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Teacher earns rare distinction

​​When did Donia Briones realize she would dig for the gold standard of teaching certifications?  Years ago, as a student teacher.


Her inspiration was Rose Vilchez, then a veteran instructor at Peralta Elementary.  "I had never been challenged so much by anyone," said Mrs. Briones, a Rustic Lane Elementary teacher.  "Whatever she had done to get to that level is what I wanted to reach for."


What Mrs. Briones reached for – and attained in 2007 – was National Board Certification, among the most prestigious honors in her profession.  This fall, she earned certification renewal through 2027. 


The designation is special because it rewards hard work and merit.  Conferred by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the certification sets high standards for what the nation's best teachers should learn and achieve.  "It's about constantly reflecting on your own practice, not being satisfied with what you've already done, and always looking for improvement and growth," said Mrs. Briones.   


The instructor, who has taught fourth grade at Rustic Lane for 15 years, is certified as a Middle Childhood Generalist: She can teach, at the highest level, students ages 7-12 in math, language arts, social studies, health, art and science. "It challenged me curriculum-wise because I had to show competence in all those grades," she said.


But the certification requires more than curriculum mastery.  Mrs. Briones also had to show skill at community outreach, professional leadership and managing change.  To renew her certification, she wrote 26 pages, compiled 18 pages of documentation, and created two videos.  The submission highlighted a range of her work, including coordinating family nights, adapting technology to the classroom, and coaching new teachers.


Studies repeatedly have linked National Board certified teachers with better learning outcomes for students.  The performance-based and peer-reviewed process resembles board certification in such fields as medicine and engineering.


In California, a state with 300,000 teachers last year, about 6,300 teachers have earned the distinction since the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was founded in 1987.  Mrs. Briones is one of three current Jurupa Unified teachers to hold the credential. 


"We are so proud of Mrs. Briones for being an outstanding educator and her commitment to achieve the highest standard of teaching," said Jurupa Unified Superintendent Elliott Duchon.  "She has worked extremely hard and is most deserving of the National Board Certification."


Mrs. Briones said she appreciates the support: "It's really nice to receive this validation as a teacher."  She lauded John Allen, the district's Coordinator of Professional Development, for providing invaluable feedback on her renewal submission, which she completed over the past year.


Not only has the hard work paid off in her own classroom, she said, but Mrs. Briones has shared her learning with new teachers at Jurupa Unified, as she helps mentees grow more reflective and effective in the classroom. 


In this way, Mrs. Briones can inspire her colleagues, just as she found herself inspired years ago.  She may, indeed, be other teachers' version of Mrs. Vilchez.