Seven Wood County educators gain National Board Certification

Photo by Michael Erb Wood County Schools 2017-18 National Board Certified Teachers were honored last week by the Wood County Board of Education. The teachers are, from left, Whitney Dobson, Blennerhassett Elementary School; Janette Emrick, Martin Elementary School; Koral Fleming, Franklin Elementary; Sara Klesel, Parkersburg South High School; Lisa Smith, Blennerhassett Elementary; Alisha Smithberger-Nichols, Blennerhassett Middle School; and Tiffany Spellman, Fairplains Elementary.

PARKERSBURG — Seven local teachers have achieved National Board Certification, bringing the county’s total to 101 nationally certified educators in Wood County Schools.

The Wood County Board of Education last week recognized the teachers for achieving the certification, which places them among the top teachers in the state and nation.

The certification began Dec. 16, 2017, and is valid until the same date in 2022. The certification must be renewed every five years.

The Wood County Schools teachers achieving certification for 2017-18 are Whitney Dobson and Lisa Smith at Blennerhassett Elementary School, Alisha Smithberger-Nichols at Blennerhassett Middle School, Tiffany Spellman at Fairplains Elementary School, Koral Fleming at Franklin Elementary School, Janette Emrick at Martin Elementary School and Sara Klesel at Parkersburg South High School.

Frieda Owen, a former assistant superintendent for Wood County Schools, has headed the local program since it began and provides support and guidance for teachers going through the process.

Photo by Michael Erb Blennerhassett Elementary School teacher Whitney Dobson lines up her pre-kindergarten class for lunch Thursday at the school.

Owen said the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards process was revised in recent years, and in many cases teachers had to wait on instructions as areas of the process were developed. The new process, she said, is more flexible but more rigorous.

“The four components (of the certification process) call for more explicit content knowledge, more data-driven evidence, analysis of students assignments and assessment profiles, as well as video analysis of teacher and student performance,” she said. “Moreover, during the roll out of the new components, candidates did not receive instructions and scoring rubrics until mid-year. But they stayed with it.”

The certification is an arduous and time-consuming process, requiring an intensive amount of paperwork, self-reflection and documentation, Owen said.

Smith, who teachers third-grade at Blennerhassett Elementary, said the national certification was “the most difficult process I’ve gone through in my career,” but was also “the best professional development I’ve ever gone through.” It took her two years to complete the process.

“You have to analyze and reflect on every aspect of your teaching,” she said. “You realize the things you were doing that were effective and the things you were doing that weren’t effective.”

Photo by Michael Erb Blennerhassett Elementary School teacher Lisa Smith works with third-grader Bryson Buffington on Tuesday at the school.

Dobson, who teaches pre-kindergarten at Blennerhassett Elementary, also spent two years working on her certification.

“The process was a lot more in-depth that I expected, but it was a really rewarding process in the end,” she said. “If you are a teacher who’s on the fence about trying, you really should try. It is a challenging process, but it’s worth that challenge. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’m proud of myself.”

Nichols, a teacher at Blennerhassett Middle, said the process took her three years to complete because she was working on her certification during the National Board’s revisions.

“I had to wait for each component to be released,” she said.

Nichols said achieving National Board Certification has changed the philosophy of her teaching style.

Photo by Michael Erb Blennerhassett Middle School teacher Alisha Smithberger-Nichols works with a student Thursday in her classroom. Nichols was one of seven Wood County Schools teachers to achieve National Board Certification for the 2017-18 school year.

“Everything I do, I now ask myself ‘Why am I doing this? Is it what is best for the kids?'” she said. “Anytime you start looking at yourself, evaluating yourself, you’ll start to find things you didn’t even realize you did. There are always things you can improve.”

Owen said there are another 10 Wood County teachers pursuing National Certification. The county still boasts the largest number of teachers carrying the certification, about 101, but “Berkley County is right behind us with 96 NBCTs,” 20 of which were certified just this year, Owen said.