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Five teachers earn National Board Certification

January 21, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Five Washington County Public Schools teachers recently received a prestigious national certification, but it isn't just the credentials they were seeking.

"I feel like I'm a much better teacher," said Mary Ward, an art teacher at Clear Spring Middle School. "It forces you to look at everything you do and why you do it."

The five teachers attained National Board Certification in 2006, an accomplishment of which they learned in December.

In addition to Ward, the teachers are: Kris Pearl, a student achievement specialist at Emma K. Doub Elementary School; Lori Ridgely, a sixth-grade English/language arts teacher at Western Heights Middle School; Alicia Robertson, an earth and space science teacher at Smithsburg High School; and Jena Staley, an eighth-grade math teacher at Northern Middle School.

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Seventeen Washington County Public Schools teachers have been certified since 1999. They are among 55,000 certified teachers nationwide. Nearly 900 of those teachers are in Maryland.

The voluntary program was established by the National Board for Professional Teaching standards. Certification is achieved through a performance-based assessment that is designed to measure what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do, according to state officials. The process requires teachers to demonstrate how their activities, both inside and outside of the classroom, strengthen student performance and contribute to student achievement.

Officials say the process can take one to three years.

Ward said it took her the full three years. Pearl said she worked for two years on her certification.

Both teachers said the process focused on student achievement and agreed that one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, parts of the process was being videotaped while teaching.

"That was the most powerful part," Pearl said. "There is a lot of focus on the students in the video. You think you're doing it right, but you're wrong."

Pearl said she noticed during the video that she wasn't giving her students enough time to think after asking them a question during class.

"By calling on someone, I was stopping their thinking," she said. "When you see the whole picture, it's very powerful."

Ward and Pearl said their reasons for seeking National Board Certification varied, but neither did it for the extra pay.

Ward said she wanted to prove to herself that she could meet the stringent standards.

"I knew if I could obtain this, it meant I was a good teacher," she said.

For Pearl, her certification was another professional development tool and a way for her to continue learning and improving as a teacher.

"Over and over, we see lifelong learners," said Carol Corwell-Martin, supervisor of professional development. "(This) is a group that really takes that notion to a very high degree."

Corwell-Martin said the teachers that are certified must look honestly at their teaching and find ways to improve.

The certification process is open to teachers with three years of classroom experience. The certificate is valid for 10 years and can be renewed.

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