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!”
This month’s featured accomplished teacher is San Francisco area NBCT Kay Hones. Kay certified in Library Media in 2003— the first librarian in SFUSD to achieve this--and is beginning the renewal process this fall.
She had been a mentor teacher here in California when she heard that there was a National Board Certificate available for librarians.
“It seemed like a good professional challenge,” Kay explained. “I was not familiar with the National Board, though I had read a little about North Carolina.”
Kay has encouraged others to pursue National Board Certification for the personal growth because she has seen how the process helps teachers identify clear evidence of their impact on student learning. “I always tell candidates that I am supporting that before certification, I "implicitly" knew I impacted student learning,” Kay remarked. “But NOW I really work at being "explicit" in how/when/why I impact student learning.”
Becoming an NBCT has led to a variety of leadership roles for Kay. She became a support provider in SFUSD where she helped develop and present the "whole group" segments and supported a variety of candidates, including the only other National Board Library Media teacher. At Stanford, she has supported many certificate areas where there are only a few candidates so they are together in one cohort group (e.g. PE, Music, Art, Counseling, Career & Technology).
In supporting with National Board candidates, she encourages teachers to be clear, concrete and consistent in their writing, to analyze impact of student learning and most importantly to reflect on their teaching. According to Kay, National Boards not only provide a solid professional development tool for individuals but for whole school change when all teachers complete the “Take One” portfolio entry.
“A key part of my work is collaborative teaching, mentoring and guiding teachers with pedagogy, resources, research and strategies for optimal lessons for a wide range of students learning styles, linguistic abilities and academic challenges,” Kay said. “I believe that ‘teacher working conditions are student learning conditions’ and that providing teachers with quality support is key to improving US education.”
In addition to her work as a candidate support provider, Kay served as a State Farm Liaison, promoting National Board Certification in the Bay Area and communicating with a variety of educator groups. In this capacity, she distributed National Board information and local resources at every event, workshop, conferences, and institute she attended.
“Each year I attended training meetings in D.C. for all State Farm Liaisons,” Kay said. “It was very informative to have that opportunity for a national perspective as well as learn about new resources.”
Kay has also been on portfolio scoring teams. “One summer I spent a month in Daytona Beach, Florida, scoring 8+ portfolio entries a day!” she commented. “This really made me realize the whole NB process is fair and effective. I gained so much insight into the architecture of accomplished teaching. We used the Evaluation of Evidence guide, and that is when I learned that it is available and a valuable tool for candidates.”
Kay believes that if more teacher become National Board Certified, then NBCT can reach a critical mass that will enable them to shape the future of education in our county: “I would hope that as more of the younger teachers gain NB status. they can articulate what a real learning environment for kids looks like, and not the incredibly un-child-friendly test atmosphere that U.S. education has disintegrated to (I have seen the CELDT test administered for 7 to 10 year olds--approximately 3 hours of testing!!! cruel!).”
“What I like best about the National Board process is that the focus is on your class, your students, your teaching...and you make the choices to impact learning of your students, then analyze and reflect on what worked, what to change...it a very different lens than the usual "describe your lesson" that most of us have been used to,” Kay explained. “Reflection is such a rarely used skill...and so powerful!”
Kay continues to impact the profession through her accomplished teacher leadership. She networks for library reviews, resources, grants, new ideas and programs with local, state, national and international organizations via email, wikis, other Web 2.0, and conferences. She is the first librarian to receive “20 to Watch” award in 2008 from National School Boards Association. She continuously writes and receives grants for authors, garden and environment and service learning, especially to fund activities that encourage youth voice and empowerment.
When San Francisco voters approved Prop H for school programs historically not funded, such as libraries, arts, sports, health related resources, Kay asked the Board of Education President to consider appointing her to the community advisory committee as she had both K-12 library and art credentials (key areas the committee would impact). For 5 years, at monthly meetings, she provided a teacher voice and expertise in areas of K-12 library, arts, technical education while advocating providing Prop H funds for students in county schools, pregnant teen schools and juvenile facilities.
“I proposed ‘credentialed teachers’ as an essential component of programs rather than hiring consultants,” Kay said. “From 1987-2003 there were no district funded elementary school librarians. As a result Prop H, this year 43 credentialed school librarians serve 71 elementary schools at least half time!”
The 2011-2012 school year marks Kristen Henningfeld’s 12th year teaching elementary students (K-6) with learning disabilities and mild cognitive delays at Tiffany Creek Elementary School in the Boyceville Community School district in northwest Wisconsin.
“I am the only National Board certified teacher in the district,” Kristen shared, “although I am confident that many of my colleagues would certify if they went through the process.”
Kristen serves as a member on the district’s RTi and math committees, and chairs the new teacher mentor committee. She also acts as the district liaison to the West Central Wisconsin-New Teacher Initiative Consortium. “Up to two times per year, I am blessed to be a cooperating teacher for student teachers from the University of Wisconsin teaching program.”
In addition to her teaching and teacher leadership roles, Kristen has been active in her teacher’s union. “My role and strong belief in the teachers union has evolved since my first year of teaching,” she explained. “In the beginning, my mentor strongly encouraged me to attend a union meeting. I attended, listened, and continued attending union meetings as a passive, but supportive member.”
