Certification places teacher at the top of her class

NEIGHBORS

January 08, 2001|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN MELBA Justice was a young girl, all she wanted to be was a teacher. Now the 30-year education veteran has been recognized as one of the best in the state.

"When we played school, I was always the teacher," said Justice, who recently earned certification in early adolescent mathematics from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. "From my earliest memories, I have thought of myself [as a teacher]. I can't remember wanting to do anything else."

Justice, who teaches seventh grade at West Middle School in Westminster, has focused on little else for the past year.

Seventy teachers in Maryland have been certified by the national organization, which works to improve education by developing a system of advanced, voluntary certification for elementary, middle and high school teachers.

To receive certification, teachers must complete a daylong test consisting of four 90-minute sections. For Justice, this included completing a section of mathematics problems, and detailing how she would present an algebra lesson and a geometry lesson to a classroom, based on a sample of pupils' work.

In addition, teachers submit a six-part portfolio of research and analysis based on their experiences in the classroom. Teachers must outline their professional achievements during the past five years, describe how they would present a particular concept to the classroom from beginning to end, and explain how they develop student skills. Justice explained how she teaches proportional reasoning, or the use of ratios in problem solving, to her pupils.

"I've found that they have a real interest in forensics," she said, adding that children are fascinated with the way police technicians can reconstruct an individual's appearance based on a skeleton.

Because such reconstructions are based on proportions - such as a person's forehead being about the width of five of their eyes - forensic science serves as an intriguing introduction to concepts pupils will need when they begin studying percentages, Justice said.

Another portion of her portfolio consisted of two videotapes of her teaching - a requirement that posed unusual problems for Justice.

"I've been on video before and been observed tons of times, so I felt this would only be a little bit different," Justice said.

But because the tape had to clearly pick up the voices of each person in the room, the board sent three pages of professional specifications to ensure the tape's quality. Once Patrick Flaherty, a member of the school system's instructional technology department, was finished setting up the room, it looked like the set of a television show, Justice said.

"By that time, I was a little unsettled," she said with a laugh. "I'm not used to being on TV."

She worked with her pupils in advance to ensure they wouldn't be distracted by the attention and cameras.

"I really couldn't have done it without Patrick's support," she said. She also expressed gratitude for the support of Principal Michael Bell and the other teachers on her seventh-grade team, who willingly rearranged their schedules so she could complete the certification application.

"They were always so supportive," Justice said. "I don't think I could have done it without them."

County employee honored

Congratulations to Nancy S. Grove, who has been honored as Carroll County Government's January Employee of the Month.

Grove, who works in the county Bureau of Information and Technology Services, was recognized for providing excellent customer service to her co-workers in the county comptroller's office.

According to county officials, she has consistently been pleasant and patient, and has gone beyond her normal job duties to help fellow employees on her days off.

Grove will receive a day off in thanks for her efforts.

Classes for young artists

Carroll County Arts Council is offering four monthlong classes for children and their parents.

Classes range from introductory sessions for preschoolers to classes in drawing plants and animals for third- to fifth-graders.

Most classes begin this week and cost $24 for arts council members, or $29 for nonmembers. The tuition fee does not include the cost of materials.

Information: 410-848-7272 or 410-876-8550.

Amy L. Miller's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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