Local educators attend Vienna Teacher Academy

VIENNA – A new approach to teacher preparation is bringing new educators to the Beginning Teacher Academy in Vienna.

More than 40 educators from the area are expected at the two-day session at the Grand Pointe Conference Center. The academy is held by the West Virginia Center for Professional Development (WVCPD).

Last spring, legislators passed a bill requiring counties to provide a comprehensive system for improving professional practice among experienced, beginning and student teachers. The Beginning Teacher Academy is among the recommended sessions designed to meet the professional development needs of new teachers. It is for teachers with up to three years of experience.

Judy Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for Wood County Schools. said the two-day academy takes the place of the former teacher mentor plan.

“Teachers hired prior to the beginning of school attended two days of training which included an orientation, technology training in WV Writes, Tech Steps, Edline and Live Grades by the MIS department,” Johnson said.

National statistics reveal 47 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Most educators say the lack of support is the main reason for their decisions.

Carla Warren, director of the Beginning Teacher Academy, said the demands and stress factor weigh heavily on these new educators, who are often given the most challenging classrooms even though they do not have the professional support or training to handle these situations.

“These scenarios are very frustrating for new educators who are often not equipped to rise above the challenge,” Warren said. “They lose confidence in their own abilities and hopelessness sets in. They feel that they have no other recourse than to leave the classrooms and pursue other careers.”

Christy Day, director of communications for the WVCPD, said the organization works to intervene before educators get to this point by offering a structured academy. Upon completion of BTA, educators have a solid foundation of classroom management, communications, teaching strategies and peer support.

“Most teacher preparation programs do not address classroom management,” Johnson said. “Students need a safe, orderly environment in which to learn. Teachers need assistance with classroom management skills to conduct differentiation for an equitable learning experience for all students. Most problems that new teachers encounter, including students “bullying” other students, is due to lack of classroom management.”

Those who choose to complete all three years of the academy may decide to pursue National Board Certification (NBC), the gold standard credential for educators. National Board Certification is a voluntary assessment program designed to recognize and reward. Board certified teachers successfully demonstrate advanced teaching knowledge, skills and practices. Certification is achieved through a rigorous, performance-based assessment that typically takes one to three years to complete.

Sixty-one West Virginia teachers earned National Board Certification for 2012.

Wood County has the most National Board Certified teachers with 79, according to the West Virginia Department of Education. Cabell County is second with 55.

Johnson said officials wants to provide new teachers with the skills to develop the best learning environment for students. The Center for Professional development willingly agreed to conduct this training in the Parkersburg area for teachers, she said. Day said the center will hold sessions in other parts of the state, including Flatwoods, Morgantown and Charleston throughout the semester.