VANCOUVER, Wash. — After 10 years of teaching, Candi Talbott is applying for certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She is one of nine teachers in southwest Washington enrolled in a new support program established by WSU that will help her get there.

“Someone said early on… ‘The certificate will not make you better than other nationally certified teachers, it won’t make you better than others that aren’t nationally certified, it just makes you a better teacher,’” Talbott said.

“As I have followed the process I believe that statement to be true,” added Talbott, who teaches fourth grade at Felida Elementary School and is using her teaching experiences to apply toward certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist. “I look at what I do with different eyes. I evaluate the ‘what and how’ of what I do in comparison to national standards. I evaluate student work at a deeper level. I choose to do this as part of the growth process for my own personal growth. I look at it this way, if I were a mountain climber I would want to train for Everest, but I’m a teacher. This is the Everest of teaching.”

The program was created to support teachers seeking certification at seven sites statewide as part of a $500,000 grant from the Gates, Washington Mutual and Stuart Foundations. It consists of a network of teachers going through the certification process, under the direction of a WSU faculty member and a board-certified teacher. Kay Stern is the local facilitator for southwest Washington and Tacoma.

“The idea of a support group for certification is not new,” Stern said. “However, in this program we have districts and the university working together in the field which is unusual. It’s also possible for students enrolled in this support program to earn six graduate semester credits.”

Nationwide, only half the teachers who apply and submit portfolios are certified. The goal of the program is to increase the percentage of enrolled teachers who are certified and improve student learning in Washington, said Debra Pastore, program director.

A total of 267 teachers applied for the 50 slots available this year, Pastore said. Each teacher who is accepted for the support program receives help developing and analyzing his or her portfolio. In addition, the teacher’s $2,300 application fee to the National Board is paid through the support grant.

National Board Certification is considered teaching’s highest honor, Pastore said. Certified teachers in Washington receive a $3,500 annual stipend for three years following their certification. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization created in 1987, with funding of $1 million from the Carnegie Foundation. Initial funding for the WSU program ends in 2004.

The seven support program sites statewide are in Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Moses Lake, Mt. Vernon, Tacoma and Vancouver.