Robert Walker, a social studies teacher at Academy of the Canyons middle college high school, has earned the title of National Board Certified teacher, a year-long process that involves detailed introspection of a teacher’s methods and collaborative efforts, plus a rigorous six-part examination of subject matter expertise.
Walker is one of 365 teachers across California who achieved certification this year. California ranked sixth nationwide in the number of the National Board Certified Teachers and ranks fourth in the total number of more than 4,000 teachers who have achieved certification over time. The Wm. S. Hart Union High School District now has 19 teachers who have earned National Board certification.
“This is an arduous process and the Hart District is very proud of Robert’s accomplishment,” said Rochelle Neal, assistant superintendent of Human Resources.
As a social studies teacher, Walker had to demonstrate expertise in world and U.S. history, geography, economics and demography. The process is designed to make better teachers of the participants by having them critically analyze everything they do as a teacher.
Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher is a two part process, according to Walker. First, individual teachers must undergo an intense analysis of their teaching practices by submitting four subject specific portfolios addressing different aspects of their teaching and their contributions as a school collaborator. These portfolios not only break down the teacher’s professional duties for close analysis by outside evaluators, but also require the teachers to reflect upon every aspect of their job and show ways in which they have improved as a teacher and can improve even more in the future.
The second process is a rigorous six-part examination in which candidates must show subject matter expertise in all areas of their certification. For each part of the test the candidate is given a half hour to write an essay based upon two to three different prompts.
“Statistically, students of National Board Certified Teachers score higher on state tests, and now that I have undergone the process I can see why,” Walker explained. “The process is designed to make you a better teacher by having you critically analyze everything that you do as a teacher. You have to put your own feelings aside and really look at why you do what you do, and whether it really is successful.”
He added that the brutal self refection made him begin to work toward making his teaching more student driven. “Rather than focusing on what worked for me, I had to focus on what works for my students,” he explained.
The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, which oversees the certification process, has also put together national standards for teacher performance that all National Board candidates must follow. These standards are both subject related as well as pedagogical, so adhering to these standards helps a teacher to constantly improve their teacher practices, which in turn leads to better student performance.
“I feel that this process has made me more objective about my teaching and has taught me to be more flexible in how I present information,” he concluded. “Finally, in reflecting upon my role as a collaborator I was able to improve my communication with students and parents so that fewer students are falling through the cracks and we can work together for greater student success.”
Walker came to the Hart District in 2004 at Academy of the Canyons, where he is now in his fifth year of teaching. He was honored as the school’s Teacher of the Year for 2006-07 and also has been recognized as a Teacher of Distinction by the National Society for High School Scholars.