Four Conway teachers meet worthwhile goal

Published Thursday, January 15, 2009

No matter how long a teacher has been teaching, there is always room for improvement and there is always room for learning.

This is why after years of college, and years of teaching, many educators seek more validation through the arduous self-reflection process of attaining National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification.

Four teachers in the Conway School District Cindy Romeo, Sheila Brooks, Jeanne Ortiz and Sarah Copeland recently received this status and were recognized by the district's Board of Education.

"This is not something you write off for and they send you a certificate," Greg Murry, Conway superintendent, said in a recent meeting. "It is based on self-reflection on your own teaching abilities in your own professional way and I just applaud these teachers' efforts at this success."

Although pursuing this level of certification is no easy task, each of the four teachers said it was well worth it for both their careers and the students they teach.

Cindy Romeo

Cindy Romeo, an English teacher at Bob Courtway Middle School, said she first decided to seek the national certification when she needed something to rejuvenate her career.

"For me it was a decision I made because I felt like I had sort of gotten complacent in some ways and I needed to light a little fire under myself and find out what I needed to improve on," Romeo said Wednesday.

Although Romeo said she was thankful she went through the certification, she said the work to reach the end results was rigorous.

"It's not anything a person can't do, it's just how much you want to sacrifice time you might normally spend on other things," Romeo said. "I spent a lot of time away from my family and other responsibilities, but I just told myself that these things had to be on hold and if I did not have their support, it really wouldn't work."

Romeo has taught English at Bob Courtway since the school opened in 1997 and taught at the west campus of Conway High School and Carl Stuart Middle School before that.

Although she has been in the education profession for years, she said her philosophy for teaching has always been the same.

"Whatever you do as a teacher, make sure you're doing it for your students and that you reflect on it to know whether or not it was successful," Romeo said. "The whole reason behind what we're doing is to see success and growth and if it's not working, we've got to try something else."

Sheila Brooks

After her principal suggested she look into the process of becoming national board certified, local band director Sheila Brooks decided to go for it.

Brooks, who teaches band at Simon Intermediate, Bob Courtway and Conway High School East, said she was ready for a change in her methods of teaching.

"I felt like I've been teaching for 29 years and it was time for me to refresh and try to look at my current practices," Brooks said. "I've been doing things the same way for a long time so I wanted to look and see where I could improve."

Brooks said though the process of studying her own work was a positive thing, it took over her life.

"It's like once you start thinking about it and you start having to write all these entries where you reflect on what you're doing, why you're doing it and how it affects the students' learning, then you are just thinking about that all the time," Brooks said. "It's pretty much on your mind nonstop for 12 months."

However, she said the feeling of knowing she is doing something right in the classroom is more than worth it. Now she can continue to live by her teaching philosophy and encourage all students to embrace their love of music.

"The most important thing is that I can try to motivate a student to where they want to learn on their own, and when they leave band rehearsal, they want to go and practice their instruments and learn more about music on their own," Brooks said.

Jeanne Ortiz

Kindergarten teacher Jeanne Ortiz has been enlightening the young minds of Conway for the past 14 years and now she feels even more empowered to do so.

"Getting the national board certification is something I always wanted to do because of the honor that comes with it," Ortiz, who teaches at Ellen Smith Elementary School, said. "It is something I had always inspired to do in my career."

Ortiz said, in a nutshell, the road to this certification was "a lot of hard work." She said each teacher is given many assignments, including a portfolio with four entries, two of which include video lessons, and a essay test.

However, she said she is happy to be finished and have met another goal she set for herself.

"It's just an accomplishment that I'm proud of and it's something I couldn't have done without the support of my principals, my administration and the parents who were so great to help me with special projects," Ortiz said.

As far as what Ortiz focuses on in the classroom, she said the most important part of her job is instilling a love for learning during that first year of school.

"If I can get my students that first year to love learning and to love school, that's something that will stay with them for a long time," Ortiz said. "My philosophy is just to instill that love so they keep wanting to further their education."

Sarah Copeland

Sarah Copeland has spent three of her 13 years as an educator teaching sixth-grade math at Simon Intermediate School.

Copeland said she thought becoming certified through the national teaching board would allow her to not only become a better teacher, but be able to reach out to her students even more.

"I really hadn't heard about it until the past six or seven years and then the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was something I'd like to do," Copeland said. "I already have a master's degree and I thought this was something I could do to keep learning."

After months of writing and reflecting on what she does everyday and why she does it, Copeland said the process became a personal challenge for her.

"It's great for you to know that you've completed this really big, long process and proven to yourself that you know what you're doing in your class," Copeland said.

Copeland said for the past 13 years she has developed a teaching philosophy that ensures every student in her class learns to his or her maximum capacity.

"All kids can learn, but all of them learn in a different way," Copeland said. "Everybody's style of learning is different and to be a good teacher you really have to hit each of those learning styles in each lesson."

(Staff writer Jessica Bauer can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at

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