Two Steamboat Springs School District teachers recently were awarded prestigious certifications from a national organization dedicated to improving teaching and student learning.
High school biology teacher Cindy Gay and chemistry and physics teacher Nat Cooper were notified of their National Board Certification two weeks ago after each spent much of the past school year completing the rigorous requirements of the certification process.
The Steamboat Springs School Board honored the two teachers during Monday's board meeting.
National Board Certification is awarded by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an independent, nonprofit group dedicated to improving the quality of teaching in the United States. National Board Certification is the result of a teacher's successfully meeting the standards of teaching as established by NBPTS. Certification is awarded in specific content areas and for teaching specific age groups.
"It's a huge honor," Gay said. "The recognition is great."
Gay, who last school year was named the state's biology teacher of the year, said she sought National Board Certification as a means to improve her teaching.
"I want to continue to improve the art and science of teaching kids," she said.
The certification process is time-consuming and difficult, Cooper and Gay said.
All teachers seeking certification must prepare an extensive portfolio that details, among other things, specific classroom lessons and student work. One of the most important -- and effective --aspects of the portfolio is the reflection pieces teachers must prepare.
"It requires you to step back and ask yourself questions to grapple with issues that lie at the heart of teaching," Gay said. "This process enabled me to become a focused observer of my own practice."
According to the NBPTS Web site, most teachers report spending between 200 and 400 hours preparing their portfolios. Gay said her portfolio more than filled a 4.5-inch binder.
The final step in the process is completion of a detailed, content-area specific assessment test.
Cooper said the certification process can benefit all teachers.
"It is just a good process to go through," he said. "It gives you specific areas of focus, and almost all teachers agree those areas are important."
Being able to complete a detailed reflection process that involves assembling a portfolio was one of Cooper's motivations to achieve certification, particularly because of his initial work toward developing an evaluation-based pay system in the district. Part of the still-developing Knowledge and Skills Based Pay system requires teachers being evaluated to submit portfolios.
High school Principal Dave Schmid said it's likely Cooper and Gay are the first district teachers to achieve National Board Certification. Going through the process doesn't guarantee certification, he emphasized.
"It's something they can really be proud of," Schmid said. "I think they're advancing the whole profession of teaching. It's an honor to have them in our district."
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