December 19, 2009 in Washington Voices

Seal of improvement

Teachers earn national board certification
By The Spokesman-Review
 
J. Bart Rayniak photo

Second-grade teacher Natalie Andres helps Keaton Lusk during a problem-solving exercise at Orchard Center Elementary School on Wednesday. Andres recently received national board certification, a designation that will allow her to teach in any state.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

It’s a long, time-consuming process to earn a national board certification. But it’s one that more than two dozen Spokane Valley teachers happily completed this year.

“This makes us better teachers,” said Pam Craze, a library media specialist at Orchard Center Elementary in West Valley. “I did it because I like to learn new things. I like to challenge myself.”

Teachers with at least three years of classroom experience can earn a general education certification or one of many specialized certification categories. The certifications are good for 10 years.

Washington teachers earn a raise of $5,000 to $10,000 for becoming certified. In Idaho, the annual raise is $2,000 a year for five years.

The certification is a federal program. School officials said the districts are reimbursed by the state for the salary increases.

All teachers are required to submit four portfolios, including two videos of class sessions and reams of documentation and responses to questions. Each video must be backed up with a written lesson. Each of the portfolios is scored, then teachers have to pass an extensive written test in their chosen field. Only about 30 percent of teachers pass at the end of a year. Those who don’t pass have an opportunity to retake the test.

Craze estimates that she spent 120 hours on each of her four portfolios. One was a project with a fourth-grade class at her school on owls that took three weeks to complete. “It was very hectic, but we had the support from the district and the support from the other teachers,” she said.

Katie Owens, a fifth-grade teacher at Orchard Center, received her certification in science. She spent a recent day teaching her class to make light-bulb filaments. “I believe in hands-on stuff,” she said.

Her goal in earning the certification was to measure how far she had come in her ability to teach after a 24-year career. She was grateful that two other teachers in her building went through the process with her. “We couldn’t have done it without each other,” she said.

Georgi Delgadillo teaches fifth- through eighth-grade science at the Continuous Curriculum School in East Valley and earned her certification in science.

Her entire family had to make the journey to certification with her, she said. “When they said 200 to 400 hours of extra work, they weren’t kidding,” she said. “I figure I topped 400.”

Delgadillo wanted to complete the process in part because a teacher with a national board certification can teach in any state without having to go through the process to earn a state teaching certificate. Before settling at East Valley, she had moved several times because of her husband’s Air Force career.

The process is something her students became excited about as well. Since she had to videotape some lessons, the students were aware of the work she was doing. They reacted happily to her announcement that she had made it on her first try. “My kids were so jazzed,” Delgadillo said. “They knew it was a big deal.”

Craze said she and her fellow Orchard Center teachers waited nervously for months after shipping off their portfolios to be assessed and taking the test. “We screamed and we screamed when we heard the news,” she said.

Now that the suspense is over, Craze is glad she completed the process. “It is worth it,” she said. “It did make me look at how I teach and what I do and the goals I’m trying to reach with the students.”


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