Self-Evaluation Program Helps Teachers Hone Skills Certification Process Improves Performance

Article excerpt

As a teacher for more than 20 years, Rosetta Hamm knew she was good at her job. She wanted to get better.

Now when she works with her first-graders at Mamie Agnes Jones Elementary in Baldwin, Hamm is more open. She gets down on the ground and plays with her students to teach them science. She sometimes draws pictures to teach math.

Hamm learned these skills not from the Duval County School Board or the Florida Department of Education.

Instead, she and thousands of other teachers gained insight into their abilities by seeking National Board Certification -- an exhaustive five-month self-evaluation process in which teachers dissect their methods through testing, videotaping and completing hundreds of hours of paperwork.

The certification, provided by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, is considered one of the highest honors bestowed on teachers. Teachers contact the board to apply for the program and work on it independently.

"It made me look at my faults and improve," said Hamm, who spent every weeknight, weekend and school break last year working toward certification.

"It was the most intense thing I have done, but it helped me be more comfortable to venture out and be creative with my students."

Less than half of all teachers who apply for the certification receive the honor.

Hamm is one of 13 Duval County teachers certified this year.

Elsewhere in Northeast Florida, five St. Johns County teachers, 21 Clay County teachers and 12 Nassau County teachers were certified.

In Florida, those who successfully complete the program are eligible for a $3,500 bonus from the state. Hamm and others said money and recognition were not the inspiration.

For them, the impetus came from a belief that better-trained teachers improve student achievement.

Through the videotaping process, Kevin Sacerdote, a social studies teacher at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, learned he was spending too much time in front of the classroom lecturing.

"I thought I had stopped that, but the videotapes show the truth," said Sacerdote, who has been a teacher for 14 years. "I have learned there are better ways to teach, I have an entire tool belt at my disposal. It has forced me to stretch my mind and be more creative. …