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Albany High teacher earns national certification

February 6, 2015

by Vanessa Langdon

An Albany High School English teacher has earned National Board Certification after a yearlong application process.

Brian Huskie teaches advanced placement English and English language learners at Albany High School along with ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade classes. Huskie, 34, has been at the school for eight years. He received the certification after a process begun last September.

The application was a 10-month endeavor that varies based on the teacher’s particular subject. As an English teacher Huskie submitted four entries of portfolio pieces. The pieces include two videos of him teaching in the classroom with his reflections, four samples of student writing showing growth and how he aided them, and professional development.

In total Huskie wrote more than 40 pages for his application. He had to dig deep to get everything done while teaching night school, writing curriculum, buying a house, and being featured on PBS.

“I had to play motivational videos of Rocky to keep me going,” Huskie said.

Brian Huskie received National Board Certification after completing a 10 month application process./Vanessa Langdon

Brian Huskie received National Board Certification after completing a 10 month application process./Vanessa Langdon

In addition to the application Huskie had to endure a six hour test in June. The format of the test was solely essay questions that are not released to the public – this was a challenge for Huskie who usually prepares with old test questions.

“It was nerve-wracking going in mostly blind,” Huskie said.

After months of waiting for results he received an email in November saying that applicants would be notified in the next three weeks – that meant Thanksgiving.

At 5 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, Huskie woke up to check his email. Waiting for his eyes to adjust he scanned the computer screen but couldn’t focus on what he was looking for – the congratulations.

“I didn’t see it as winning. The term they use is achieve. I went into it to be the best teacher I could be,” said Huskie of the experience.

Huskie was born and raised in Petersburg, Rensselaer County and attended the state University at Albany in 1998. He left the university to serve in Iraq as a member of the National Guard, after completing his duty he returned and earned his bachelor’s degree in 2005 before going on to earn his master’s degree in 2007.

“My mother’s a teacher and my father’s a veteran, I knew I wanted to be in service some way,” said Huskie. “I didn’t want to be a crusader but I did want to serve the community and help people.”

He knew what to expect going into teaching and has lots of philosophies about what a good teacher needs to focus on.

“You really have to teach to the whole student. Content is a distant second to learning how to learn,” Huskie said.

Huskie focuses on helping students take initiative to combat the paralyzed feeling that can happen when students get to college and are on their own. He tries to get his students to do 85 percent of the work so he’s left only doing 15.

“My goal is that when I’m not here everything goes on like I am because they are excited to be doing what they’re doing and not dependent on me,” Huskie said.

“He is somebody who chooses to take a back seat during class and allow students to run class discussion based off of prompts he gives,” said Aden Suchak, a senior student of Huskie’s who describes him as a passionate teacher.

Suchak counts Huskie as one of his favorite teachers because he allows free and flexible discussions that enable him to learn better.

“He is qualified simply for the fact that he brings a unique trait to teaching that many teachers sorely miss – the ability to actually engage their students on a consistent basis,” Suchak said.

Through teaching, Huskie has learned that each student is his or her own person.

He learned that students have to be taught to help themselves.

“Students are not sick and you’re not their medicine,” Huskie said.

Huskie has worked for Albany High for eight years in the English Department./Vanessa Langdon

Huskie has worked for Albany High for eight years in the English Department./Vanessa Langdon

“He approaches the education of each of his students with the commitment and dedication that he would want his own children to receive. He sees the potential in students and knows that it is his responsibility to prepare them for all they can and will accomplish,” said Cecily Wilson-Turner, principal at Albany High.

According to Wilson-Turner, Huskie is the first teacher at Albany High to earn such certification.

“It is a tremendous source of pride to have a teacher who is National Board Certified. It highlights the exceptional talent of Albany High teachers,” Wilson-Turner said.

Huskie’s former colleague, and now the principal of his specific academy at Albany High, admires “his tenacity, loyalty, and commitment to his ideals,” said Leadership Principal Jen Houlihan.

According to Huskie he learns right along with his students going above and beyond from helping immigrant students look into becoming doctors or aiding a student from the Dominican Republic pass her English Regents one year after not speaking enough English to understand Huskie telling her to cross the street.

This ability to work with students from different cultures does not go unnoticed by his colleagues.

“In addition to Mr. Huskie’s talent as an English teacher, his military experience has given him diverse cultural awareness and connectedness to our students,” said Jodi O’Connor, Discovery Academy principal at the high school.  “This allows him to have a high level of engagement with all of his students.”

Huskie is dedicated to diversity but not just in the conventional sense.

“The key here is diversity – but diversity of thought,” Huskie said.

He believes that standardization leads to favoring certain students and failing to give everybody the same opportunities.

“You can have freedom within structure but students have to come before systems,” Huskie said.

Applying for national board certification was time consuming for this teacher, who has two young sons. He is now trying to take time to be present with his family as they decide whether to raise fish in their basement or chickens in the backyard.

“This was the best professional development I’ve ever had,” said Huskie. “I don’t take much stock in the destination. At the end of the day I learned the same amount if I didn’t get the certification. If you become too attached to things you become scared to take risks and you wouldn’t want to stick your neck out for things.”-30-

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