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The Packer Weekly: Teacher recognition award deemed necessary

Logging on to the National Board Certification website, science teacher Joan Baltezore pushed the button and avoided the computer screen looking for a yes-or-no answer. To her relief, it was official; she was nationally certified after her third time applying.

The National Board Certification is a national licenser committee that rigorously challenges teachers to prove they should be nationally recognized as a teacher in their subject. Baltezore first heard about the program from other teachers across the state and was finally accepted in December of 2012.

“The process helps you improve on your techniques that you didn’t realize that you had before,” Baltezore said. “A lot of people don’t realize that it is already a lot of things that you are already doing as a teacher; it is just more of a matter of documenting it.”

Because of the knowledge Baltezore gained by going through the process three times, she decided to team up with English teacher Aaron Knodel, who is also nationally certified, to help other teachers apply.

“We mentored a couple of teachers last year, but this year we wanted to get more involved from the high school,” Baltezore said.

For the teachers to be recognized by the board, they need to submit their application by the deadline and do an online test. In total, the combined score of the test and portfolio must equal 275 points or higher.

“I would encourage other teachers to consider going for the certification,” Baltezore said. “It does take a lot of work, but teachers need to realize that what they do is already going on in their classroom.”

Among the teachers applying, math teacher Rick Wilson hopes to get recognized this year. For his application, Wilson must take six tests in his content area, create two videos and document all of the work he accomplishes.

“I show them how I teach mini-lessons to help the students,” Wilson said. “I zone in on two students and show the board how I am helping them learn.”

In the first video, Wilson must show the board how he works with the class in a large group, and in the second video, he must show how he teaches in a small group.

“(The board) is really good about doing large-group, small-group individual assessments,” Wilson said. “After each video, I have to take time to reflect at the end, and it is a great learning tool to look back on a lesson.”

Along with the videos, Wilson must submit 16 pages of written evidence, eight of which are pages of written documentation that show how his accomplishments have affected his peers, colleagues, parents and the community.

“The interesting part about the whole process is that you don’t write last names, you don’t write your school name, and when my stuff gets sent in, they have no idea that I’m from West Fargo, N.D.,” Wilson said. “All they know is that I am a math teacher, and they look at it from that perspective. They just look at your teaching ability.”

Because she believes Wilson has made an impact on her life, junior Jenaya Wentz hopes the board will recognize him.

“He is always available, and he takes the time to teach you the way that you learn best,” Wentz said. “The great part is that he is always looking out for the students, and he isn’t doing it for his benefit; rather he is looking for how he can improve them.”

With all of the teachers applying, 40 percent of teachers do not get accepted on their first try, and if they do not, they can choose to change some of the categories and resubmit their applications the following year. The deadline for applicants this year is May 15, and Wilson will not hear whether the board decided to recognize him until Dec. 31.

“What I learned through the process is that I need to collaborate with others,” Baltezore said. “I’m kind of private, and I was trying to handle everything on my own. My third time around, when I allowed myself to have help, I was hearing feedback and suggestions. It was helpful, and I believe that is what I believe helps you become a better teacher.”

Wilson started the process at the beginning of the school year along with history teacher Darrin Boehm, science teacher Michelle Strand and special education teacher Melissa Uetz.

“I think I have a good start,” Wilson said. “There is still a long ways to go and a lot of papers to write. At the end of the day, even if I don’t pass, I’m still a way better teacher because of it. I’m doing things I know I wouldn’t have done without the drive of going through this process.”

(The Packer Weekly is an ongoing column authored by journalism students at West Fargo High School with the intent of providing awareness about and insight into a variety of school-related topics and activities. For additional information, visit