Aspen teacher pushes through to earn her National Board Certification
Katie Fox turns struggle of pandemic into time to “just sit down and write”
Katie Fox didn’t dwell on the negative when the coronavirus pandemic forced students into a virtual classroom last spring. The Aspen Elementary School teacher immediately found a silver lining and used it to better herself as an educator.
Last month, Fox learned she had earned her National Board Certification, joining a small percentage of teachers across the country to hold such recognition.
“It feels like an honor to be part of a big group of teachers nationwide that have gone through this process and just have the best interests of their students at heart,” Fox said. “When COVID hit and we all shut down, we had been in different parts of our certification process and I felt ready to just sit down and write. So I used that time when kids were remote and I had a little more time stuck at home to write and analyze the videos I had taken for the board’s process.”
Fox is a fifth-generation Aspenite whose family roots go back to their homestead in the Woody Creek area. She studied at the University of Denver and taught briefly in Denver before returning home to Aspen, where she’s taught the past 13 years. She’s currently a fourth-grade teacher at AES.
Fox joins a group of more than 1,100 other Colorado teachers to have earned their National Board Certification. According to AES Principal Chris Basten, only about 3% of teachers nationwide have achieved the honor.
“To be able to get board certified under these conditions, or through any conditions, it’s a very demanding program. And then to be able to accomplish that in the throes of a worldwide pandemic is just awe inspiring as far as we are concerned,” Basten said. “It’s fantastic. It’s so much work and Katie is just amazing.”
Fox was part of a rural cohort of teachers in Colorado, focused largely on the Western Slope, who took part in a program organized by the Colorado Education Association in conjunction with the University of Northern Colorado to pursue their certification. The process started in November 2018 and was certainly slowed after the pandemic started, but Fox was among the few to push through and finish out the process.
“As teachers, we are all trying to be the best we can be,” she said. “Having those conversations about how we as teachers can better ourselves and better have conversations about our kids and their needs just kept me going.”
According to Jeff White, a fellow AES teacher, Fox’s addition gives the Aspen School District eight teachers who are National Board Certified, with six others currently working toward certification. It’s an unusually high number for the size of the district and he credited former administrator Julia Roark for starting the district-wide push for certification.
Fox found out the morning of Dec. 12 that she had joined that 3% of certified educators across the nation.
“They are very funny the way they tell you. You log into a big system and at the top there is a banner and either you see fireworks on the banner as a congratulations, or you don’t,” she said. “I didn’t sleep very well that night but I did get up and I got on and saw some fireworks, so I was really excited. My daughter was downstairs with me and she was just elated because she’d seen me go through this process as well. I was quick to jump in and email everybody who had helped me along.”
Fox said the work required to earn the certification was equal to that of earning a second master’s degree, all while holding down a full-time teaching position. Among the biggest perks for earning a National Board Certification is a nice pay raise, but for Fox it was mostly about continuing to progress as an educator for the benefit of her students.
And her dedication doesn’t go unnoticed here in Aspen.
“She is really the consummate lifelong learner. Educators pride themselves on that, having that growth mindset and that flexible approach to teaching and learning and understanding that it’s always evolving and it’s always changing,” Basten said. “She is a really curious and reflective educator who is always looking for opportunities to improve her craft. She is loved and respected throughout our learning community and we are just immensely proud of her.”
Aspen school board candidate Sarah Daniels already shares her insights on the board’s plans and budget priorities as a volunteer member of the District Accountability Committee for the Aspen School District.