CARBONDALE, Ill. -- More than a dozen counties in Southern Illinois have no National Board Certified teachers, even though more teachers than ever earned that voluntary professional certification in the state this year.
It's tougher to recruit teachers in rural areas to go through the certification process because there are fewer peers around to mentor them, said Vicki Hensley of the Illinois Board of Professional Teaching Standards.
Overall, Illinois had 511 new National Board Certified teachers this year, its most ever. But 13 counties in Southern Illinois have no teachers with the certification.
To get nationally certified, teachers must pass tests in the subject they teach and analyze their teaching strategies.
Illinois ranked fourth in the nation this year for new nationally certified teachers, compared to neighboring Missouri, which was No. 21.
The states with the most newly certified teachers were Florida and North Carolina. Florida had 1,676 and North Carolina had 1,448.
The goal is to get more southern Illinois teachers certified next year.
"We seem to not get on the bandwagon as quickly," said Pat Herrington, a board certified math teacher at O'Fallon Township High School in the Metro East.
To promote it, the state board has held seminars and there's an outreach office at Illinois State University for teachers.
There is already some progress, Hensley said. There were 35 new certified teachers in the area that includes the Metro East this year, compared to 28 in 2006. The Carbondale area got 17 new certified teachers, compared to 10 last year.
There is a financial incentive for teachers to get nationally certified because those who are often get paid more.
O'Fallon High, where Herrington teaches, gives an extra $1,500 to teachers who get certified, a provision in their union contract.
Herrington, a teacher for 33 years, was among the first in his district to get certified three years ago.
"It makes you more introspective and look at yourself in the classroom," he said.