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Barnes Butte Elementary first grade teacher Marilee Smith passes the certification process to earn her National Board Certification as an early childhood generalist

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Marilee Smith leads a math talk lesson with her first grade class on Tuesday morning.  Math talks are a tool to provide students with a platform/opportunity to invent, construct, and make sense of important mathematical foundations.

After three years of hard work, Marilee Smith passed the certification process to earn her National Board Certification as an early childhood generalist.

A Barnes Butte Elementary first grade teacher, Smith was recognized during the Crook County School District Board meeting Monday evening, Jan. 13.

Crook County School District Superintendent Sara Johnson presented Smith with a plaque during the board meeting. Smith also received a National Board Certification lapel pin, sterling emblem, bumper sticker and business cards with the distinction.

Barnes Butte Elementary Principal Jim Bates said the certification process is deep work, and he is proud of Smith's accomplishment.

"A candidate engages in constant reflection as to the why, the how," he said. "The National Board Certification Council expects that you get back to the core of all you do."

According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Board Certification is designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. It is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education.

"It's a voluntary system, and they encourage you to commit to students and your profession to show excellence, or that you are maintaining this higher level of teaching — and higher-level standards," Smith said. "Research shows that if you are a national board certified teacher, the teacher learns more, and therefore, your kids are learning more."

The "early childhood generalist" designation includes ages 3 through 8. The certification process includes a computer-based assessment component and three portfolio components that must be completed and successfully demonstrated. The computer-based component includes content knowledge, and the other three include differentiation in instruction, teaching practice and learning environment, and effective and reflective practitioner. The four components can be completed in any order.

Smith said that that there is a great deal of writing involved, and teachers going through the process are not allowed to use examples to follow. During her responses to the four components, she had to submit videos of her teaching, an assortment of assessments, and samples of student work.

"A big thing about National Board I learned is everything is 'Why?'" Smith said. "It really makes you be reflective, and you have to be able to answer, 'Why are you doing it?' Each component is quite lofty. It felt like four master's programs. This process strips you to the core and asks that you scrutinize every aspect of your teaching."

She indicated that it has made her think and reflect more deeply about how she can do things better, and why something worked or did not work in her classroom lessons.

Smith started the certification process three years ago. Last year, she submitted her third component in May and then took the comprehensive test in June. Scores were released in December. She was able to check her results immediately after a basketball game.

"You log in, and the computer says, 'Congratulations' and there were fireworks (on the computer)," Smith said.

In addition to the four components, Smith had eight standards which had to be reflected in her writing. She emphasized that the entire process is voluntary, and it demonstrates the applicant's dedication to their students and their teaching career, and their desire to be the best teacher possible.

In addition to a nudge from her husband, CCSD Curriculum and Special Programs Director Stacy Smith, who told her it would make her a better teacher, she chose to get certified because she always thinks of her own two children and wants them to receive the best possible instruction and education.

"I wanted to be the best version of myself for my students," she said.

She had a lot of cohort support, and she shared that she spent many late nights and weekends studying and writing. Smith believes that has made her a better writer, and she has lots of practice writing "clear and concise," passages.

"There was a little extra pressure, because Stacy is curriculum director," she said. "A lot of commitment."

The five core principles of National Board Certification include the following: Teachers are committed to students and their learning; teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students; teachers are responsible for managing student learning; teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience; and teachers are members of learning communities. These principles are evaluated in each of the four components.

Smith began her teaching career in the fall of 1992 in Roseburg, Oregon. She then taught four years in Redmond before beginning her career at Crook County School District in the fall of 1998. She has taught kindergarten, first and second grade, but mostly first grade.

"I might have dropped out, but I didn't want my boys to see me quit something that was hard," she said. "I love my career, job, kiddos and community. I want to make all proud and be the best teacher I can be!"

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