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Schlei joins elite group of nationally certified teachers

Hudson High School German teacher Judy Wyatt Schlei enjoys holiday breaks just like her students do but never more so than this year.

Schlei was among 63 teachers in Wisconsin who recently earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the highest credential offered in the teaching profession. The designation came after a rigorous two and a half year process that included two kinds of assessment: a classroom-based portfolio of teaching practices and a knowledge assessment of the subject matter.

According to a press release from State School Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster, the process of certification requires "educators to examine every aspect of their teaching" and document both their knowledge and their teaching style and its effectiveness.

Schlei, who has been teaching German for six years, said the experience forced her to reflect on all aspects of her career. As part of the assessment, she had to be videotaped conducting classes and adhere to a strict set of guidelines for the tapes and for submitting them. The same strict standards applied to written submissions. Any deviation from the details meant it could be refused by the board. Schlei said the directions were far more strict and detailed than any she had ever used in the classroom with students.

The process also required her to assess her students' progress over time and demonstrate how she addresses students who have special needs. In four different papers, 15 pages in length, Schlei had to address specific questions and issues using her students' performance as evidence. Information about students was only used when parental permission was granted.

"It was a very time-consuming process and it took a few times taping in the classroom to get what I needed."

The teacher took some pretty tough tests, as well, including translation and interpreting skills, written communication and grammar. "There were words and terms I had never heard of. It was very rigorous testing."

The process occupied most of Schlei's free time over the past two and a half years and put a strain on her and her family, but looking back, she believes it was worth it. "The reflective part is the most important. I have grown a lot through the process. The real value in it has been the affirmation of what is really important in teaching."

Schlei joins only a handful of teachers in the district who have earned the national certification. She learned about it through Director of Personnel Bob Benoy. Schlei said the cost of the process is expensive but is partially reimbursed upon successful completion of it. Wisconsin has 267 nationally certified teachers.

Schlei said she recommends the experience to other teachers but cautioned that it is a demanding task. "I think it's wise to do it when you don't have to deal with young children or a lot of other outside commitments. And don't schedule Christmas at your house when you're in the middle of it."

Schlei said the real value in the experience for her is the opportunity to step back from the job she does every day and "have the chance to look at the big picture."

"It reminded me to do the stuff I know how to do but sometimes lose sight of. ... German is my passion. I love to pass it on to my students, and I want to do the best for them that I can."

Schlei can be reached at the high school at (715) 386-4226. For more information about national certification, visit the Web site for the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards,

Meg Heaton can be reached at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604