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Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 20:08

Rigorous process has made Schumacher more student focused

On one particular evening last December Carol Schumacher had trouble falling asleep.
It wasn’t an anxious wait for Santa Claus that kept the Cedar Grove-Belgium High School English teacher awake. What was to arrive the following morning could be much better.
Schumacher arose and instantly checked her email. She saw “Congratulations” on the screen, complete with fireworks in the background.
Schumacher passed her first attempt at becoming a National Board Certified teacher, successfully completing a four-year process.
“Excitement. Relief,” she said of her emotions. “I just felt like woohoo, wow.”
National Board Certification is known as one of the most rigorous professional development programs for teachers in the country, with many comparing it to a master’s program and some saying its even more challenging.
The program consists of four parts: a test on respective subject content; differentiation in instruction; teaching practice and learning environment; and effective and reflective practitioner.
Schumacher began the process in 2014 when she taught at her alma mater, Ozaukee High School. She continued her work after coming to Cedar Grove-Belgium two years ago, completing one component each year.
Teachers who don’t pass the first time only have to redo the portions they didn’t pass, rather than starting over.
“I was nervous,” Schumacher said of waiting for her scores. “I had mentally prepared myself for the idea I had to redo something, but I know I didn’t want to redo something.”
Part of the process included taking video of her teaching.
“Watching yourself teach was revealing,” she said. “Oh, I didn’t realize I did that with my hair” and  “That’s what my voice sounds like.”
For the differentiation section, Schumacher said she had to use data to show she pushed each student, regardless of skill level. She ended up guiding students to set their own goals and then reflect on their performance.
“At the end of the day, I need to stop and think, ‘How did my classes go, did my students get what they need and how can I improve,’ she said.
One adjustment Schumacher made is sure to be a hit with students. She’s giving less homework and offering more time to do work in class.
“I find it helps when questions arise. I still think my classes are rigorous and have high expectations,” she said.
The certification process included writing “intense” papers that had Schumacher assessing whether or not learning activities attained their goals. Her biggest takeaway, she said, was to take more time to reflect on her successes and failures.
“I think I’ve become more student centered and student focused,” she said.
The School District values the certification so much that it offers a $2,000 salary increase for successful completion. Supt. Jeanne Courneene said the money is to “acknowledge and reward teachers who have added value to the achievement of students.”
Certification, she said, aligns with two of the district’s foundational beliefs of a continuous improvement mindset and a commitment to lifelong learning.
Schumacher is the only teacher in the district to have earned National Board Certification. One other teacher is going through the process.
High School Principal Josh Ketterhagen supported Schumacher in her certification journey and encourages others to give the “long and intense process” a shot.
“We are honored to have Ms. Schumacher as a crucial part of our staff and it is an additional honor to have her Board certified,” Ketterhagen said.
Schumacher said the support of the district, her husband and family was vital throughout the process.
Now, Schumacher said she would like to be an assessor to rate others’ applications in order to stay sharp.
Beyond that, she said she plans to reapply for certification after it expires in 2022.
“I do want to keep improving. That’s a goal of mine,” she said.

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