Teaching Profession Opinion

Tribute to Ron Thorpe

By David B. Cohen — July 01, 2015 4 min read
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Today, we lost a real champion for the teaching profession. Ron Thorpe, the president and CEO of the National Board for Profession Teaching Standards, passed away. NBPTS published this release earlier today, and EdWeek also reported on Thorpe’s passing. A memorial webiste has also been set up with additional information and remembrances.

I met Ron at three events during his tenure at NBPTS, beginning with a gathering of state network leaders held in North Carolina. Though it was early in his time at the National Board, he had very clear ideas about improving the certification process, the visibility and importance of the organization, the process of National Board Certification, and the status of the profession. He impressed me with his vision and vitality. Ron articulated a grand idea and pursued it with gusto, never dissuaded by the scope of the challenge or the likelihood of some stumbles along the way.

When we met again at the Teaching and Learning Conferences last year and this past March, Ron remained accessible and enthusiastic about the work ahead. His health was clearly in decline this year, but he summoned the energy to be part of the conference and continue the work of celebrating teaching and advancing the profession.

I reached out to some friends and colleagues, most of whom knew Ron Thorpe better than I did, and was able to gather these tributes and remembrances. If more come along in the next few days, I’ll update the post (and note edits at the end).

• “Ron had a tremendous and genuine respect for teachers and all that we do. He also could not only envision a better future for our profession, but also what it would take to get us there.”

- Renee Moore, NBCT, NBPTS Board of Directors

• “Ron’s vision will continue to guide our work in Arizona. He was an extraordinary leader with an incredible vision of the possibilities. I can think of no greater tribute than for us to carry out that vision.”

- Kathy Wiebke, Executive Director, Arizona K12 Center, NBPTS Board of Directors

• “In 2012 at the World Teachers Day convening at UNESCO in Paris, Ron was the only American on the agenda. I had the honor of being his ‘plus-one’ to the event. Ron always sought ways to elevate the voices of teachers, and I got to see up close how foreign ministers of education hung on his words and sought to pick his brain. His speech, “Making the Teaching Profession a Profession,” earned a stirring ovation and Ron was mobbed after his session. Ron was definitely a visionary and idea man. He seized and created so many opportunities to shine lights and connect dots on the potential of making teaching a true profession. He was the right man at the right time for the right job at the National Board, and will be incredibly missed, but his legacy is extraordinary. Ron’s essential kindness and generosity of spirit cultivated an army of champions to carry on his inspiring work.”

- Dan Brown, NBCT, Executive Director, Future Educators Association

• “I remember when Ron visited my classroom at Shaw Elementary. My fifth graders had set up an Oprah-style interview with him, had done their research on him, and were all dressed up in their Sunday best, excited to meet him. He has such a passion for teachers and education, but honestly, I was so curious to see Ron interact with my students! Fast forward to the end of the interview, when Ron is up in front of my students, just lighting up, sharing with them how many of our last names have origins in Greek and Latin. He might have been a formal and polished man in a suit and tie, but that day, he was one with my students. I’ll never forget the smiles. Ron had such a passion for the teaching profession, for learning, and for transforming public education into the beautiful vision he had in his heart and head. I will carry that passion with me, along with memory of Ron whooping it up with a the learners in a little ole’ classroom in Tampa, FL.”

- Megan Allen, NBCT, Mt. Holyoke Programs in Teacher Leadership, NBPTS Board of Directors

• “Ron Thorpe was a visionary who expanded my view of teaching as a profession. I remember when I first heard him talk about his vision of National Board Certification as the norm and aligning our profession’s board certification with what is asked of doctors, including a residency. I thought it was brilliant and just what we need as a profession. I’m just finishing The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein. Simply put, it’s a history of people other than teachers making policy decisions often based on what sounds good at the time. Ron had a vision, and I have a vision, of teachers taking back our profession and putting accomplished teachers in the policy seat. Thank you Ron Thorpe for pointing us in the right direction.”

- Linda Bauld, NBCT, Director, National Board Resource Center at Stanford University

• “Ron Thorpe was the reason I didn’t return to the classroom after my Teaching Ambassador Fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education. He convinced me to join the National Board team and I’m so glad I did. Two years of learning, growth, discovery, and friendship. He saw something in me and pushed and supported me every step of the way. He believed in teachers leading the work and greatly increased the number of National Board Certified Teachers on staff. When I left the Board last year, while he was sad to see me go, he fully supported me because I was returning to the heart of our work in education - teaching and learning with our students. I’m so grateful that we were in each other’s lives if even for a short time and am sending so much love to Ron, Margaret, their family, and the entire National Board family. He was a good man with a vision, determination and love. We will miss you Ron.”

- Genevieve DeBose, NBCT

Updated: 7/1/15 - added Genevieve DeBose.
Photo: Ron Thorpe at the 2015 Teaching & Learning Conference, by David B. Cohen
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