Two Missoula schoolteachers are being honored this week for achieving National Board certification.
After a grueling, almost two-year testing and applied theory process, Kory Johnston, a third-grade teacher at Chief Charlo Elementary, and Mary Lyndes, a third-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary, have reached an undeniably rarified rank among teachers.
Fewer than 100,000 teachers nationally achieve National Board certification, and within Missoula’s school district, there are now six, with the addition of Johnston and Lyndes, said Steve McHugh, director of human resources for Missoula County Public Schools.
“This is the highest professional development teachers can go through,” McHugh explained. “It’s a big deal that these teachers are willing to take the exam and to show what they know and learn new methods.”
“This is all about having accomplished teachers who can take kids to the next level,” he said.
National Board certification is an advanced teaching credential that involves a rigorous testing process.
As part of the certification process, candidates complete 10 assessments that are reviewed by trained teachers in their certificate areas and include four portfolio entries that feature teaching practice and six constructed response exercises that assess content knowledge.
It is valid for 10 years, and renewal candidates must begin the renewal process during their eight or ninth years.
“It is a big accomplishment,”said Lyndes, who has been a teacher for 28 years. “It was a lot of work, and it was a lot of stretching and growing, which makes me a better teacher.”
The process is all about learning, applying, adapting and even improving “best practices” in the classroom. Among the material and theory that teachers are tested on are 99 pages of “standards” that delineate what a good teacher should do, Lyndes said.
Esoteric at times, the testing forced Lyndes to reimagine and often recast what she taught her students and how she did it.
“There are standards that you are given that test you in different areas, and you have to show evidence that understand and know those areas,” she said. “In some ways the process is a little ambiguous, and sometimes hard to prove.”
For Johnston, a 16-year teaching veteran of MCPS, the certification challenge was the logical next step for her after earning a master’s degree in education.
“It was a little more difficult than I anticipated, but in the end, that was what made it more gratifying,” she said.
Although much of the testing is a self-guided process, Johnston said her success is due in large part to her supportive work environment.
“I bounced ideas off my co-workers, my former teaching partner helped me, my principal did some videotaping and I got a lot of letters of recommendation from parents,” she said. “I was on my own in this, but I could not have done it without the support everyone gave me.”
For Johnston, the testing experience has created a standout result: “It truly made me think at a deep level of what I do, why I do it and what can I do better next time.”
As part of achieving the prestigious certification, the two teachers earn an annual $2,000 stipend from MCPS for the duration of their 10-year certification, and $3,000 from the state, which is hand-delivered by Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau.
Johnston received her recognition from Juneau on Tuesday and Lyndes will get her time in the spotlight Wednesday.
The two teachers join the elite ranking also shared by MCPS teachers Kathleen Devlin, Gwen Hoppe, Robert Jensen and Christy Meurer.
“We are proud of all of them,” McHugh said. “Certification doesn’t happen very often.”
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.