Three Beaufort County teachers have earned one of the top credentials of their profession, it was announced Tuesday.
Julie Carroll of Pritchardville Elementary School, Michelle Ford of Hilton Head Island Elementary School and Elizabeth Macmurray of Hilton Head Island High School have received National Board Certification this year.
The Beaufort County School District now has 142 teachers who have earned the distinction, about 9 percent of its teaching staff.
The certification gives teachers the ability to teach in any state and leads to bonuses from the state and school district.
Certification typically takes one to three years. Teachers must write essays about their classroom practices, videotape themselves teaching, prove their understanding of their subject through exams, and provide examples of their lesson plans and students' work.
Ford, who teaches special education, said the process took her three years.
"The whole thing was rigorous and demanding," she said. "You're self-analyzing everything. It's such an eye opener to take a snapshot of everything you do and break it down."
Earning the certification had always been a goal for Ford, who began teaching in the district about seven years ago. When she started teaching, she was directed to watch other teachers who had earned the certification. As she observed them, she knew she wanted to reach that level.
Ford said the process -- particularly watching her interaction with students on videotape -- made her a better teacher.
Attempts Tuesday to reach Carroll and Macmurray were unsuccessful.
Teachers pay about $3,000 in fees to participate in the certification process. Some of that may be offset through private and federal funds.
National-certified teachers earn an annual bonus for 10 years, the duration of their certification. In Beaufort County, they receive $1,334 per year from the district, lowered by about a third in 2011 because of budget cuts. Depending on when they first sought certification, the teachers also earn either $5,000 or $7,500 per year from the state.
Statewide, 291 teachers earned the certification this year, bringing South Carolina's total to 8,436, the third highest in the country, trailing North Carolina and Florida.