March 19, 2013 / Spring 2013 / Teaching Moments

JEA certification worth the effort

Written by Ronna Sparks-Woodward

I detest busy work. Any situation requiring a “just do it so you can say you did it” mentality is definitely not one I enjoy.

So when it came to JEA certification, I was reluctant (read: snowball’s chance on an August day in Missouri). I have certification from Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and 40-plus hours in mass communications to prove I’m qualified to teach journalism. Why JEA? So I could have a ribbon on my nametag at convention? So I could put “MJE” in my signature line?

After much consideration, combined with the chance to fulfill a district-mandated professional development requirement, my bad attitude and I decided to get it over with.

While the coveted burgundy ribbon and the “MJE” provided motivation, certification quickly became so much more than the external benefits.

Certification gave me the chance to prove to administration, parents, students and, more importantly, myself, that I not only had the degree, but also the knowledge, skills and strategies to advise publications and teach journalism, which, in my world, is more important than the state certification or degree.

I studied with colleagues who made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt from more than just nerves during the test session. In the pre-test study sessions, advisers shared how they handled situations and faced difficulties, preparing me for issues in a way that studying a book or reading an email could not.

I left the test with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing JEA provides me with more than just a card to carry in my wallet – I am truly prepared to guide and guard the future of journalism.

My principal and superintendent sent me a congratulatory note when they learned I had earned JEA certification. While it may sound merely like a pat on the back from administration, certification and their recognition are notches in my Credibility Belt of Power, which is kin to Wonder Woman’s bracelets in warding off evil-doers who want to challenge the First Amendment or offer deconstructive criticism.

The certification process and subsequent JEA involvement prompted a true appreciation of the organization’s support and commitment to scholastic journalism. Of all of the professional organizations on my resume, JEA by far provides me with tested, advanced curriculum, professional sources and connections with the most outstanding colleagues from across the nation.

I admit it. I like the ribbon, but the sense of achievement I felt when receiving the certificate meant more than adding “MJE” to my signature line.

It was like yearbook distribution day and getting the NSPA Pacemaker Finalist email rolled into one. I actually pumped my fist in the air and stood up Rocky-fashion with my arms stretched above my head. Anything that makes me feel that good about my job is something worth the effort and means so much more than a checkmark on my “to do” list.

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Ronna Sparks-Woodward