Owen Longacre ’13 is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s teacher education program. He teaches and coaches at Spotswood High School in Rockingham County Public Schools.
Owen Longacre was wrapping up filming for a portfolio he was creating to submit to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards the day before the Gov. Ralph Northam shut down schools in March.
It was the final video that Longacre needed to create of him teaching his students to submit his full application to the organization in the hopes of being awarded a National Board Teaching Certification. And if he had waited just one more day, it wouldn’t have happened.
“One day later and I wouldn’t have had it all,” Longacre said. And that would have been a shame as it had taken a year and a half for the Spotswood High School social studies teacher to complete his application, which included tests, essays, videos and more.
It is a rigorous process that involves the completion of three extensive portfolios where teachers film their classes and submit several pages of written analysis of their teaching practices along with evidence of student work.
Applicants also sit for a three-hour standardized exam that measures their content knowledge of the various subjects in the social studies, ranging from history and geography to civics and economics.
But Longacre was able to submit everything he needed, and it was evaluated by National Board certified teachers. Only about 40% of applications submitted are accepted on the first try, Longacre said. So, it was a relief when he found out he was one of the 40%.
Applying for his board certification has always been part of Longacre’s goals as a teacher.
“It’s the highest mark a teacher can achieve and it’s a reflective process where you become a better teacher and better for your students,” he said.
The entire application process focuses on asking teachers to reflect on what they’re doing as educators and why. It asks them to provide evidence that what they are doing as a teacher is contributing to the improvement of their pupils.
The process also asks teachers to show how they form relationships with students and fellow educators in the school and outside of it.
It also required his students to buy into the process, as they would be filmed and given assignments to help create the content needed for Longacre’s portfolios.
So, when he found out he had received board certification, the first thing he did was email his students to thank them.
“It was a collaborative process in that way,” Longacre said, adding that his students last year felt like celebrities being filmed all the time.
And for Longacre, learning that he had received that mark of excellence was a joyous, exciting and relieving way to end 2020.
“I guess you could call it an early Christmas gift,” he said.