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Dayton teacher brings extra tools to classroom

by BERL TISKUS
Reporter | March 21, 2024 12:00 AM

“It’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday that’s why we’re dressed like crazy people today – it’s Wacky Wednesday,” Cheryl Muri said.

The third and fourth grade teacher at Dayton Elementary School pointed to her own red Cat-in-the-Hat bow tie, one student’s total Cat-in-the-Hat costume, and several students who were sporting huge red-and-white-striped hats.

Muri recently renewed her National Board Certification, first earned when she was teaching in Las Vegas. Originally, it was a rigorous two-year process, Muri said.  

Clark County School District had an incentive program for teachers with a stipend and that piqued her interest. The district also paid for teachers to receive high-quality training for the certification.

“It was a lot of reflective practice,” Muri said. “We had to produce four different written components – pretty much like a dissertation – but it was peer reviewed.”

Each component took several months and covered the subject areas of reading, writing and math. 

“The writing itself was something I’d never encountered before,” Muri said. “You had to write very concisely, and every word had to matter because your word count by the time you were done was next to nothing. They cut it off at 250 words, and I had like seven pages.”

”It was a lot of reflection about what really matters. That’s what it forced me to do,” Muri said. “I had to think about what I’m doing in the classroom, and am I putting too much fluff in, just like my writing.” 

What matters, she added, is whether students met the objective, were engaged, and were able to apply what they learned.

“What it did for me as a teacher was it helped me establish a routine for myself where I am looking at the objective first. What is the overall thing I need to accomplish and then how can I get there,” she said.

That’s a more productive way of teaching than adhering strictly to the curriculum, “and then at the end of it, giving this random test. Because what if it doesn’t match up? What if the questions are not what you’ve been teaching?”

“Start with the end result and then work toward it,” she reiterated.

When asked if the test made her a better teacher, Muri said it had. “Yeah, because you’re reflecting. One of the components I had to do was tape an entire lesson. I had to take the kids from the very beginning where they are reviewing to the very end where there’s a closure.”

“I was so nervous when I was taping even though it was just on my phone,” Muri confessed.

After taking the test, teachers are required to renew the certification every three or four years, according to Muri. That consists of taking two of the components, and creating a video tape and reflection. It took her approximately a year of working for four hours every Saturday to complete the renewal. It does count as professional development so she doesn’t have to complete extra coursework.

In Montana, if a teacher has taken and passed the National Board Exam and keeps up with renewals, he or she receives a stipend of $3,000 per year. 

During Dayton School Board’s meeting March 18, County Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Hall awarded Muri her stipend. 

“I’m so proud of our teachers in Lake County who are the kind of professionals who go the extra mile, such as Cheryl Muri and so many others,” Hall said.