PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – A Region 8 school teacher was recently awarded the National Board Certificate, which is the culmination of an extensive program designed to get teachers to review and evolve their practices. According to the Arkansas Department of Education, approximately 200 teachers earned the certificate in December of 2011.
"We went and we sat in the meetings and they talked about Nationally Board Certified teachers and how it was a big recognition and it's supposed to take three years. It's a three year program. I was very fortunate I certified year one," said Chris Wright. "It was the next step to make me a better teacher in the classroom."
Wright is a 4th grade teacher at Baldwin Elementary in Paragould. She's been teaching 10 and 11-year olds for the last six years. She said every day is a new challenge.
"I have 25 in my homeroom and a total of 73 students in 4th grade. I teach writing, science and social studies to my homeroom," said Wright.
Since 1998, 60% of all teachers who start the National Board achieve certification, according to the Department of Education. Wright said she spent hundreds of hours reviewing her teaching skills and analyzing her job.
"For me, there were lots of activities that we were doing here at school. When I went back and said, okay, what did my kids learn from those? I had to start thinking about those in a whole new light," said Wright. "You either didn't test them prior so I don't really know what they're learning, or I didn't test them afterwards. It's not just about testing, but assessing. You know, did they learn something?"
There are 35,000 teachers in Arkansas. 2,000 of those teachers are currently National Board Certified. Teachers who pass through the program are also provided with a monetary incentive. The state paid 1,900 bonuses in 2011.
"Before National Boards, the typical assessment was pen and paper or a test of some sort. Now it's more of a conversation. It's more going around and looking to see are they having good discussions or are they taking notes? It's really made me think about, are they achieving the goals? I'm doing a pretest, post test type scenario that I don't know that I did much before," said Wright. "They really want you to think about things a whole different way than what you may have been taught at college. What do you know already, and what do we need to re-teach, because sometimes I think we waste time in the classroom teaching things they may already know, or assume they know."
Wright said she questioned one of her class projects after she gave it some thought.
"Kids designed a hat that represents their word, so it kind of goes along with our theme of being a visual and performing arts school. We've done it, I guess since my second year of teaching here. I initiated that program and I thought it was this great tool and it was, but until I did National Board Certification, I really hadn't looked at what did they learn and did they obtain and remember those words," said Wright.
Wright said she was happy to find out some students had retained the words they learned, as well as remembered some of the words other students were using.
"I have become I think a better teacher because I assess my students more, I guess, deeply and I also really look at them as individuals a little more," said Wright. "Is what I'm doing effective? Is it making a difference and are my kids achieving and meeting their goals? It makes you slow down and look at the process."
For more on the National Board Certification program, click here.
"They actually have data that shows that those kids gain tremendous amounts more in the classroom than other students. This is my first year teaching as Nationally Board Certified, so I'm not sure how that's going to work, but it is a lot of work. It consumes your life," said Wright.
More than 6,000 teachers obtained the National Board Certificate in 2011, with Arkansas more than doubling the number of Nationally Board Certified teachers in the last five years.
Click here for a list of National Board Certified teachers by school district.
The National Board for Certified Teachers website suggested such teachers improve student achievement. The information came from the National Research Council.
"It is probably the most prestigious award a teacher can achieve. It really prepares you to look at your students in a different way," said Wright. "It's great to be able to influence them and talk with them and share their ideas."