Earning the National Board Certification for teachers is a difficult process, and two Winters High teachers just completed it. Kari Mann, who teaches English and AP English composition, and Jessica Williams, who teaches U.S. and world history, have recently succeeded in completing this advanced teaching credential.
Teachers who attain National Board Certification are considered to be among the best educators in the nation. The certification process is based on the teacher’s performance in their classroom and peer-reviewed assessment.
While it is impossible to quantify the worth of a good teacher, researchers have tried. Harvard University’s Strategic Data Program found that when Los Angeles students worked with National Board Certified teachers, they gained what amounted to an additional month’s worth of English arts instruction, and two months worth of math.
This certification is a supplement to the teachers’ original credential, and allows them to teach in any state. They spend years training and compiling portfolios before they can attain this honor.
Mann and Williams had clear goals in mind when they set out on what would become a three-year process.
“I did this to better serve the students of Winters,” Mann says. Mann is an experienced teacher, having worked in the classroom for 20 years, but knows that there is always opportunity to learn and grow. She says that, “it took a lot to go outside my comfort zone to challenge myself in new ways.”
Williams was also driven to further improve her abilities as a teacher.
“I like a challenge,” Williams says, and in the National Board Certification, she found one. Williams describes the process as, “a rigorous course of reflection and analysis.”
Throughout the training, Mann and Williams met with a support group of other educators completing their certifications.
“Mrs. Williams and I had to drive to Stanford about once every six weeks to work on our components,” Mann says.
“These sessions proved invaluable as they were informal professional development. I have learned a great deal from Mrs. Williams and other English teachers across the state.”
Throughout the training the teachers had to compile a portfolio of their work in the classroom. This portfolio included items like examples of student work, video presentations and written reflection.
For one component, Mann turned in recordings of her lessons in two different class periods, to show the ways that she promoted classroom interactions in an equitable manner.
“This component stretched my abilities a lot,” Mann says, “as classroom interaction requires that teachers address a lot of moving parts in the classroom — how the physical space is set up and why, how I group students and why, what my goals of the lesson were, and how I provided feedback during their interactions.”
Along with the recordings Mann completed a 20-page write up of her reflections.
As they trained and studied, Mann and Williams were able to see their classes improve. They saw that the training they were completing was improving their students’ progress.
“I had the opportunity to watch students become more successful as I refined my practice,” Williams says.
They both learned that there were ways that they could always continue to grow and improve. Williams says that after seeing the impact that her training had on the classroom, she left the program knowing that her ability to learn as a teacher is, “far from over.”
Mann also wants to see her career in education continue to grow, but she has no interest in entering administration.
“I always want to work on the front lines with students, so this was a way for me to advance my learning and still be in the classroom.”
These teachers’ accomplishments will have an effect of the students of Winters High, but it has also been very meaningful for the teachers.
“I’m very proud of this achievement,” Mann says.
When summing up the true purpose of the National Board Certification, Williams quoted Linda Bauld, the leader of the Stanford support group.
“Being a National Board Certified Teacher means that you don’t blame the students, their families, their abilities, or their past education; being an NBCT means that you meet your students where they are, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.”
Mann and Williams have proved that they are up to that challenge.