10 Mirror Lake teachers gain national certification

Ten teachers at Mirror Lake Elementary are now officially National Board Certified teachers, adding to the Federal Way school's established group of NBCTs.

According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), about 40 percent of Mirror Lake's teachers have attained the demanding professional standard of national board certification.

The teachers to join the ranks of NBCTs are Melinda Jenkins, Marilyn Anderson, Benita Slaeker, Linda Craft, Hayley Mathis, Patti Clemons, Christie Galinat, Jill Phillips, Kate Kuper and Carrie Hendrickson.

Mirror Lake principal Maggie O'Sullivan said a teamwork-oriented attitude helps Mirror Lake staff, a school that faces a unique set of challenges: 72 percent of the students are on the free or reduced lunch program.

According to OSPI, the teachers at Mirror Lake were part of 945 new NBCTs, a number that puts Washington second in the nation, behind only North Carolina. The state is fourth overall in total number of NBCTs, with 6,242 teachers statewide having achieved the distinction.

The teachers at Mirror Lake will receive some generous compensation for taking the time to achieve the NBCT status, with OSPI indicating that teachers receive an extra $5,000 for the certification. If, like Mirror Lake, they teach in a challenging school (which is 70 percent or more on free and reduced lunch at the elementary level), they receive an additional $5,000 bonus. OSPI notes that most teachers bonuses are used to pay back "conditional" loans they take out to go through the certification process.

"The benefits of having so many teachers working on their certification together were amazing," O'Sullivan said. "At Mirror Lake, we see ourselves as a team. The wonderful effort on behalf of the teachers and their cohort leader resulted in all teachers receiving their board certification. I know that we are a better school today because of this process. They were supported by the state, by the district and by their cohort leader, but most of all, by each other."

While their reliance on each other was critical to their success, O'Sullivan noted that support from Federal Way Public Schools and the state were also important in helping these 10 teachers achieve their certification.

"(The) support through the district and through the state was critical in the success of our teachers," she said. "They had a monthly support group. Whereas at another school it might have been just the monthly meeting that promoted the understanding of the national board, with our school it was part of the daily conversation. The National Board process gave us a unified vocabulary to talk about student achievement and helped us continually ask the question, 'How is this impacting student achievement?'"

"At Mirror Lake, we have good teachers. But what sets us apart is that they continually push themselves to become better. This makes Mirror Lake a great place for students to learn," O'Sullivan added.

Board certification requires teachers to "submit a four-part portfolio and six-exercise content and pedagogy assessment. The 10 entries document a teacher's success in the classroom as evidenced by his or her students' learning. The portfolio is then assessed by a national panel of peers."



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