SPOKANE, Wash. — After 10 years in the classroom, Katherine Munoz-Flores is studying to become a National Board Certified Teacher – a process that only a little more than a 100 of the 53,000 K-12 teachers in Washington has successfully completed.

But Munoz-Flores isn’t working alone. The math teacher at Rogers High School is one of 50 teachers statewide enrolled in a new support program available through Washington State University.

“It’s high pressured,” she says of the national board certification process. “Earning my master’s degree was fairly easy compared to going through this process.”

The program was created to support teachers seeking national board 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 this certification process, under the direction of a WSU faculty member and a board-certified teacher.

Teachers can choose to receive clock hours or academic credit for coursework, too, which can help them move up the pay scale. “Teachers may elect to take three hours of graduate credit per semester as they complete this intense, professional development activity,” says Dr. Lenore Schmidt, WSU Spokane faculty facilitator for both the Spokane and Mt. Vernon support programs.

“It has helped to be with other people going through the same process,” Munoz-Flores says. “They’re dealing with the same type of stress and there’s someone to contact when I have a question.”

Nationwide, only half the teachers who apply and submit portfolios receive national board certification. 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, this year the teacher’s $2,300 application fee to the National Board was paid through the support grant. National Board Certification is considered teaching’s highest honor, Pastore said.

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