Months of self-reflection and peer reviews to determine if what they are doing in their classrooms is improving student learning is paying off for a handful of Lower Valley educators.
Three Sunnyside School District teachers and two Mabton teachers learned last week that they have all passed the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
National Board certified teachers include Paula Greene, special education resource teacher at Sunnyside High School, Doris Matson, a Washington Elementary School first grade teacher and Billie Parke, a special education teacher at Pioneer Elementary School. Mabton fourth grader teacher Darrin Wahl and Michael Surmeyer, a long-time vocational agriculture teacher at Mabton High School, are also among 12 educators in Educational Service District 105 to have achieved National Board certification status, the highest credential in the teaching profession.
"Passing the board is proof that what we are doing in our classrooms meets some pretty high standards," said Matson, who has been teaching for 14 years in the Sunnyside School District. "It's a pretty intense process and, while it not about gaining more education, it does make you assess how effective your teaching skills are," she explained.
Surmeyer, a teacher with 24 years experience, said learning he had passed the National Board was very exciting. "I'm more proud of passing the National Boards than of my two Master's degrees," he said.
Going through the process, which can take up to three years, is a voluntary program, but it does requires a rigorous application process. Candidates must also show a lot of dedication and initiative to survive the hours of self-study and style critiquing the teachers undergo as a part of the process.
"But we couldn't do it without the support of our families and peers," said Greene, a special education teacher for the past 10 years in the Sunnyside School District.
"It's not an easy process and it requires a lot of feedback from others," Greene explained.
The National Board was developed as the nation's only set of professional education standards that allows teachers to measure their skills and best practices against nationally agreed upon standards.
"Going through the process can take up to 350 hours of grueling self-study," said Wahl, who has taught for 10 years at Mabton's Artz-Fox Elementary School.
"It forces you to closely examine how you teach," he explained. "I decided to go through the process to find out if I was as effective as I thought I was in the classroom," the fourth grader teacher explained.
"It's nice to be able to say that I am. It's even better to have someone else acknowledge that my methods are good," Wahl added.
Parke, who works as a teacher in a self-contained learning center, earned her certification for working with exceptional needs children with mild to moderate disabilities. She said the program had her examining her methods of communications and her professional development goals.
"It was very stressful waiting until November to find out if I had passed," she said.
"I thought I had done good work, but when I turned in my final work in June, I found it hard to wait until November to learn if I had passed the boards," she said.
"It's a long process, but the feeling of affirmation is great," Parke said.
"I worked on my Master's last year, and I have to say this is much harder and, more rewarding," Parke added.
In addition to being professionally and personally rewarding, the National Board certified teachers will each receive a financial bonus, in addition to a 10-year certificate. Each National Board teacher will receive a $3,500 annual stipend, subject to legislative appropriation.
In addition, their state teaching credentials have been renewed to match the 10-year national certification. Currently, state educators' certificates must be renewed every five years. In addition, the national certification is good for any state in the nation.