As she smiled with pleasure and relief Tuesday, Aiken High English teacher Katie Osteen offered the reaction that thousands of teachers nationwide have expressed in different ways for more than a decade.

The National Board Certification program “is like taking a second job,” she said. “My husband (Matt) heard about it from me constantly. I spent a lot of Saturdays in the library, which was difficult with a son who was 18 months old at the time.”

Yet, the process proved to be valuable for Osteen, a seven-year veteran teacher. She is one of four Aiken County teachers announced Tuesday; the others are Kimberly Badger of South Aiken High; Lindsey Quarles of Mossy Creek Elementary School; and Melissa Bauers of Wagner-Salley High School.

All four spent more than a year separately on the program – creating portfolios that included analysis of their students’ work. As an English teacher, Osteen documented how two of her students grew in reading and writing. In another major project, each teacher provided National Board officials a video demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of the teacher.

“I really sat back and looked at my kids and determined how I could help them achieve at the next level,” Osteen said.

The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement reported that 291 South Carolina teachers earned National Board Certification this year, receiving the news in November before the formal announcement came out Tuesday. With 8,436 South Carolina educators achieving the NBC award since 1999, the state ranks third nationally, trailing only North Carolina and Florida.

Successful National Board teachers initially received a $7,500 stipend annually for 10 years. Three years ago, the S.C. General Assembly lowered the annual payment to $5,000.

South Aiken High School teacher Anne Poplin earned certification in 1999 – the first in the district and among the very first in the state. The following year she was joined by Esther Blake and Teresa Casey, both Chukker Creek Elementary School teachers.

Blake took over from Poplin as the program’s district coordination through CERRA. In that role, she provides support for teachers going through the process.

She agrees with all the newest National Board teachers that the challenge is worth it. Quarles called the program “the most powerful professional development I’ve yet to experience,” she said via email. “…The experience as a whole changed me as a professional and deepened my content knowledge.”

The certification was not so much as researching strategies or giving opinions on teaching techniques, Kimberly Badger said, also through email.

“It was truly digging deep to pull together all of my teacher instincts so that I could identify individual student needs and employ innovative strategies to address them,” she said.

The National Board “required me to defend my teaching and opened my mind to the advantages of reflection,” Melissa Bauers said. “(It) made me look for ways to improve my skills as a math teacher and a mentor.”