WAIMEA – Nau’i Murphy and Shelby Loo — two Waimea Middle School (WMS) teachers — recently earned National Board Certification, the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education in America.
Created by teachers, for teachers, the National Board Standards represent “a consensus among educators about what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.”
“To become certified, teachers must exhibit a deep understanding of their students, content knowledge and use of data, assessments and teaching practice. They must also provide evidence of ongoing reflection and continuous learning, and be up-to-date with the latest strategies and best practices in education,” said WMS Principal Janice English.
For Murphy and Loo, this achievement concludes an intense 30-month journey they undertook together to support each other through rigorous assignments on top of regular teaching duties. Both have carried full-time academic responsibilities for about 90 WMS children.
Murphy teaches eighth-grade science and has been WMS’ science department chair. Loo teaches sixth-grade math is the sixth-grade level chair throughout the National Board Certification process. Both serve in school leadership.
WMS has a third National Board Certified teacher — sixth-grade social studies teacher Tina Yohon.
“This advanced credential is a huge achievement professionally that benefits their students and our entire school community. It confirms that quality teaching is occurring here,” English said.
This isn’t the first time the pair has teamed up: they both pursued a Master of Arts in Education through National University several years back.
“It was time to challenge myself again,” Murphy said.
An alum of WMS — having attended K-8th grade here — Murphy is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama campus. She attended Whitman College in Washington State, but came home to UH-Manoa to finish with a BS in botany.
It’s not surprising Murphy pursued a degree in botany because she and her ohana have, for several generations, maintained a productive 3-acre kalo farm in Waipio Valley, where she still spends many weekends. It’s not uncommon during the course of a school year for Murphy to take students into the valley to learn about cultural traditions and practices — and science — related to kalo cultivation.
“I love the outdoors and knew early on that I wanted to come home and live in Waimea and also that I had an obligation to help maintain our family farm,” she said.” “I strongly recommend teachers go through this certification process. It helps you learn from others; it’s easy to get stuck in your classroom. This helped me reflect on what I was doing and research what more could be done. It has changed my teaching.”
Loo agrees that this process and the research she had to do about how students and the community have evolved in her 14 years in the classroom has changed her teaching as well.
“We worry about student engagement and short attention spans. Just this school year, WMS adopted a new math curriculum with more problem-based active learning. Students are discovering by doing; I’m their guide. We think it’s better suited to the needs of our children,” she said.
“I love the ‘ah ha’ moments and that’s why I’m teaching math,” Loo continued. “I studied biology and am dual certified in math and science, but chose math because there is just ‘one right answer.’ Students come into sixth grade either loving or hating math. My ‘evil plot’ is to get them to like math; to see it as a puzzle that’s fun.”
It’s no surprise Loo became a teacher. Her father taught at Keaukaha Elementary so she was always around teachers. Briefly, she thought about becoming a pharmacist but couldn’t see herself “behind a counter.” She liked being “out front” and for years when in college she ran Summer Fun programs. She loved the direct contact with children.
“I thought back and the teacher who most influenced my life was my seventh-grade English Language Arts teacher at Kamehameha Schools. I think middle school is when children become more independent and you can help guide them and have a greater impact on them,” Loo said.
The process the two teachers undertook to receive certification began with a 4-day jump-start program co-sponsored by Kamehameha Schools and the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA). Both have volunteered to serve on Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accreditation visiting teams to help other schools identify their strengths and challenges and create plans that support continual improvement.
Teachers who attain National Board Certification are rewarded in Hawaii with an additional $5,000 stipend annually, and nationally they can be hired to teach in any state without undergoing further certification. National Board Certification must be renewed every five years.