Students learn from best in Clover Park

Clover Park School District has a diverse and talented group of students. Guaranteeing equity for students requires thoughtful teachers who understand best practices and possess the tools to make learning effective and engaging.

The district accomplishes this, in part, by providing the resources and support necessary for teachers to earn their National Board Certification. National Board Certification is the top credential in the teaching profession. Earning it requires hard work, dedication and intense professional self-reflection.

“When a student walks into a National Board certified teacher’s classroom, they are receiving instruction that has been tested and reviewed and analyzed by the best in the business,” said Harrison Prep teacher Jared Bieber, who earned his certification in 2015.

Less than three percent of teachers nationwide are National Board certified.

In Clover Park, the numbers look a little different. Since 2005, 201 teachers have achieved National Board Certification and currently more than 12 percent of the district’s teaching staff have completed the process. Last year alone 25 CPSD teachers earned their certification.

“Achieving National Board Certification is a strong statement about a teacher’s commitment, both to our profession and to our students,” said Kristi Smith, assistant superintendent for elementary schools and teaching and learning.

Cohort support 

Teachers are placed in cohort groups that allow them to study with other teachers in their subject areas. The cohort groups meet once a week and attendance is mandatory.

It can seem grueling to spend extra time at school every Tuesday night, but cohort participants insist it makes a big difference.

“I’m really grateful for the cohort,” said Mann teacher Alicia Torrez. “I have a friend in another school district say ‘wow you’re really far ahead!’”

“It’s nice to be able to meet with other people who are going through the process at the same time.”

Torrez noted that in addition to the two-hour weekly cohort meetings, she typically invests five hours working on her National Board portfolio at a coffee shop every Sunday. That’s in addition to the multiday retreat candidates attend during the summer before even getting started.

Effective and reflective

Completing National Board Certification requires teachers to focus on strengthening their understanding of the subjects they teach, differentiating instruction for students at different levels, creating an effective learning environment and being an effective and reflective instructor. Each component pushes teachers to refine their craft, but most point to the effect it has on their ability to reflect on the teaching they’re already doing as the biggest impact.

“It brings to the forefront all those things you already do subconsciously as a teacher,” said Clover Park High School teacher Allison Lever.

The process requires teachers to describe and explain why they do things the way they do them and look for ways to improve. “When a candidate goes through the process, it really pushes a teacher to identify their strengths as a teacher and flesh out those strengths they bring to the classroom and progress in that area,” Bieber said.

National Board certified teachers are lifelong learners, setting an example and a standard for their students to constantly learn and improve along with them.