When Kristen decided to go through the National Board process, her union (Wisconsin Education Council Association-WEAC) was there to support her. She attended on-going support seminars led by an NBCT who received a grant from WEAC. Later that year, she attended her first ever WEAC Winter Conference as a participant in a weekend NB writing retreat called Dare to Think.
“I found myself in a room with about 50 candidates and multiple candidate support providers who read and questioned me about my thought processes and writing,” Kristen recalled. “It was the most intense weekend of my life. That weekend was also the start of going from passive union member to active union member.”
The summer after she earned National Board Certification (class of 2006), Kristen attended a National Board Candidate Support Provider training. At that Summer Academy, again sponsored by WEAC, she “found myself surrounded by several NEA Directors, including one from my local uniserve, and other members who were active at the local, regional, and state level. I continued participating in WEAC conferences as a participant and a trainer for the Intro to National Boards at Summer Academy and as a CSP at Winter Conferences.”
At the local level, Kristen continues to encourage colleagues to go through the National Board process, and to support candidates in other areas of the state online and in person. As a member of the WCEA (West Central Education Association)-Boyceville Education Association (BEA-Local), she has served as Building Representative, Negotiator, Vice-President, and as of July 1, 2011, Local President. At the Regional level (WCEA), she has been a member of the Professional Issues Committee, a committee designed to design and facilitate trainings for Professional Development Plan writing for teacher licensure, National Board support, PDP approvals, and other areas surrounding professionalism to benefit our members. Most recently, Kristen was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for WEAC to represent WCEA (3100 members) at the state level.
“My union and my National Board Certification go hand in hand,” Kristen explained. “One opened the door to the other, and I’m not sure if it was the union opening the door to becoming an NBCT or the other way around. Either way, the journey has been a great one…and shows no sign of ending anytime soon.”
When asked what she would say to fellow teachers about the importance of taking an active role in supporting policies and practices at the local, state, and national level that support teachers, Kristen shared her experiences with the recent turmoil in her state: “When you question the importance of taking an active role in supporting policies and practices to support teachers, I ask you to look to Wisconsin in the Winter of 2011. As our world came crashing down, one-hundred thousand plus people came to Madison and delayed the removal of our collective bargaining rights. In Wisconsin, we forced six recall elections, sent thousands of emails, made thousands of phone calls, spent countless hours speaking before the joint finance committee. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is not alone in the quest of several governors to remove collective bargaining rights and decimate funding for public education.
“Granted, we didn’t get the results we wanted, but our voices were not nor will they be silenced. ALWAYS take that active role and make your voice heard, if not for you, then for your students! Call, email, write letters, schedule appointments with your legislators, get involved in committees…whatever it takes…make your voice heard. Accomplished teachers are in the best position to share our knowledge and experiences to policy makers. We are the ones at the front lines and we can be the agents of change.”
Kristen manages to teach and lead while also balancing the demands of family, which includes a one-year-old daughter and sixteen-year-old stepson. “My one-year old, Amelia, calls me momma and my 16-year old stepson, David, just passed his driver’s test! “ Keep up the great work, Kristen!
NBCT Doug Lea (EMC Music, 2007) is currently serving as the National Education Association's Teaching Fellow. The NEA asked Doug to come in to work in the Teacher Quality Department to serve as the voice of the practicing teacher. In this role, he is working toward addressing diversity and inclusion for NBCT candidates. Doug also staffs the NEA's Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching. In this capacity, he deals with the role of teachers in governance of the profession. The majority of the commissioners he works with are NBCTs, and several are on the NBPTS Board of Directors. This ensures that the commission has the perspective of valuing the National Board process. The commission's recommendations have the potential to be a landmark in education reform.
Lea is a featured speaker at the NUPTDC 2011 NBCT Reception on June 25 at NU headquarters in San Diego, CA.
Doug is currently based in Washington, D.C., during his work with NEA. He regularly resides in Columbia, Maryland, where he teaches elementary and middle school band. He is currently running for president of his local NEA affiliate.
NBCT Joanna Murray (AYA Social Studies) served as the keynote speaker at the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Colloquium for Vista Unified School District in California this week. The colloquium, which serves as an end-of-year event for district teachers who are clearing their teaching credentials through the district induction program. Murray shared the importance of purpose in her address. "My theme was purposefulness," explained Murray. "I was trying to encourage these new teachers to make themselves marketable in these tough times by remaining as well-educated as possible. I also wanted to ensure they think about giving back by thoughtfully supporting future new teachers coming into the profession." Murray advised the candidates to continue challenging themselves by considering masters programs or National Board Certification to address this purposefulness in their professional development.
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Congratulations to our NBCT and NU Adjunct Faculty Professor, James Findlay on his newest film project, “Street Vets”. Not only is James an accomplished teachers in the classroom in Utah, he is an accomplished and creative filmmaker and writer.
Be sure to check out his latest work, buy the documentary and share it with others who would enjoy and benefit from the viewing. Hat’s off to you James! www.igfilms.com
Your NU-PTDC Coach colleagues are proud of you!