Never fear, teachers — certification help is on the way

October 18, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

By Karen Fernau
GCU News Bureau

Grand Canyon University junior Samantha Ness is dreading the state-mandated certification test she’s required to pass to become a high school history teacher.

“I have to know everything from Jesus to Barack Obama, and everything in between. That is extremely stressful,” she said.

Help is on the way.

On Saturday, GCU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences is hosting its first annual conference to help students prepare for the National Evaluation Series (NES), an exam Arizona students are required to pass before student teaching and to receive the required certification to teach.

GCU’s NES Conference, scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon in North Lecture Hall, is open for freshman to senior students majoring in English, history or math, with an emphasis in secondary education.

Maria Zafonte

Maria Zafonte

Organizers expect 100-150 students to attend the conference-style sessions.

According to Maria Zafonte, associate professor of English and conference coordinator, the conference is more about empowerment than test prep.

Students will be given tools and resources to prepare to pass NES content exams.

“The goal is to empower students in their knowledge of what is on the exam and by pointing them to resources to help them prepare,” she said.

From 9-10 a.m., keynote speakers will discuss the exam and its importance.  Speakers include Dr. Sherman Elliot, dean of CHSS; Mark McCall, deputy associate superintendent for the Arizona Department of Education; and Dr. Linda Califano, field specialist for Maricopa County Education Service Agency.

The break-out sessions will be conducted by GCU faculty members Dr. David Dean, Dr. Jim Helfers, Dr. Andrea Alden, Heather Brody, Brian Raftery and Kimble Westerson, Raquel Lopez, Jeff Springer, Griselle Torres-Garcia, Shannon Schumann.

As expected, Ness plans on attending Saturday’s conference.

“It will be helpful to learn more about the test and what I can do to pass,” she said. “It’s super important.”

There is no charge or pre-registration for the conference. For additional information, contact Zafonte at

Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or

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