A Teaching Fellow Weighs in on Transforming the Teaching Profession

Photo of Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow Geneviève DeBose.

Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow Geneviève DeBose.

“I’m here today to challenge us all to work together towards one profound goal: to make teaching one of our nation’s most venerated professions.”
(Arne Duncan at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Annual Conference in Washington D.C. July 29)

As a Nationally Board Certified teacher, I would like to see the teaching profession become more highly respected and understood, a profession where teachers are fairly compensated for the invaluable work we do every day. Will this ever be the case? What will have to happen in the United States to move teaching into the same prestigious realm of doctors and lawyers? How can we make this happen?

For one thing, we will have to compensate teachers fairly. Duncan noted in his speech that teachers should start at $60,000 and move upwards to $150,000. In the real world, money talks. We need to pay teachers what we’re worth so that we don’t have to work an extra job or leave the profession to provide for our families. Better compensation would change the game completely.

Making the standards more rigorous to become a teacher would also help. I’ve had conversations with teachers who envision a teaching residency, similar to a medical residency, where novice teachers shadow master teachers and eventually take over the responsibility of educating a classroom of students. A national conversation about what truly makes a teacher effective would help guide states in making changes to their teacher credentialing requirements.

Increasing the number of teachers who are Nationally Board Certified and making public the amount of rigor and mastery it takes to accomplish this certification will raise the respectability of the profession. Creating four classroom-based portfolio entries and passing six exams is not an easy task. Unfortunately, it’s not cheap either. Making the $2,500 process more affordable to classroom teachers will help get more than the 3% of teachers across the country into this prestigious field. It’s also a reflective process for teachers that results in better instruction and learning for students.

Lastly, including teacher voice in the work of education reform would ensure that new policies reflect what is truly possible in the classroom. Teachers are intelligent, hard-working, and resourceful professionals who have valuable insight into how students best learn. Including our experience and suggestions in a meaningful way would strengthen our profession and enhance student growth.

I know that the task of transforming my profession will not happen overnight. This is incredibly complex and difficult work, but so is teaching. We, as a community, need to commit to this work because our nation’s students deserve a world-class educational system, and so do their teachers.

Geneviève DeBose

Geneviève DeBose is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Bronx Charter School for the Arts in New York City.


  1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I am not an educator, but an involved parent that has interviewed many teachers and principals after growing tired of the finger pointing at these two professionals. That is when I learned of the low standards at the School of Education of many colleges. I hope the decision-makers will listen to your comments and that of many others like yours and seek to implement real reform instead of blamikng teachers and school administrators for failed schools.

  2. Big dream. And how great it is you are going for it. It often takes just one to get something started.

  3. I completely agree with everything that you said. I feel like so often people say that they realize how difficult teachers have it, but often don’t really do anything to support them, when teachers need a great deal of support in order to keep up the stamina and passion required to have longevity in the profession and not burn out.

    Additionally, I was an Associate Teacher at the private school for 2 years and worked under a Lead Teacher before coming to Bronx Arts. I felt like this program was beneficial to my growth and development as a teacher. It took my learning a step further from student teaching, but still allowed me support as I was still new to the profession. It was basically like co-teaching, but I worked with one set of students all year in the various subjects, gained experience talking to families and tailoring curriculum to their needs, and wrote narrative report cards and led family conferences. We also had Associate Teacher meetings where we met with our Head of School to discuss our own development to have our questions answered. Additionally Lead Teachers and Associate Teachers met to discuss their partnership and the development of their class. It was nice to be able to see a class through an entire year in a nurturing environment. Additionally because the program was 2 years I got to experience it with two Lead Teachers as well as at two different grade levels. After my stint as an Associate Teacher I felt much more confident in my abilities as a teacher and ready to take on my own room.

    I almost wonder if student teaching should be done like this for all, but of course that takes more time than just a year. I mean I know that California does have BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) to support new teachers, but I don’t know how structured the program actually is as I was trained and teach in NYC. Of course I realize I speak as an elementary school teacher and it’s completely different if you teach a specialized subject as middle and high schools do.

    I do agree that teachers need to have more of a say in how reforms are made or tweaked as it affects our day-to-day lives and how we view the profession. The question is how to best facilitate that discussion so that the messages don’t get watered down or altered through the “telephone effect.”

    I also think it’s ridiculous that so many teachers spend so much money to get the certification and degrees necessary, but aren’t compensated enough to pay off those loans/expenses in a timely manner. Our job is just as important as lawyers and doctors (who get paid adequately) if not more as we are educating the futures lawyers, doctors, and other professionals of the world.

    Sorry it was so long-winded, but those are just some of my thoughts.

  4. Thank you for sharing the sentiments of so many educators across the country. However, I feel that that most important point was your final point, having to do with teacher input in education reform. In my 15 years of teaching, it seems as if the voices of teachers have been silenced more in the past five years than ever before. It is our unions at fault, we don’t know what we are doing, we need charter schools, we need to adopt certain successful models nationally. Nowhere in these arguments are teacher voices heard. Nowhere in these arguments are teachers asked “What has been most successful for your students?” or “What do you feel is necessary in order to seek better outcomes for students?” It is quite unfortunate that the very people who are teaching in classrooms daily, are the ones who are asked the least for their feedback. I am a teacher because I love the profession. I want success for all of my students, as would any dedicated educator. It is frustrating to be silenced, overlooked, ignored and disrespected, especially when your profession is responsible for educating the youth of this nation. I am glad that you are representing the voice of teachers. Hopefully, they will listen to what the Teaching Fellows have to say.

    • Antoinette – we fully agree with you that teachers need to have a voice in the creation of the policies that affect us as professionals and impact our ability to ensure success for all of our students. Check out Educators 4 Excellence, an organization that is working to elevate the voices of classroom teachers in the education policy conversation. http://www.educators4excellence.org

  5. National Board Certification is proven over and over again to be one of the most transformative processes for teachers in improving effectiveness.

    In relative cost NBC is less costly than getting a masters degree. Perhaps getting colleges on board to use the NBC process to be a significant part of the masters programs would make it more attractive to teachers.

  6. Yes GenEv teachers are critical in our development of the youth and more importantly a nation. The challenge becomes how can we demand more of the expectation of our congress? What are your suggestions in assisting you in this crusade of under paying the educators in order to compete with jobs that also require post-secondary education? You as a nationally board certified educator chose to take the additional steps, acquire education and continue to place your efforts in lobbying for more resources. How can I TOO as a part of AMERICA help you help our youth? Yes I believe our youth deserve an outstanding education….I ensure this everyday in my child’s academic success…but how can I help someone else?

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