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Mount Vernon Teachers Pass National Boards

Twenty-seven Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) teachers earned national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 2003. To date, a total of 184 Fairfax County Public Schools teachers have earned their national board certification from the NBPTS.

The FCPS teachers in the Mount Vernon area include Mark Tierney (Belle View Elementary); Lisa Felder (Riverside Elementary); and Tanya Siwik (Woodley Hills Elementary).

Now that she has completed the program, Siwik said that she "would definitely recommend this program to other teachers. I feel like I am a stronger teacher due to my focused reflections. It also helps to strengthen teaching as a profession.

"I decided to earn the National Board Certification to further my own teaching skills and to support my firm belief that education is a professional career. The process of achieving National Board Certification is quite reflective.

"By going through this process, I knew that I would have a myriad of opportunities to reflect on and write about my own practice and set goals for myself as an educator, thus strengthening my practice," she said.

"The process has helped me in my current position because I have become a more reflective practitioner. Part of the process requires videotaping activities led by the teacher in the classroom. After watching the videotapes at home, I would often bring certain clips to school to share with the children.

"Not only did it provide an opportunity for me to reflect, but my third-grade students were able to reflect as well. In addition, we must have videotaped ourselves 50 times throughout the year. I found that sending the tapes home with the students for them to share with their parents really helped to open communication with the families I work with. I would often receive feedback from the parents about how much they enjoyed watching their son or daughter learn in school," Siwik said.

"This year, I am teaching fourth grade. I looped with my class. Now we tape ourselves just for fun and send the tapes home. What an easy way to bring families into the classroom.

"Having National Board Certification will help me to advance to the next position when I am ready. Right now I feel like my heart is right here in trailer 4 at Woodley Hills. When I am ready to take the next step, the certification will help to open doors, show my commitment to my profession, and even acts as a requirement for some jobs."

Siwik said that she did not find it challenging to complete the work while working.

"Like most teachers, I am constantly taking classes both to further my knowledge as a teacher and to pursue personal interests. I was able to balance things by not taking as many extra classes while I completed my certification."

TO BE ELIGIBLE for board certification, a teacher must hold a baccalaureate degree, have taught for at least three years, and have held a valid state teaching license in his or her state for three years.

The teachers from FCPS elementary, middle, high, and secondary schools and centers, work toward certification during a single academic year; however they can "bank" their scores from year to year if they want to improve them.

The certification process involves participating in continued and intense professional development. This helps teachers learn how to deepen their subject matter knowledge and become more skillful in daily classroom instruction and student assessment. NBPTS certification is meant to complement, not replace, state licensing requirements.

Certification is based on five core propositions: being committed to students and the learning process; knowing the subjects taught and how to teach those subjects to students; being responsible for managing and monitoring student learning; thinking systematically about oneís practice and learning from the experience; and serving as a member of oneís learning community. Teachers are able to earn board certification in any of 24 certificate areas.

The requirements for the program are fairly rigorous requiring candidates for certification to devote 200 to 400 hours of work. Included in this process is the producing of four portfolio entries that include samples of student work and videotapes of the candidate teaching students; they also have to complete six 30-minute assessment center exercises.

Mike Tierney said that he decided to earn the certification because he wanted to improve his teaching skills. He said that he would recommend this program to other teachers because it was very rewarding.

"It has improved my teaching and will help me to assist others in achieving certification. I had to spend a lot of time on nights and on the weekends to complete the work but it was helping me to improve the lessons I was planning on teaching anyway," said Tierney.

Tierney said he learned a lot from the process. "You must tailor the instruction to meet the needs of each student. You must also collaborate with other teachers who know the curriculum and the learning styles of each student - the more teachers involved the better the instruction."

Lisa Felder decided to earn her certification because, as she noted, "I thought it would make me a better teacher. You become very reflective in how you come across meeting the needs of students."

Felder started the program a few years ago, but was concurrently working on her masters, so she carried her scores from year to year. She finished graduate school in May and passed the boards last November.

"I found that the things I studied and read can apply to classes, and that I can tell other teachers what I learned," said Feldman. "It helps you to become a better teacher."