Two educators in the Alta School District have each earned a prestigious National Board Certification honor, and were recently recognized for their achievements at a special banquet at Morningside College in Sioux City.
Elementary teacher Mary Pedersen and high school art teacher Linda Ducommun were among 49 northwest Iowa teachers who earned the NBC status this year, and are the first two Alta educators to garner the award.
Similar to a master's degree, the option of obtaining the national certification is only offered to those with more than five years of teaching experience, and both Pedersen and Ducommun said the hours of work they put into the entire process was worth it when they learned they had earned their NBC.
"It probably took over 300 hours of work over the past year, because there was a lot involved with this," Pedersen, who earned a certification for early childhood through young adults exceptional needs, said. "It took a lot of time, but it was definitely worth it."
"I wanted something that would be a challenge for me, and this was definitely challenging," Ducommun said. "It was one of the best staff development opportunities I've ever been a part of, though, because I was able to learn so much about myself and how to be a better teacher. It took up a lot of hours, but they were well-spent hours. It was a very rewarding experience."
Both teachers were required to complete two separate parts to earn the NBC: create an exhaustive portfolio detailing how they interact with students, fellow teachers and the community, and a four-part exam similar to the ACT or CPA tests.
Pedersen and Ducommun each compiled six portfolio entries, which included videotapes of them conducting class, self-reflection on the students' learning process and documentation of correspondence between the teachers and parents, administrators and other citizens.
Ducommun said the portfolio experience took up many hours at both home and school.
"It was amazing," Ducommun said. "Sometimes there were entire weekends that I was just at home working on this, because there was a lot to do, and I literally videotaped hours of instruction time in classes too. It took up a lot of my spare time, but it was worth it."
The pair then took four 90-minute assessment exams designed to test their overall educational knowledge and their ability to assess and solve problems.
In addition to being able to analyze her own work and discover new things about the teaching process, Ducommun said the entire NBC process was also beneficial for her students.
"They got a lot out of this too, because they were able to learn what a teacher should do and how they should teach, and that's going to help them not only in high school but when they get to college too," Ducommun said. "They learned right along with me, and that's great to see."
Pedersen said another side benefit to the process was the large number of other certified teachers who guided her through the process, allowing her to establish a vast network of teachers around the nation.
"That's probably one of the biggest benefits of this," Pedersen said. "That support from others was great to have during the entire process."
"I've been able to meet so many great teachers from around the nation because of this," Ducommun said, "and we'll probably be able to do some collaborative efforts with each other in the future because of getting to know each other. The networking that I've been able to do isn't just good for me, but it's going to be great for my students as well, because they're going to learn even more from the different ideas that other teachers from around the country can offer."
Several teachers from area schools such as Laurens-Marathon, Storm Lake and Sioux Central are currently in the process of earning their NBC, and both Pedersen and Ducommun said they encourage other educators to take advantage of the NBC opportunity.
"It's been great," Ducommun said. "It's been nothing but a positive experience for me."