CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a small classroom at Capital High School, more than two-dozen teachers sat down at their desks, poring over massive binders.
They were attending a recent four-day "boot camp" for teachers around the Kanawha County area who want to pursue National Board Certification, long considered the gold standard for teaching credentials.
Irene Lanz, who has been teaching for three years, teaches fourth-grade in Kanawha County Schools. She was one of the 50 teachers in the area who was taking the four-day informational camp, sponsored by the West Virginia Center for Professional Development, on how to beef up their certification and hone their teaching craft.
"It is a lot of work, but it's worth it," said Lanz, who has taught at Cross Lanes Elementary and Bridge Elementary. "It forces you to evaluate why you do what you do, how you implement your lessons and focus on how to become the best teacher you can."
As West Virginia moves toward expanding a pilot teacher evaluation system that will for the first time factor student achievement into a teacher's rating, more teachers are considering National Board Certification.
"I'm absolutely concerned about the evaluations, but this National Board Certification supersedes that," said Lanz. "Once you get nationally certified, you're ready for whatever Kanawha County or West Virginia wants to do."
The national standards-based performance assessment helps teachers improve their teaching and is the highest of the nation's teaching standards for K-12.
Students taught by nationally board certified teachers perform higher on achievement tests than students taught by uncertified teachers, according to a 2008 National Research Council report.
Teachers with National Board Certification also receive a pay bump.
Lanz said that in Kanawha County Schools, teachers get an extra $3,500 if they go through the full National Board Certification.
This year, there are 54 nationally board certified teachers in West Virginia, according to the Center for Professional Development.
Lanz still hadn't decided if she is going to pursue national certification, but she said the group support she received at Capital High and through the center is making her re-evaluate her teaching standards.
"[National Board Certified teachers] are the best breed of teachers, because they have to go through such a strenuous process," said Lanz.
Christy Day, spokeswoman for the Center for Professional Development, said the state always pushes for more teachers to get National Board Certification and to provide increased help and support for teachers throughout the state.
National statistics say that the teaching profession loses 50 percent of its new educators within five years, and much of that loss is due to a lack of support and mentoring, Day said.
"We try to get teachers into this pipeline and give them a mentor and something to strive for," Day said. "And at the end of the day, the increased certification means that you have a better teacher in the classroom. And there's nothing more important than that."
The next training session for teachers will take place in July in Morgantown.
Reach Amy Julia Harris at amy.har...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.