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Vashon teachers earn national certification after months of work

Colleen Carlson teaches freshman humanities. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Colleen Carlson teaches freshman humanities.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

Two Vashon teachers earned national certification recently, after an intensive year-long process that pushed them to examine their work and meet national standards by creating a work portfolio and completing a comprehensive exam.

Ninth-grade humanities teacher Colleen Carlson and fifth-grade teacher Doug Swan earned their certification through the nonprofit National Board for Professional Teaching Standards last year, bringing the count of nationally certified instructors on Vashon to four. McMurray math teachers Jenny Granum and Cornelius Lopez earned their certification in previous years.

“I pursued national board certification to expand my accreditation to a higher level beyond the master’s in teaching that I earned with my teaching certificate,” said Carlson.

She estimated she spent nearly 400 hours over the course of a year working toward her certification, the lion’s share of which was spent creating her teacher’s portfolio.

The concept behind the portfolio, said Swan, “is that you teach and analyze and reflect on your teaching.”

He, too, said earning national certification was the logical next step in his teaching career.

“It takes me to another level of challenge,” he said. “I have a new paradigm called the National Board Standards that are a framework for my teaching and my goals for my kids.”

Carlson concurred that the certification process helped her set new goals for herself and her students.

“Those National Board Stan-dards have helped me clarify my goals for my students as well as integrate nationally recognized standards with our state standards here in Washington,” she said. “Clarifying my goals would be one of the most valuable lesons of this process.”

Lopez, who was Vashon’s first teacher to become nationally certified in 2001, said the process was a challenging one, but well worth the work.

“It was a long, time-consuming process; it pretty much took all of my time outside of my job — breaks, evenings, early in the morning and weekends,” he said.

He’s been teaching for 47 years, he said, and working to earn certification gave him a fresh perspective on educating.

“I did it ... because I wanted a better sense of where (my students) were relative to national standards and to find out what best teaching practices were,” he said. “I probably would not still be teaching if I hadn’t done it, because it really revitalized me and gave me a more professional perspective on the whole business of teaching.”

Carlson and Swan are among more than 1,200 Washington educators to earn national certification last year, placing Washington second among all states for the number of teachers that earned certification. Each teacher who earns the designation in Washington is paid an extra $5,000 per year.

Going through the certification process, Lopez added, made him a better teacher as well.

“It gave me a whole new kind of inspiration,” he said.

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