Lisa Lishak, a 1989 College of Education graduate, was Alabama’s first Nationally Board Certified Teacher. Lishak graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and German Education with High Honor. She went on to earn her Master’s in Applied Mathematics as well as a Specialist degree.
“In the spring of 1993, Dr. Landa Trentham and Dr. Lynne Patrick, who was a graduate student then, came to Opelika Middle School where I was teaching,” Lishak recalled. “They were there to recruit teachers to become participants in designing, field testing, and validating standards and national assessment procedures for identifying and certifying highly accomplished teachers. Three of us volunteered, and we went through the process together.”
At the time, Lishak was an Early Adolescence/Generalist and the other two participants were Early Adolescence/English Language Arts teachers.
“Although I taught mathematics, certification in mathematics was unavailable,” Lishak said. “I did qualify to become a generalist, particularly since I followed the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) mathematical standards. A generalist is required to show his or her knowledge and skill in the integration of mathematics, English, social studies, history, science, health, and the arts within the classroom. I was awarded certification in November 1994, and the other two teachers were awarded their certification in the summer of 1995. There were only 81 Early Adolescence/Generalist teachers certified out of over 289 candidates in November of 1994.”
That made Lishak the first person in Alabama to receive National Board Certification.
National Board Certification provides national standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. In 1989, NCTM issued Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, which contained a set of standards for evaluating the quality of a curriculum as well as student achievement. Further, NCTM issued the Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics in 1991. Both of these documents explain the information that teachers needed to know as they taught towards the new goals of mathematics education. Additionally, both of these documents described how teaching should be evaluated with the aim of improving student achievement.
“The College of Education at Auburn University prepared me very well to not only become a solid teacher, but also to be a leader in the classroom and practice innovation in helping my students learn a variety of subjects,” she said. “Furthermore, the college prepared me well for National Board Certification by introducing me to NCTM. Dr. Ken Easterday and Mrs. Bess Burns encouraged their students to become members of NCTM and take in-service workshops and classes in order to improve our teaching. At that time, I understood that Dr. Easterday was aware of the proposed mathematical standards, although those standards were not yet published. Thus, Dr. Easterday infused the new mathematical standards into his courses. Mrs. Burns also modeled the standards in her courses. Additionally, Dr. Terry Ley taught us how to incorporate reading into our content areas – mathematics, in my case.”
Learning how to assess whether or not her teaching met the new goals of mathematics was critical in understanding whether or not Lishak met the National Board Standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. She credits Auburn with giving her this necessary background.
“Because of the model teaching practices I was exposed to by Dr. Easterday, Mrs. Burns, and Dr. Ley, when I graduated from the College of Education with my teaching credentials in 1989, I was prepared to evaluate my teaching to determine whether or not I was meeting these standards. The college provided the foundation needed to succeed in being awarded the first national certification in our state. I will forever be grateful for the excellent mentoring I received there, and knowing how that has helped thousands of students over the course of my career.”
And one more thing.
“After renewing my National Board Certification for the third time, the National Board interviewed me and let me know that I was one of only six people nationwide to ever renew their certificate for the third time.”
Congratulations, Lisa, for your good work in an outstanding career, helping others through your teaching to “build a better future for all.”