Today we are profiling NBCT Christi Van Wyhe (AYA English Language Arts). Christi, who just certified this past year, is finishing her 7th year of teaching. After starting out with the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, she has been at Vista High School for the past 6 years. Christi taught English classes exclusively for the first 6 years of her career, but this year decided to take on the challenge of English Language Development (ELD), teaching ELD 3 and a 9th grade support class for long term English Learners (LTELs).
Christi’s interest in becoming a National Board Certified Teacher goes all the way back to her student teaching days.
“My master teacher from my first student teaching experience happened to mention one day that she was getting her National Board,” she explained. “When she mentioned the certification was portable to other states, my ears instantly perked. I was a single mom looking for options and needed to know that if California got too expensive, I could go elsewhere if needed.”
Though she kept that information in mind, it wasn’t until about 2 years ago when another colleague introduced the National Board to her district that Christi decided to actively seek certification.
“By this time, I had been teaching 6 years, and I was getting a little negative, particularly due to the political and economic climate in my district. When I decided to focus on my teaching, the one thing I had control over, I dove right into National University’s Masters program with a specialization in National Board Certification. It was by far the best professional decision I have ever made.”
Christi believes that the process has had a huge impact on her teaching, causing her to “address the areas I already knew I was weak in.” She found that the process helped her fine-tune her teaching and led her to take more risks, make changes, and try new things.
“It literally transformed my teaching and my classroom,” Christi stated. “Best of all, my attitude changed, and I remembered why I became a teacher.”
Despite the challenge she was already facing in completing her portfolio and preparing for the assessment center exercises, Christi requested to go to ELD in the middle of her board certification process. “That’s the funny thing about getting certified—it causes you to think and do crazy things you’d never dream of. I had been teaching Honors students the past 5 years and decided to take my skills to those who needed it most.”
Christi remarked that teaching ELD was the 2nd best professional decision she ever made: “I love the students, and I love the professional challenge. I love it so much that I’m seriously considering getting another certification in English as a New Language. And that’s the 2nd crazy idea this program is responsible for. I need to improve my skills in ELD and what better way to do that then to use National Board as a road map. I could do it my way and eventually figure it out, but if I know National Board already has it figured out, why wouldn’t I just do that? I want to work smarter, not harder—and those kids deserve it.”
According to Christi, becoming certified has had a profound impact on her professionally. It has inspired her to continue to take on professional challenges, both in her classroom and beyond. She also values the support and experience of her NBCT colleagues who are guiding her through this process of impacting change at her school and teaching her how to lead.
“It’s like I’ve been lit on fire,” she said. “My desire to share the experience with my colleagues and my site has compelled me to speak up and out.”
She recently submitted a proposal to her district for Take One! to be used for professional development next year and has also been collaborating with colleagues in writing a grant to help make this happen. Christi explained that she has also been having much needed conversations with her principal about the direction her school is going, trying to educate him about how National Board can help them meet their goals as a site. The changes she was experiencing as a professional made these collaborations possible.
“It wasn’t my certification that caused others to take notice; it was how the certification transformed me that caught their attention,” Christi asserted. “I am not the same teacher I was before the program—and I’m glad. I was headed down a dark, cynical road.”
“Knowing the value and impact National Board has had on my teaching motivated me to speak out and share it with my administration and district. I was compelled to speak and be proactive,” she said. “When I first said yes to National Board, I felt like I was caught in a wind tunnel that kept propelling me forward; I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. After I received certification, I had a similar experience with professional development. I deeply believe in this program and its potential to transform teachers and schools. I cannot let it rest. I am currently having discussions with administration and my district about the possibility of using Take One! as an option for professional development next year. And if it doesn’t happen next year, then I will try the following year.”
“That’s one more thing I never dreamt of: trailblazing a path for quality teaching and increased student learning at my site, let alone my district,” Christi remarked. “All I wanted was to teach.
Christi encourages anyone who is in need of a “professional makeover” to take the National Board challenge: “It will be the most exciting journey of your professional life with no regrets!”