. When I opened it up and saw fireworks, I almost cried. A lot goes into this process. That message validated every night I stayed up while my family slept and worked, every game I missed my kids play, and every gray hair that has sprouted up since I began this process. It is nice to be recognized in such a manner.

This process stripped away everything I thought I knew about teaching and remade me. It strengthened my practice by forcing me to dig deeper and look into research evidence-based practices. It forced me to work smarter and harder than I have ever before. My students have benefited greatly from this process. I have learned the most important thing I can do above anything academic is to meet the social and emotional needs of my students. Without first targeting those and providing supports, the academics will never meet their full potential. We must put the test aside and dig deeper into the individual. Once you make that connection, provided you use research-based best practices, your students’ growth will become more than you imagined.

It took 3 years to complete this process. I was part of the SOAR STEM initiative. With this program, I completed a Rank 1 program with Union College and my National Boards. Doing these tasks side by side was very challenging. I would love to thank my mother and husband. They picked up the slack at home and cheered me on when I became overwhelmed. Amy Keadle and Melissa Purvis were excellent mentors that gave solid criticism and advice. Our entire Corbin cohort during the SOAR program became a family of support. We have made lasting connections. I have some amazing coworkers that jumped in whenever I needed support.

CES is an amazing school to work at. I love my students. It is fulfilling every morning I walk into that gym and they run up to me smiling at me like I am some sort of rock star. No other profession can offer such love!

Sheila Mills

National Board Certified Teacher Sheila Mills“I was excited and relieved” is the feelings that Mrs. Mills had when seeing the congratulations message that she had earned certification.

“I am more aware of what I am doing and more intentional in my instruction and how it affects my students and the outcome.  I try to make my lessons more fun and less strictly “by the book” as I want to make sure I teach to each individual student and their needs.

“The process took three years through the SOAR program and was very detailed.  Amy Keadle and Melissa Purvis were instrumental in making my success possible as well as my other teachers in my cohort.  We all got along well and worked together to accomplish each goal and I can’t imagine doing it without them, especially my teaching partner Olivia Holstein.

“I think the NBCT process is a great learning experience and has taught me more than I would have ever learned otherwise, in or out of the classroom.”

When asked about what is next for her, she responded, “I would love to become a teacher leader for the district as well as a curriculum coach and/or a special education teacher.”