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University Liggett School duo represents the elite of National Board Certified Teachers in Michigan

Only two teachers in the Grosse Pointe area — and only 0.6% of teachers in Michigan — are National Board Certified educators, and both of them teach at University Liggett School. Upper School history teacher Kitty Lam first achieved National Board Certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in December 2018. NBPTS certification is considered the highest level of certification that a teacher can achieve. “After I finished my bachelor’s degree in history, I went straight on to an MA and then a Ph.D. program in history, where my primary focus was research,” said Lam, who taught undergraduate-level classes as an MA and Ph.D. candidate. While at her first high school teaching job at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a colleague encouraged Lam to pursue NBPTS certification. “I took on the challenge because I thought it was worthwhile to document the steps that I have taken to deepen my understanding of effective pedagogy and apply that understanding to my own teaching practices,” explained Lam. “I thought that pursuing NBPTS certification would be a great way to demonstrate my commitment to and pride in the teaching profession.” While going through the initial certification process, Lam relied heavily on fellow ULS faculty member Adam Hellebuyck, who is also NBPTS certified. Hellebuyck, an Upper School social studies teacher and dean of curriculum and assessment, first became NBPTS certified a couple of years after Lam. “Adam was an important thought partner for me during the initial certification process because he is very good at thinking about the bigger picture,” Lam said. “I often turned to him for fresh ideas and feedback when I was looking for items to include in my portfolio.” Since being certified nearly five years ago, Lam has used what she learned about herself in the collection, submission, and certification process to enhance and clarify her teaching style. “Going through the certification process has prompted me to become more consistent in intentionally making meaningful student learning clear and visible,” Lam said. The initial National Board Certification process takes about two years. During these years, candidates collect copious evidence of effective teaching, including student work, data, colleagues’ classroom observations, and videos of interaction with students in a classroom setting. The candidates then submit this material to a board of judges for evaluation. Candidates also write reflective essays that analyze how the evidence submitted reflects sound pedagogy and demonstrate positive impact on student learning. A content knowledge exam is also part of the demanding process. Adding to the degree of difficulty, candidates never meet the board face-to-face. This led Lam to ensure that her submitted materials left no ambiguity about her qualifications. “You are not being observed in real-time, which means evaluators do not have the opportunity to interact with you, and you do not have the benefit of having follow-up conversations to clarify certain moments,” Lam said. Lam is currently undergoing the recertification process, which takes place every five years.