Tahoma teachers join ranks of nationally certified

In the Tahoma School District students aren’t the only ones who are learning.

Teachers are encouraged and challenged through Classroom 10 and an array of professional development opportunities to constantly learn and  to refine their teaching. For some that means becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, a process that can take up to three years.

Across the district there are 47 teachers who have earned the NBCT credential, seven of whom completed the certificate this year. The teachers who earned their certification this year are: LaRae Keeney, Gavin Lees, Shelby Cail and Nathalie Norris of Tahoma High, Felicie Freeman from Tahoma Junior High, Kathryn Strojan from Cedar River Middle School and Melissa Morlock from Lake Wilderness Elementary.

“I wanted a challenge,” said Norris, who teaches French at Tahoma High. “You had to explain the why and think about everything you do. All the pieces of my lessons go together now.”

National Board Certification is an advanced certification for teachers with at least three years of teaching experience and requires between 200 and 400 hours of work and a minimum of one year to complete, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

To certify, teachers must complete multiple tests and a portfolio of work that includes writing papers, answering questions related to student learning, and showing student growth. Many of the district’s teachers also choose to participate in cohort groups with other teachers who are pursuing certification.

“I have two big take-aways,” Strojan said. “Everything must always come back to student learning. How do I know the students learned? What is my evidence? Those are the questions I need to ask myself after every lesson. The second is the power of collaboration. I could not have completed this process without the cohort groups.”

The district’s Classroom 10 philosophy focuses on the way students learn in the 21st century and how teachers can harness that, maximizing learning and preparing students for a rapidly changing world. An understanding of students, their skill levels, and how to build on them is also a central theme in the National Board Certification process.

“I wanted to do a professional development that was meaningful and would have a meaningful impact on my teaching,” Freeman said. “It (the certification process) makes you think critically about the decisions you are making in your classroom and why. It has helped me to be even more intentional with my teaching.”

Teachers who become NBCTs receive a bonus from the state, don’t have to renew their teaching credential for 10 years and are eligible to teach in other states.

Dave Wright, a math teacher at Tahoma High, became a National Board  Certified Teacher in 2003. He began the effort to inform Tahoma teachers about the program and encourage them through the process after joining the district in 2006.

Wright believes the certification is a valuable experience and wanted other teachers to have that opportunity.

“It was professional development that was powerful,” Wright said.

Wright approached Terry Duty, the Tahoma High principal, about starting a facilitation program and was encouraged by the level of support he received.

“Terry was completely on board,” Wright said. “Terry and the district supported us.”

Wright trained as a facilitator and the first year, only teachers from the high school participated in the program.

Interest grew quickly as word spread, Wright said, and soon the program grew beyond him.

The program now exists at a districtwide level with teachers from all grade levels participating.

“It’s a very reflective process,” said Morlock, a teacher at Lake Wilderness Elementary. “It increases your knowledge of students; really knowing them, what they need and where they’re at.”

Reach Katherine Smith or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.


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