W.Va. Dept. of Education Backs Training for Teachers

April 18, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Providing professional development to the state’s 20,000 teachers is the key to systemically transferring West Virginia’s schools into 21st century learning centers, state Superintendent Steve Paine said.  

The state Department of Education is supporting several programs aimed at helping teachers do their jobs better. Among them is National Board Certification, the highest credential in the teaching profession.  

“Teachers who earn National Board Certification represent the gold standard in teaching and are among the most effective teachers in our classrooms today,” Paine said. “I believe that National Board Certified Teachers are the foundation of West Virginia’s 21st century vision to teach our children skills for the global world.”  

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan and nongovernmental organization governed by a 63-member board of directors made up of mostly classroom teachers. Its mission is to establish high and rigorous standards for what teachers should know and be able to do and to voluntarily assess and certify teachers who meet those standards.  

About 50,000 teachers nationwide have earned National Board Certification, including nearly 300 in West Virginia. Forty-four West Virginia teachers who earned certification within the last year were honored recently in Charleston.  

Angela Wilson, who teaches reading at Beverly Hills Middle School in Huntington, earned her certification in language arts in December and was among those honored.  

“The process of National Board Certification is the most profound professional development available to teachers today,” Wilson said. “It forces teachers to become more reflective about their students, their teaching and their education and how we can improve what we do for our students. It absolutely changed how I teach.”  

Like Wilson, Richard Cunningham, a physical education teacher at Meadows Elementary in Huntington, earned his national certification recently and often encourages his co-workers to attempt the rigorous process.  

“Going through the certification process forced me to dust off skills I hadn’t used for years and forced me to step it up a few notches to investigate new techniques. I’m a better teacher for it.”  

In general, teachers prepare portfolios by videotaping their teaching, gathering student learning products and other teaching artifacts, and providing detailed analyses of their practice. The portfolio is designed to capture teaching in real-time, real-life settings, allowing assessors to examine how teachers translate knowledge and theory into practice.  

Teachers also write answers to questions that relate to content specific to their fields. The process takes about eight months.  

“Getting more West Virginia teachers to pursue the rigors of National Board Certification is one of the best ways to achieve our goals of teaching not only the basics but 21st century skills,” Paine said.  

Paine shared West Virginia’s efforts to incorporate 21st century skills into the classroom with Congress recently when he addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.  

“Through our 21st Century Teaching and Learning initiative, our graduates will enter a fiercely competitive, digital world equipped with the necessary intellectual capital and the finely honed skills that will enable them to compete as productive citizens of a diverse and interconnected world,” Paine said.  

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, of which West Virginia is a member, says professional development for the 21st century should be part of a comprehensive emphasis on 21st century skills that includes updates to standards and assessments. And West Virginia is doing that.  

In addition to promoting the National Board Certified Teacher program, the West Virginia Department of Education offers online professional development program for classroom teachers called West Virginia e-learning for Educators and has multiple training programs planned for summer when teachers are out of school.  

“Good teachers have always helped students discover the value and relevance of new skills and knowledge,” Paine said. “We must make sure we help West Virginia teachers stay up to date so they can bring the world into their classroom and take their students out into the real world.”  

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