BATON ROUGE – School of Education Associate Professor Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell has long been interested in ways to elevate her chosen profession, teaching. She began her teaching career in 1980, teaching high school English in rural Iowa and became captivated when then Governor of North Carolina, James B. Hunt Jr., brought an idea to education in 1987 – the notion of a rigorous process for teachers that defined and recognized accomplished teaching. Hunt’s vision of professionalism resulted in the establishment of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, or NBPTS, the teaching profession’s indication of accomplished teaching.
In 1994, when Sulentic Dowell was a middle school language arts teacher in Waterloo, Iowa, she was a field test candidate, sitting for the first in the nation National Boards; she was one of the first 182 teachers nationwide to earn the status of National Board Certified in the certificate area of Early Adolescence/English Language Arts. Ten years later in 2005, Sulentic Dowell was assistant superintendent of 64 elementary schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, when she attempted and achieved re-certification.
“When you are one of the pioneers to earn NBC status, that means you are also one of the first to re-certify, a somewhat disconcerting position. What I really recall is trying to budget the time and effort necessary to re-certify while engaged in an extremely demanding job,” Sulentic Dowell said.
Sulentic Dowell submitted her re-certification materials on Aug. 27, 2005, anticipating the chance to enjoy a long holiday weekend. She firmly believes it was divine intervention that she elected to send everything two days before Hurricane Katrina struck. Given that EBRPSS received so many displaced children and families and that she had lost her home, she stated she was unsure she would have proceeded amidst the chaos in the aftermath of the storm.
In May 2014, Sulentic Dowell was finishing her second re-certification process. As an associate professor of Literacy and Urban Education in the School of Education, director of the LSU Writing Project and coordinator of the Grades 1-5 Teacher Education Program, she felt it was vital to attempt re-certification again. As a teacher educator, she stresses the importance of experience and expertise when teaching the next generation of teachers, and she advocates that teacher educators must maintain high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. In Sulentic Dowell’s world-view of education, higher standards for teacher educators equates to higher standards for teachers, which means enhanced learning for students.
On Monday, Oct. 26, Sulentic Dowell was notified that she had indeed re-certified.
“Dr. Sulentic-Dowell holds her students to a high standard. She is an invaluable member of the School of Education faculty for having met the expectations for this highly respected title, not once, but three times,” Neil Mathews, interim director of the School of Education stated.
To date, more than 110,000 teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have achieved National Board Certification through a voluntary process to certify teachers against those standards. The School of Education and The College of Human Sciences and Education is proud that one of their own has achieved this distinction.
Contact Mary P. Woods
LSU College of Human Sciences & Education
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LSU Media Relations