Archive for Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Among the elite

Kindergarten teacher completes process for national board certification

December 3, 2003

Amy Berg knelt beside kindergartner Megann Lawrenz as the two worked together on a cut and paste project trying to decide whether the picture of a guitar matched the word bar.

Once Megann figured out the two weren't similar, Berg moved on to the next student needing help matching pictures and words.

It was an ordinary class project Berg had her students working on, but that Friday was anything but ordinary. That day, less than two weeks ago, the kindergarten teacher at the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center had just learned that she was one of the state's newest National Board Certified Teachers.

"I thought this was something that could help me become a better teacher," Berg said. "I feel like I'll continue to be a better teacher because of this."

An intense process

Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher was not an easy process. In fact, Baldwin resident Susan McCollum, who is also a certified teacher and chair of the National Board Certification for Teachers of Kansas, said the process is quite rigorous and not many teachers complete it.

"This is quite an accomplishment for Amy," McCollum said. "This is not an award, this is something that she's earned."

Out of the thousands of teachers in Kansas, McCollum said, only a little more than 100 are national board certified. Only about 70 percent of the teachers in the state that attempt to become board certified, she said, actually achieve that goal.

"It's an extraordinary accomplishment she's done," McCollum said. "This says she's one of the country's most accomplished teachers. She's right there at the top."

Berg, a Baker University graduate, has been teaching since 1989. She has been in the Baldwin School District since 1992 and has taught kindergarten for the past eight years.

It took her a year to complete the work required to become certified, something she said was an intensive process.

"I knew I had a lot to learn and I knew it wasn't going to be a piece of cake," she said. "I knew it was going to be a lot of work."

The certification process requires teachers to complete two sections -- written exams and teaching portfolios.

Berg said she spent all last year compiling her four portfolios, which showed extensive written analyses of her teaching and her students' work. She also had to submit unedited videotapes of her classroom teaching.

In addition to the portfolios, she had to complete six exams, which consisted of timed, written exercises to show how she applies her knowledge of education to her classroom teaching.

McCollum said teachers going through the certification process can easily spend 300 to 500 hours in a year working on the requirements.

"This is like going for the bar," she said.

Berg actually had an additional two years to complete the certification process if she hadn't met the requirements after the first year, which she said she was hoping she wouldn't have to do.

"It was pretty intense," she said. "And I'll be honest. I didn't want to take another test."

A life-changing experience

Berg said even though she knew the process was going to be hard and time consuming, she wanted to get her national board certification for professional growth.

"I felt like this was something that would really be relevant for me in the classroom," she said. "With this process, everything was completely what I need to know to help make sure my students are successful."

McCollum agreed the process Berg went through to gain her certification will make her a better teacher.

"It's the best professional growth experience there is," she said. "Some teachers I've seen, the change is phenomenal. You won't be the same teacher at the end of the process."

BESPC Principal Deb Ehling-Gwin said Berg is deserving of the recognition as an accomplished teacher.

"Amy's the kind of teacher that can counter all of the negative publicity the schools get," Gwin said. "She is very knowledgeable about the curriculum, about the kids.

"Amy's probably one of the most positive teachers I've ever worked with," she said. "Her gifts to the classroom are patience, acceptance and an incredible positive way of looking at life."

Gwin said Berg's certification proves the district has good teachers.

"We've always felt we were a great school," she said. "One of the reasons the schools are great schools is because of the staff we have."

A team effort

Berg agreed and said she believes the school district has a number of teachers that are good enough to obtain national board certification.

She also said her board certification was a team effort and not one she could have accomplished without help.

"This isn't anything I did on my own. I couldn't have done what I did without a lot of people," she said. "People in the school district were wonderful. I had support from every single school in the district.

"I feel proud and very lucky in going through this process to have the kind of learning community this needs to occur," she said. "I realize how fortunate I am to have these people here.

"So this is not really just mine."

Even though Berg is one of the top teachers in the nation, she said her growth as a teacher is far from complete.

"One thing I learned through this is how much I have left to learn," she said. "I have a lot of growth yet to come and I'm looking forward to that."

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