A Columbia Falls teacher recently earned a national advanced teaching credential.
Sara Childers, a librarian at Ruder Elementary School, found out last month that she had achieved National Board Certification. The certification is valid for 10 years, according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the nonprofit, nongovernmental, nonpartisan group that administers the program.
Childers is one of seven Montana teachers to achieve National Board Certification at the end of 2010. There are 92 National Board Certified teachers in Montana.
Childers, who has taught in the Columbia Falls School District for seven years, six of them at Ruder, is the first teacher in the district to earn National Board Certification.
“It’s a pretty difficult process — time consuming, over and above” a teacher’s usual duties, Superintendent Michael Nicosia said. “I know that she’s worked really hard to gain that.”
Childers said it took her about a year to fulfill the requirements.
“It’s unlike any other schooling I’ve ever had to do,” she said. “For a master’s degree, the teacher assigns you an assignment and you turn it in. [National Board Certification] is a whole process of self-evaluation.”
She had to come up with lesson plans that would address the needs of every student in her classroom. Then Childers had to film those lessons to see how successful she was in meeting her goals. She was asked to critique herself and make changes that would make her a more effective instructor.
“It made me a much better teacher. It made me more aware of each student in my room,” Childers said.
“When you prepare a lesson, it’s not just to meet state standards or teach something from a textbook. You adjust a lesson to meet the need of every kid in your classroom and are more aware of their learning styles, so students won’t get left behind or advanced students won’t get bored.”
In addition to video portfolios, candidates sit for a written performance assessment. It takes nearly four months for them to learn their results, according to a press release from the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation, which administers the National Board program in the state.
“Simply by completing this process, candidates have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to quality teaching,” said Eric Feaver, chairman of the foundation. “They have gone above and beyond to improve themselves and their classrooms.”
Childers said she found out about National Board Certification at a district teachers union meeting. She called Kerrie More, a librarian at Glacier High School and one of Kalispell Public Schools’ four National Board Certified teachers, to find out more.
“She said it was the best education or training that she had ever received. It got me interested,” Childers said. “When most teachers talk about training, we have to go to training to meet a certain amount of hours for school. [More] said it was so rewarding, a good, rewarding challenge.”
Childers said the cost of the program was nearly a deterrent; it costs about $3,000 to go through the certification process.
But the state of Montana offers a one-time $3,000 stipend to teachers who attain certification.
That stipend recognizes the difference National Board Certified teachers make in schools, Feaver said.
“These teachers are change agents,” he said. “Many of them take on leadership roles, leading school reform efforts in their districts and across Montana.”
Childers learned she had achieved certification in December, shortly before she left on maternity leave. Her daughter, Audrey, was born three weeks ago.
“It was a good thing to hear so I wouldn’t worry about getting the results back,” said Childers, who expects to be back at school in March. “It was relaxing to know.”
There soon may be more National Board Certified teachers in Columbia Falls. Two other teachers in the district are working through the process, Nicosia said.
“We’re doing our best to encourage it. It really adds to an individual’s overall quality, as far as meeting the needs of children,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have one or two more by this time next year, or maybe even sooner.”
Reporter Kristi Albertson may be reached at 758-4438 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.