Oak Grove teacher leads by example
Oak Grove School teacher Karla Fillinger, who gained National Board Certification in teaching, is shown with some of her students during a celebratory breakfast on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, in Libertyville. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 2:21AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Fifth-grade teacher Karla Fillinger has always pushed her students to challenge themselves, even when something is difficult.
Now she’s earned the right to say she doesn’t simply dispense that advice – she follows it.
Fillinger became the first teacher in Oak Grove School District 68 to achieve National Board Certification, an advanced teaching credential. Once received, it is good for 10 years. To remain certified, a teacher must reapply, but not many teachers even get that far though, said Oak Grove Superintendent Lonny Lemon.
“The teacher can do the work for 2-3 years and be unsuccessful in passing,” Lemon said. “Often, only the very best teachers even attempt to earn the certification,” he added.
Fillinger seems to fit the bill. When she started the process in January of 2010, she had already been teaching for 24 years, but instead of feeling comfortable, she decided to do what she was always telling her students.
“I realized, I can teach fifth grade with my hands tied behind my back,” she said. “I wanted to set a good example for them and challenge myself.”
Fillinger considered a Ph.D. program, but didn’t like that it would take her out of the classroom. She wanted to keep teaching so she looked into National Board Certification.
The required work – videotaping classes, submitting student work – was somewhat daunting. Applicants are advised that they can expect to put in about 500 hours of work. Slightly hesitant, Fillinger sought guidance from some of the people she trusted most: her students.
“They all encouraged me,” she said.
If demonstrating perseverance was the reason Fillinger decided to apply for NBCT, the script couldn’t have been written more perfectly when she received her results. Her score of 275 had fallen short of certification by 18 points.
Instead of being dejected and giving up, Fillinger addressed the issues that caused her to lose points. On her second attempt, she garnered a score of 305 – 12 points higher than what she needed. Her steadfast supporters, her students, were thrilled.
“They are so proud,” Fillinger said.
Because of how long the process was, the students who first stood behind Fillinger were now in eighth grade. So Fillinger’s husband, who had always promised the kids a party if Karla was certified, went all out for a celebratory breakfast on Dec.18.
Donuts, bagels, cinnamon rolls, fruit and more were enjoyed by students and staff and it was obvious that the student turnout touched Fillinger.
“I invited 88 kids, and 65 came,” she said. “They have been amazing throughout this whole process.”
Fillinger said she hopes other Oak Grove teachers will attempt the certification. When they hear about all the work required, they express doubt and aren’t certain if they can do it.
Ever the encouraging voice, Fillinger assures them the same way she does her students. You can do it, she tells them, even though it’s hard.