Thirteen teachers earn national certification

December 29, 2008

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Students in Kathryn Steedman’s classes at Challenger Elementary School learn about the diversity of music education, including types of instruments, and about the cultures that create music. By Kathryn Steedman Students in Kathryn Steedman’s classes at Challenger Elementary School learn about the diversity of music education, including types of instruments, and about the cultures that create music. By Kathryn Steedman 


If you thought cramming for your SATs and advanced chemistry courses were tough, try spending more than 400 hours preparing lesson plans and instruction videos before placing them neatly before a panel of national experts.

Thirteen Issaquah School District teachers took that challenge and passed with flying colors.

The 13 teachers recently received the nation’s highest certificate in teaching achievements — their National Board Certifications. They are among more than 900 in the state earning the certificates this year. 

“As a certified teacher, I have the confidence of knowing that my practice stands up to intense scrutiny against other teachers nationwide,” Leah Van More, a teacher at Pacific Cascade, wrote in an e-mail. “National Board gave me the opportunity to collaborate with teachers from around the region as we sought to deepen our respective practices.”The National Board Certification process is the only certification that compares a teacher’s knowledge and skills with a national set of professional standards, developed by the academic and teaching communities. 

The rigorous process asks teachers to compile a portfolio, including individual lesson plans, a video of classroom teaching and student work samples, each of which had to demonstrate how the teacher impacted their students’ learning. 

Each teacher also had to take a written assessment that demonstrated their mastery of a subject area, classroom skills, knowledge base, curriculum design and student learning.

Many have already begun to incorporate the valuable lessons they learned from the process into their classrooms. 

“Since beginning the National Board process, I feel that my teaching has become more thoughtful and sequential,” Kathryn Steedman, a music teacher at Challenger, wrote in an e-mail. “I really think through every detail in my plans and make sure that each activity leads my students to achieving the lesson goal. Earning my National Certification has really inspired me to be a better teacher!”

As education continually changes, teachers found the process supportive of their own educational advancement as well.

For Michele Van More, a humanities teacher at Pine Lake, the certification helped her achieve a second endorsement in social studies. 

“By obtaining a second endorsement, I can continue to be highly qualified to teach both subjects,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I believe it is imperative to our students’ development of critical thinking that they understand how the world is a reflection of the content they learn in the classroom, how subject data is woven into society and how they can apply the information they dissect in their own lives.” 

Working toward certification, however, was difficult, and time was a luxury not many of the teachers had.

“The hardest part about my certification, was just the overall time involved,” Carrie Reckling, a teacher at Beaver Lake, wrote in an e-mail. “I had my first baby about halfway through my first year working on the project, and so I had to learn how to balance time between working on the boards and my new family.”  

“The certification process is extremely rigorous and demanding,” Rena Pitasky, a math teacher at Pine Lake, wrote in an e-mail. “It was challenging to balance the time spent working on the National Boards with the regular demands of teaching five classes of middle school math every day (all while being the mom of three teenage boys!)”

Teachers choose one of 24 certificates — spanning 15 subjects in various age levels of education — offered by the board.

In addition to the long hours, each teacher also paid more than $3,000 to enter the yearlong process. Many chose to apply for $500-$1,000 grants from the Issaquah Schools Foundation and the district to aid them. 

After receiving their certificate, each will receive a $3,500 yearly stipend from the state Legislature.  

More than 27 teachers are already signed up to start their certification process this year. 

Newly certified teachers

Elementary schools

Challenger: Kathryn Steedman, music

Discovery: Carol Best, second grade; and Kourtney Smith, first grade

Endeavour: Lori Fisher, first grade; and Gabrielle Herring, kindergarten


Middle schools 

Beaver Lake: Kara Heaphy, science; and Carrie Reckling, Spanish

Issaquah: Ann Swiftney, humanities

Pine Lake: Rena Pitasky, math; and Michele Van More, humanities


High school

Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus: Jennifer Mountford, language arts; Leah Van More, science; and Jonathan Whitney, world studies

Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment on this story at

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